StartUp Lehigh Valley calls entrepreneurs to pitch ideas for cash

StartUp Lehigh Valley, a pitch competition for area entrepreneurs developed and hosted by Factory LLC, with financial support from Penn State Lehigh Valley’s LaunchBox, is back for a third year.

After a virtual event in 2020, this year’s competition will be held live at Factory’s headquarters in south Bethlehem and broadcast live on WFMZ-TV 69News. The competition is scheduled for Oct. 27 from 6:30-8:00 PM.

In a Shark Tank-style event designed to showcase startup companies in the Lehigh Valley community and throughout Pennsylvania, 10 finalists will pitch their products and businesses to a panel of judges in front of a live and virtual audience, according to PRNewswire. Ten thousand dollars in prize money is up for grabs, along with essential resources for startup businesses.

“The StartUp Lehigh Valley pitch competition is designed to showcase the entrepreneurship that’s already happening in the Valley and get the community excited about supporting these local startups,” said Richard Thompson, managing partner at Factory. “We are thrilled to be partnering with WFMZ this year to broadcast the event live and reach more people than ever before. We also want to applaud Penn State Lehigh Valley’s LaunchBox for working with us to pull off this competition, and for providing vital resources to our local entrepreneurs year-round.

“We considered dozens of cities across the U.S. before building our innovation and scaleup facility, and we found exactly what we were looking for here in Bethlehem,” Thompson said. “The Lehigh Valley has easy access to major airports and cities, a competitive talent pool, top-tier universities, and an exploding logistics industry. It’s perfectly poised to become a hotbed for innovation, and this competition is all about building that entrepreneurial community.”

The grand prize winner will take home $5,000. The first runner up will receive $2,500, and three additional finalists will receive LaunchBox Boost awards of $500 each. The live and virtual audience will also vote for the winner of a $1,000 Audience Choice award. Entrepreneurs have until October 15th to apply and can find all the details at startuplehighvalley.com.

The prize money is presented by lead sponsor Lehigh Valley LaunchBox, a hub of resources for entrepreneurs located at Penn State Lehigh Valley in Center Valley. All participants will have the opportunity to network at the event and can take advantage of LaunchBox’s comprehensive startup services, including free legal counsel, access to grant funding, coaching, and more.

“From the first person to rub sticks together to start a fire to those who sparked the industrial age, innovation has lit our pathway to progress,” said Tina Q. Richardson, chancellor of Penn State Lehigh Valley. “But an idea, no matter how bright, is just an idea until an individual with talent, support – and gumption – captures, creates, packages, and successfully promotes it for profit: the entrepreneur. They are the backbone of our workforce, the root of all business and the reason we formed LaunchBox – to double down on our commitment to foster innovation in our region. We are so pleased to be part of this exciting event and look forward to helping these aspiring entrepreneurs gain exposure and traction through this partnership with Factory, and by connecting them to Penn State’s massive network of startup resources moving forward.”

JPMorgan Chase & Co. also contributed towards the cost of producing the event. The company is committed to supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses that create jobs and build vibrant communities.

“As our firm continues to grow in the Lehigh Valley, we couldn’t be prouder to support Factory’s StartUp event,” said Susan Youngs, relationship executive for JPMorgan Chase Commercial Banking. “JPMorgan Chase has a strong commitment to small businesses and entrepreneurs as they generate jobs, create diverse communities and are vital to prosperous cities. It’s our pleasure to help shine a spotlight on local entrepreneurs.”

Startup founders and entrepreneurs 18 years and older from any industry can apply to pitch.

The pitch contest will be hosted by Thompson and Nancy Werteen, an anchor and reporter for WFMZ-TV. Each pitch will last for two minutes, followed by a round of questions from the judges.

This year’s panel of judges is comprised of local business leaders and innovators:

Sue Yee is the founder and CEO of Active Data, a digital products and services company focused on event commerce and online ticketing. She has also served on the boards of many area organizations, including the Lehigh Valley Health Network Board of Trustees and the PBS-WLTV 39 Board of Directors.

Dan Bosket is an entrepreneur and owner of several small businesses who also serves as a board member of the Allentown Chamber of Commerce, director of the Community Action Development Corporation of Allentown, and advisor for Lehigh Valley LaunchBox.

Tony Iannelli is CEO and president of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. He hosts Business Matters, a local business show broadcast by WFMZ-TV.

Roly Nesi is the founder of ROAR Organic, an electrolyte beverage enhanced with vitamins and antioxidants. He partnered with Factory and moved ROAR’s headquarters to Bethlehem in 2020.

The in-person audience is limited to 100, and those interested in attending must register in advance at startuplehighvalley.com. Audience members and finalists will be asked to show proof of Covid-19 vaccination.