Tech firms take root in Erie

September 23, 2018


Article from GoErie.com
By Jim Martin

CityGrows, a cloud-based permitting platform for local governments, already has hired its first Erie employee and has an ongoing pilot program with the city.

And SimpleSense, a company that’s developed technology to help firefighters find trapped victims in smoke-filled buildings, successfully showed off that technology in a demonstration with the Erie Bureau of Fire.

Those are just two of the seeds of new business that have shown signs of taking root since the Secure Erie Accelerator — a cooperative project between Singularity University and the Erie Innovation District — began in July.

But they aren’t the only good news to emerge from the program.

Karl Sanchack, CEO of the Erie Innovation District, will introduce the public to all nine participants in the first accelerator program during an event to be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Blasco Library.

He said the event will be an opportunity for the companies to share their stories, all of them aimed at the development of a smart city or in the area of cybersecurity.

And there will be good news to share.

Sanchack has said that the accelerator program is a way of bringing new talent to Erie and making it an adopted hometown for up-and-coming technology-driven companies.

The Erie Innovation District invested $50,000 in each of the nine companies participating in the program, Sanchack said.

“This is generally a way to drive outcomes,” he said. “It’s intended to be a way for them to be successful in our program and provide us with a stake in their success. We are an investor in their company and we believe they bring something to the table.”

It’s too soon to know for sure, but there are early signs those investments will pay dividends.

“At least five of them are looking at putting down roots in the city of Erie,” Sanchack said.

CityGrows, a Los Angeles-based company that was founded in 2015, already has made that move by hiring Jasmine Burns, an Erie native who returned home after graduating from the University of Maryland. Burns is working as a customer success associate as part of the work CityGrows does with the city of Erie.

Catherine Geanuracos, CEO of the company, said Burns will be working with Erie to streamline permitting procedures and to launch a citizen response system that will enable the city to register and track complaints and comments from residents.

The work of the Erie office won’t be limited to working with the city.

“We will have a physical presence in the city ongoing,” Geanuracos said. “We have that as our goal. We wanted to start with the city because they are really excited to work with us, but we are going to work with as many of the other communities in the region as we can.”

Sanchack had high praise for supporters of this first round of the accelerator program, including the local business community and Erie Insurance. Ultimately, he would like to see three 10-week accelerator programs held each year, he said.

Geanuracos, whose company has participated in other accelerator programs, said Erie’s was a standout.

“We can’t say enough about the Erie Innovation District and all the partners in the program,” she said. “People are very welcoming to us. We are really impressed. We just haven’t seen that.”

Jim Martin can be reached at 870-1668 or by email. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ETNMartin.