Ben Franklin announces nearly $1M in regional investments

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania has announced the investment of $925,000 in area companies. 

Among the investments was $350,000 given to early-stage companies. 

Catapallo VR of Reading received $100,000 towards supporting intellectual property protection, user experience trials and marketing. 

The company produces interactive virtual reality modules for neurodivergent people with a focus on teaching individuals on the autism spectrum skills to live more independently. 

Steel Jupiter of Bethlehem received $100,000 to support the company’s optimization of Zinna filter coatings. 

The company creates technology that increases the performance of air filters and masks in trapping and immobilizing viruses. 

Ophidion of Bethlehem received $150,000 to support research and development. 

The company is working to develop its carrier technology to treat Huntington’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. 

 Ben Franklin Northeast is also making investments in early-stage company investments as part of the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI). These projects were financed [in part] from Pennsylvania Small Business Credit Initiative funds from the Pennsylvania, Department of Community and Economic Development. 

Among the recipients is Saladax Biomedical of Bethlehem, which received $200,000 to help with the commercialization of its test kits for chemotherapy and anti-psychotic drugs.  

The tests are meant to help physicians better understand individual patient drug compliance and metabolism to help reduce toxicity and optimize therapeutic effect.   

Ben Franklin Northeast also made investments in established manufacturers, which is provided in 1:1 matching funding for work with a college or university partner. 

Among the recipients is Reitnouer of Birdsboro, which received $10,000 to work with Alvernia University’s Enterprise Systems Partners to help implement an Enterprise Resource Planning system at the high-precision metal fabricator. 

Silberline Manufacturing Co. of Tamaqua received $25,000 to work with Alvernia University’s Enterprise System Partners to improve efficiency at this producer of aluminum pigments.  

Human Active Technology of Easton received 425,000 to work with Lehigh University’s Center for Supply Chain Research on an Enterprise Resource Planning System for the company, which manufactures and sells ergonomically designed office furniture.  

Krevitz Industrial Scrap Solutions of Quakertown received $25,000 to work with Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center to support research and development efforts. The company provides industrial waste management and scrap metal solutions to Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New York, and New Jersey.  

Bethlehem tech startup wins Venture Idol

Matt Bilsky, of FLX Solutions was the winner of the 19th annual Ben Franklin Venture Idol in Bethlehem. PHOTO/COURTESY BEN FRANKLIN TECHNOLOGY PARTNERS –

Bethlehem-based startup, FLX Solutions was the winner of this year’s Ben Franklin Venture Idol. 

This was the 19th year for the competition, which was held Nov. 15 at TechVentures in Bethlehem. 

More than 200 people were in attendance at the event, which was the first in-person Venture Idol since 2019. Events in 2020 and 2021 were held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This year’s prize money increased from $15,000 to $20,000 thanks to the sponsorships of Service Electric and PenTeleData.   

FLX Solutions is the creator of the FLX Bot, a modular, snake-like robotic arm that can be used for visual inspection and 3D mapping of spaces that would normally be difficult to access. 

Angelo Valletta, president and CEO of Ben Franklin of Northeastern Pennsylvania spoke at the event. 

 “Supporting early-stage technology firms is a key component of our mission,” he said. “In addition to providing seed capital to tech startups, Ben Franklin investments are a significant endorsement to help them attract additional funding. We also share in-house expertise, provide business and technical support, and bring in a network of experts, many of whom are here with us tonight, to advise our clients. Our Venture Idol event is one of the many ways that we help prepare and introduce our clients to follow-on funding opportunities”.   

Three finalists pitched their ideas at the event, Amit Parmer of Cliquify; Matt Bilsky, of FLX Solutions; and Greg Martz of VZRscada. 

The final three were selected from a total of seven Ben Franklin portfolio companies that pitched to investors earlier in the afternoon.  

Other companies included BettorFantasy, GUIDE, Heudia Health, and Unison Workforce.  

Ben Franklin announces $252K in funding

The Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s Board of Directors has approved the investment of $252,500 in support of regional economic development.  

Among the businesses receiving funding was Terra Health Coaching, which is a developing a solution for employers, physicians, and individuals who want to minimize the risk of chronic disease and its associated costs while optimizing health and environmental impact. 

It has received $100,000 to complete the buildout of the company’s mobile app, release a desktop version that meets HIPAA compliance standards, and support marketing to Direct Primary Care clinics. 

BRD Noise and Vibration Control Inc. of Wind Gap received a 1:1 matching grant of $25,000 to work with Lehigh University’s Center for Supply Chain Research to develop and implement project management tools, templates, and metrics to improve productivity and efficiency, and enhance customer service and on-time delivery. BRD Noise and Vibration Control specializes in HVAC acoustic design and manufacturing. 

