Bethlehem venture capital firm gets $2.5M to invest in start-ups

A Bethlehem-based company is one of two Pennsylvania venture capital firms that will make investments in early-stage technology companies, with help from $2.5 million from the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority via the state Department of Community and Economic Development.

Activate Ventures III LP is a fund that will target investments of $1 million to $5 million in approximately 30 early-stage technology companies, with an emphasis on health care-related software businesses led by tenured entrepreneurs.

The group of investors leading Activate will include Managing Partners Glenn Bressner and Todd Pietri, formerly of Milestone Venture Partners. Joining them will be Pietri’s former Milestone Partner, Edwin A. Goodman, and fellow Bethlehem venture capitalist Jeff Davidson.

The mission of the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority is to encourage and coordinate programs and investments, which advance the competitiveness of Pennsylvania’s companies and universities in the world economy. It is one of the oldest and most emulated state technology development programs in the nation, a release said.

Rick Siger, acting secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development, added: “This funding will create opportunities for early-stage technology companies to grow right here in Pennsylvania, and ensure the commonwealth remains an economic leader driving innovation on a global scale. DCED is proud to work with the BFTDA to provide funding to companies at the cutting edge of industries that drive our economy forward. Investments like these are key to the future of Pennsylvania.”

Entrepreneurs in Food & Beverage TechCelerator can win up to $30,000

Food and beverage entrepreneurs and start-up companies have the chance to win up to $30,000 in Ben Franklin Technology Partners’ first Food & Beverage TechCelerator.

The TechCelerator is open to those in Ben Franklin’s 32-county Pennsylvania footprint who are “developing scalable, innovative and technology-focused products/services in the food and beverage industry,” a release explained.

Ben Franklin Technology Partners’ Julie Bratton said there have been previous TechCelerators but this is the first time the concept is targeted to a specific industry.

The 10-week virtual business boot camp provides an opportunity for enrollees to build and de-risk their business model, culminating in a pitch competition with a chance to win up to 30 grand.

More specifically, Food & Beverage TechCelerator participants explore the likelihood of success and learn to minimize risks; take part in one-on-one mentoring with business coaches from Ben Franklin and college Small Business Development Centers; expand their network and engage with other entrepreneurs; and create an investor pitch to present to a panel of local judges.

The weekly Zoom classes are Tuesdays, starting Jan. 10, 2023, and running through March 14, 2023. One-hour online mentoring/coaching sessions will also be provided each week. Deadline to apply is Dec. 2.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Ben Franklin Technology Partners 2021 report shows statewide impacts 

Ben Franklin Technology Partners has generated more than $2 billion in revenue for Pennsylvania businesses in 2021. 

An initiative through the state Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), Ben Franklin Technology Partners makes seed investments in early-stage technology companies. 

The program announced the results of its investments for last year in its 2021 Annual Statewide Impact Report. 

In 2021, the Ben Franklin network supported 1,647 companies and helped those companies create 2,438 jobs while retaining 12,923 more positions. 

Ben Franklin clients developed 158 software copyright and patents and launched 380 new products and processes. 

“Year after year, even in the most difficult economic times, Ben Franklin continues to succeed, delivering impressive results with its investments,” said Ryan Glenn, Ben Franklin’s director of statewide initiatives. “Investments in innovation are the foundation of the new economy.” 

Ben Franklin operates four regionally based centers in Pittsburgh, State College, Bethlehem and Philadelphia. The program is available to all 67 counties. 

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania said last week that it will be presenting a virtual tour of its technology business incubator on Lehigh University’s campus in Bethlehem next week.

The incubator, Ben Franklin TechVentures, currently houses 37 early-stage firms. The tour is free and open to the public and will take place on Zoom.

Gov. Tom Wolf has proposed $22 million for Ben Franklin in his 2022-23 budget, which would give each of the regional centers a $2 million budget increase. 

Wolf’s 2022-23 budget is currently in front of the legislature with a final spending plan due before the end of June 30th. 

Ben Franklin pours $150k into Bethlehem firms to advance technology

Ben Franklin Technology Partners is located in TechVentures in Bethlehem. PHOTO/FILE

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania in Bethlehem just invested $150,000 in local businesses, including one-to-one funding for an established manufacturer to work with a college or university partner on technology-based innovation.

It is providing $15,000 to Misco Products Corp. of Reading to work with Alvernia University’s O’Pake Institute to help it with plans for a new 90,000-square-foot facility for the cleaning and maintenance chemicals in manufactures.

Ben Franklin is also making a $100,000 investment in a Luzerne County early state company studio BE Mindfulness LLC to help it launch product enhancements to its wellness programing.

It is also investing $35,000 in Good2Go Software LLC of Luzerne County to build market awareness for its software-as-service workflow solution for the graphic arts industry.

Competitors named for 2019 Venture Idol

Ken Okrepkie, regional manager of Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pa., left, stands with the winners of the 2018 Venture Idol, Signallamp Health co-founders Andy Goldberg and Drew Kearney. At right is Chad Paul, president and CEO of Ben Franklin Technology Partners Northeastern of Pa. (File photo) –

Seven contestants have been chosen to compete in this year’s Venture Idol hosted by the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeast Pennsylvania.

This is the 16th year the event will be held. It is a combination between the television shows Shark Tank and American Idol, with entrepreneurs making their business pitch to investors.

This year’s competitors will be:

  • American Paper Bag LLC of Wilkes-Barre, which bills itself as the first company to manufacture and sell an innovative new style of paper shopping bag and paper mailer in North America.
  • Apis Innovation, a Bethlehem company developing technology that will allow for remote monitoring and autonomous adjusting of methane generating wells at landfill sites.
  • Build My Team of Honesdale, which produces Software-as-a-Service job placement tools.
  • Ophidion of Bethlehem, which is developing a product that can be used in the treatment of Huntington’s disease.
  • PrintElements of Honesdale, which is a company developing digital tools to streamline the bid process and project management of multi-faceted print projects.
  • Skillion of Bethlehem, a company that provides a mobile app and Internet of Things device for remotely monitoring and controlling micro-mobility products such as electronic bikes, to provide safety, prevent theft, and/or manage rentals.
  • studio BE, a Wilkes-Barre company that provides scientifically-backed mindfulness techniques to corporate executives, managers, and other employees by integrating ancient Buddhist teachings and professional enhancement curriculum.

According to organizers, prior to the evening event, the seven companies will pitch to a group of experienced private investors, who will select the three company finalists.

The audience members will then “fund” the companies, crowdfunding style.

Each Venture Idol attendee will rank the three companies. Guests can vote on their smartphones using a new voting app produced by Ben Franklin client UBMe, or by using paper “Ben Bucks.” Ben Franklin will allocate a total of $15,000 in prize money among the presenters based on the audience vote.

Venture Idol will be held Nov. 6 at the Innovation Institute in Ben Franklin TechVentures in Bethlehem.