Cast-Rite Metal Co. of Birdsboro received a 1:1 matching grant of $25,000 to work with Northampton Community College’s Emerging Technology Applications Center to conduct an energy assessment of Cast Rite Metal Foundry to reduce energy costs and reduce the environmental footprint. 

Dynalene Inc. of Whitehall Township received a 1:1 matching grant to work with Lehigh University’s Center for Supply Chain Research to improve manufacturing processes in the production of de-ionizing filter cartridges, which are used in fuel cells in automobiles. 


Valuntas named manager for Ben Franklin’s Berks region

Kimberly L. Valuntas –

The Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania of Bethlehem has announced the promotion of Kimberly L. Valuntas to regional manager for the Reading and Greater Berks County region. 

Valuntas will succeed Connie R. Faylor, who will retire after more than 30 years of service on June 30. 

 In her new post Valuntas will serve as the lead point person in delivering BFTP/NEP’s services and in supporting its mission in the Reading and Greater Berks County region. She will work with the region’s most innovative technology-based early-stage and manufacturing firms, helping them access capital, expertise, and best practices support through Ben Franklin’s network. In evaluating potential Ben Franklin projects, she will seek companies that have strong potential to create and retain jobs that pay wages higher than the region’s average. 

 Valuntas will lead and actively contribute to the regional technology ecosystem, working with business and industry groups, elected officials, economic development colleagues, higher education institutions, and other community leaders.  

She will work with hospitals, colleges and universities, companies, and non-profits to provide leadership to the region in support of the life sciences and healthcare technology industries. As a member of the Ben Franklin portfolio team, she will also review, advise, and critique proposals of prospective clients from throughout BFTP/NEP’s 21-county service area. 

 Valuntas brings more than 20 years of sales and marketing, and client support experience to her new role. Serving as BFTP/NEP’s Client Services Specialist since 2018, she has managed the Ben Franklin Solutions Network (BFSN), which links clients to college/universities and other strategic consultants who evaluate each company and help develop a sound business plan, protect intellectual property, build sales/marketing strategies, evaluate financial systems, and/or support raising capital. Valuntas also facilitated the portfolio group process and supported BFTP/NEP Venture Idol and iXchange. 

 Before coming to Ben Franklin, Valuntas worked in various marketing roles in the life/health insurance industry, including as assistant vice president of sales and marketing for Penn Treaty Network America Insurance Co. and served on the board for the American Independent Network Insurance Company. Valuntas also holds several leadership roles and board positions with non-profit organizations in the local community.  

 Valuntas earned an MBA in marketing from DeSales University in Allentown, and a B.S. in marketing from the New York Institute of Technology, Old Westbury, New York. 

 She resides in Orefield. 

Ben Franklin invests $400K in two local startups

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania has just announced its latest round of funding and said it is investing $400,000 to support two startup companies in the region. 

Vessel Health Inc., of Bethlehem, will receive $200,000 to continue to develop its in-home wellness tracker that measures key chemistries from the user’s urine and then provides recommendations to users on how to improve their health. 

According to the company, by using the results of a test strip, the Vessel Health mobile app provides results for 10 chemistry tests that measure vitamin and mineral levels, and ketones and pH levels. The app makes recommendations to users to improve results and also provides wellness coaching as part of its subscription-based service.  

The company said the demand for in-home diagnostics is growing rapidly because of the pandemic and other factors. 

Grovara LLC, of Philadelphia, which recently launched in the Ben Franklin TechVentures in Bethlehem, will receive to continue to expand its web-based marketplace platform that connects “Made in the USA” natural foods, beverages and other health and wellness retail brands with international wholesalers and retailers. 

Grovara said it strives to provide end-to-end foreign market distribution and international brand management solutions, lowering the barriers for entry for smaller U.S.-based manufacturers to engage in global trade. 

Ben Franklin makes $495,000 in regional tech investments

The Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s recently approved the investment of $495,000 in 11 companies from across its 21-county service area. The recipients include several early-stage companies in the Greater Lehigh Valley.  

DetectBee, Inc. of Bethlehem received $25,000 to complete the development and commercialization of DetectBee’s MVP Software-as-a-Service platform that allows users to detect cybersecurity vulnerabilities in their own systems and in third-party systems tied to them via interfaces.  

Huntley & Co., Easton received $80,000 to secure a license for S. Huntley & Company in Pennsylvania and New Jersey as a non-bank motor vehicle financier. Also, secure dealership partners, begin building the website, and launch the monthly subscription service in support of the financing tools. The firm’s product, Toppcar.com, is an online retail and financing platform that allows the growing modern classic car enthusiast segment of consumers and dealers to buy and finance cars completely online. 

Thread Bioscience of Bethlehem received $50,000 to commercialize a patented diagnostic test, CultureStat, for urinary tract infections, that is faster, more accurate, less expensive than current tests.   

Ben Franklin also provided 1:1 matching funding for work with a college or university partner on technology-based innovation in established manufacturers. 

Bosch Rexroth Corporation of Bethlehem received $25,000 to work with Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center to develop and implement simulation-based scheduling software for the company’s CNC machine scheduling system. CNC will improve throughput and reduce lead time, providing greater capacity. Bosch Rexroth manufactures motion control equipment, including hydraulic and pneumatic components.

Gillette Industrial Services Inc. of Bangor received- $25,000 to work with Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center to complete layout plans of the company’s new campus to facilitate growth and prepare for ISO Quality System Certification. D. Gillette Industrial Services designs, fabricates and repairs maintenance equipment for the U.S. military and industrial clients. 

Heyco Metal Inc. of Reading received $25,000 to work with Alvernia University’s O’Pake Institute to implement an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system to improve supply chain, customer service and support growth. Heyco Metals is a precision mill that manufactures thin-gauge, copper, copper alloy, and stainless-steel strip products to exacting specifications for the automotive, aerospace, connector, and consumer electronics industries. 

Joe Jurgielewicz & Son LTD of Hamburg received $15,000 to work with Alvernia University’s O’Pake Institute to lay out for a new facility and an overall manufacturing site master plan to increase capacity and optimize production. Joe Jurgielewicz & Son is a duck production operation that supplies restaurants, food services and institutions in the U.S. The firm is vertically integrated from breeding to delivery and employs environmentally friendly, sustainable farming practices. 

LifeAire Systems LLC of Allentown received $25,000 to work with Lehigh University to develop additional applications for LifeAire Systems’ technology. LifeAire discovers, develops, manufactures and commercializes air purification systems for the healthcare industry. The systems are clinically proven and proprietary, and effectively eliminate viable and chemical pathogens on a single pass, with no harmful byproducts or ozone produced. 


Bethlehem firm developing glue that stays sticky when wet

George Boyajian –

For much of the last 25 years, Mussel Polymers Inc. CEO, George Boyajian, has worked as a technology executive specializing in breakthrough technologies. Along with his business partner, Mussel CFO Eric Anderson, they have helped launch a number of tech startups. 

They were looking for the next tech breakthrough that had a little muscle. What they found was actual mussels that were being used to create an innovative new adhesive that works underwater. 

Boyajian said they had pretty strict criteria for what they were looking for in new tech. It had to be innovative, able to be commercialized and financially viable. 

“Would people buy it?” he asked. 

He and Anderson looked over more than 800 new technologies that were under development at major universities around the country before finding the one that sparked their interest. 

Under the direction of Professor Jonathan Wilkers, Purdue University was working to develop an underwater glue using an $8 million grant it received from the U.S. Navy. 

With the technology they launched Mussel Polymers Inc at the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s Tech Ventures facility in Bethlehem. 

Boyajian has high hopes for the new adhesive, which chemically mimics the way mussels adhere to surfaces underwater. 

Wilkers looked at oysters and barnacles and a lot of other sea creatures that attach themselves to objects underwater. What he found was very complex proteins that secrete from the foot of a mussel and decided that was what he would pursue and replicate. 

Boyajian said it’s truly a major innovation. 

“There’s never been a glue that works underwater. He figured out how to simplify it and how to make it less costly,” he said. “It’s been 60 years since there’s been a new class of adhesives. The last one was Super Glue.” 

Perdue Professor Jonathan Wilkers conducting research with a tank of mussels. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –

The first product Mussel Polymers will be bringing to market is an adhesive designed to work with corals. It can be used by aquarium enthusiasts, but it can also be used for larger-scale reef repair. 

“We wanted to do well while doing good,” Boyajian said. 

They should also be soon completing a product for the U.S. Navy, which had funded the early research. 

Boyajian said Mussel Polymers is also looking to get involved in medical uses. 

“Let’s face it, the body is a pretty wet place. You can see how this would be useful in many ways,” he said. 

Currently the company is developing a dental cement. Boyajian hopes to have it to market next year, but it first needs approval from the Food & Drug Administration. 

Boyajian and his team aren’t the only ones excited about the future of the new technology. 

The company recently won Ben Franklin Technology Partners’ Venture Idol competition, which awards funding to the best startup pitch. 

Anthony Durante, manager of entrepreneurial support for the Partners, who has been working with Mussel Polymers, spoke highly of the company’s prospects.  

“We love the adaptability of Mussel Polymers’ product to numerous applications,” said Durante. “But it is the deep experience of the team in commercializing industrial products that made us especially excited about investing in the company,” 



Ben Franklin announces $209,800 in funding for local companies

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania has approved $209,800 in investments in five regional companies.

Cliquify Inc. of Macungie is receiving $100,000 to advance product development marketing and sales of its Artificial Intelligence-assisted software-as-service platform that helps companies with recruitment using social media.

Learnics LLC of Easton is receiving $60,000 to help it continue development and add functions to its program that helps teachers track students’ web-based research on assignments.

Ben Franklin has also provided 1:1 matching funds to established manufacturers.

Big Barker LLC of Orwigsburg is receiving $9,800 to work with the O’Pake Institute at Alvernia University for facility planning and inventory gap analysis to lower costs and increase productivity in its manufacturing of foam beds designed for larger dogs.

Precision Medical of Northampton is receiving $15,000 to continue to work with Lehigh University’s Center for Supply Chain Management to improve operational effectiveness in its manufacturing of medical respiratory equipment.

Nobel Biomaterials Inc. of Scranton is receiving $25,000 to work with the Allan P. Kirby Center at Wilkes University to help automate a manufacturing process and increase capacity of its conductivity and antibacterial solutions for soft surfaces.

iXchange honors outgoing Ben Franklin Technology Partners CEO R. Chadwick Paul

Ben Franklin Technology Partners retiring CEO Chad Paul, left, and new CEO Angelo Valletta on Chad Paul Way, a newly dedicated private street alongside Ben Franklin TechVentures in Bethlehem. PHOTO/SUBMITTED

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania said goodbye to its outgoing president and CEO in style Tuesday at its annual iXchange event. Not only did R. Chadwick Paul get a private road named in his honor, but a large meeting and conference room and the organization’s Innovation Award also got his name.

Under Paul’s leadership, the Ben Franklin TechVentures incubator/post incubator on Lehigh University’s Goodman Campus in Bethlehem grew in three steps, from 18,000 square feet to 129,000 square feet. Paul raised $16.4 million to fund these massive expansions. That and his many other accomplishments were celebrated at the iXchange.

The iXchange was also an opportunity to welcome BFTNP’s new president and CEO, Angelo Valletta.

Valletta honored a number of local tech leaders at the virtual event with the organization’s 26th annual Innovation Awards.

“These are businesses and individuals who, through Ben Franklin’s funding and assistance, have achieved business success, have helped other businesses achieve success or who have improved their companies through innovation,” he said.

The Entrepreneurial Achievement Award went to OPTiMO of Bloomsburg and Michael Miguelez, its founder and CEO.

The R. Chadwick Paul, Jr. Incubator Graduate Award went to ChannelApe of Scranton and Mike Averto, CEO, and Jason DePietropaolo, COO.

The Product Innovation Award went to Signallamp Health, Inc. of Scranton and its co-founders Drew Kearney and Andrew Goldberg.

The Innovative Application of Technology Award went to SOLO Laboratories, Inc. of Kutztown, and Lindsay Sokol Szejko, CEO; Jonathan Naugle, owner, R&D Engineer; and Jaimyn Sokol Westenhoefer, owner and president.

The Manufacturing Achievement Award went to Effort Foundry, Inc. of Bath, Charles D. Hamburg, CEO; and William C. Easterly, president.

The Frederick J. Beste III Partnership Award went to Eugene A. Lucadamo, the retired director of industry research engagement at Lehigh University, Bethlehem.

More than 330 registered for Ben Franklin’s annual iXchange.

Ben Franklin announces latest investments

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania has announced that it has made more than $207,000 in investments in local companies.

Among those receiving funds is Celebr8Life Inc. of Bethlehem, which is receiving $80,000 to launch and market a mobile app that streamlines event coordination, photo sharing and the creation of highlight reels.

Ben Franklin also provided $6,700 in 1:1 matching funds to M.J. Reider Associates of Reading to work with Alvernia University’s O’Pake Institute for Economic Development and Entrepreneurship to help the private contract laboratory improve efficiencies and enhance its customer service.

PhytogenX Inc. of Morgantown received $12,500 to work with the O’Pake Institute so that the beauty and skincare manufacturer can improve manufacturing efficiencies and streamline marketing.

PMA-13 Inc. of Allentown received $8,000 to work with Lehigh University’s Center for Supply Chain Research to help the sign producer implement a new enterprise resource planning system to accommodate anticipated growth.