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Lehigh Valley Readies for First Startup Weekend

Lehigh Valley Startup Weekend

Nearly 100 participants, almost half of which are students, are expected to ring in the inaugural Lehigh Valley Startup Weekend in Bethlehem this Friday through Sunday at the Ben Franklin Technology Partners TechVentures incubator facility on the campus of Lehigh University.

The goals for this 54-hour event -- which is held in 200 cities in nearly 70 countries, including the last two years in Philadelphia -- are to continue to build momentum around the rapidly developing entrepreneurial scene in Bethlehem, Allentown, Easton and surrounding areas, and of course to launch a startup or two.

"This is the first globally recognized entrepreneurship event to come to the Lehigh Valley," says Anthony Durante of Lehigh Valley Tech, one of several groups that has helped galvanize the startup community here and the primary organizer of LV Startup Weekend.

"It puts us on the same playing field as up and coming hot spots like New York, Philadelphia, Austin, Boulder, etc. We have the opportunity to show the world that the Lehigh Valley has a wealth of technical and creative talent that is comparable to others around the country."

The event kicks off on Friday with a Pitch-Fire session, in which participants pitch their ideas sans slides or props in 60 seconds. Crowd voting will determine the top 10-15 ideas to be developed through the rest of the weekend, and teams will be built out around those ideas.

On Saturday, those teams will develop prototypes of their ideas and validate their business models, using advice from several coaches and mentors who are seasoned entrepreneurs or investors. On Sunday, the teams give five-minute presentations, and judges pick the top three, who will be awarded more than $20,000 in services to keep working on their ideas, like accounting, legal and consulting.

Judges include Bob Moul of Philadelphia's appRennaisance and Philly Startup Leaders, Wayne Barz of Ben Franklin Technology Partners and Jim Gordon of Ohio's Robert Rothschild Farm.

Durante expects that Lehigh Valley's version of Startup Weekend will produce more physical products as opposed to the almost computer software-exclusive nature of most Startup Weekends.
"The Lehigh Valley has a strong engineering base that exists from the Bethlehem Steel days," he says," along with current engineering heavy companies in the area like PPL, B. Braun Medical, Air Products, Crayola, and Olympus."

There are many contributors to the inaugural event. Lehigh University’s Baker Institute of Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation is offering a prize that includes seats in its executive entrepreneurship education program Venture Series. Others contributing prizes, money or sponsoring students to attend include the Allentown Economic Development Corporation, Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation, EcoTech Marine, MeetMe.com, appRennaisance, Smart IMS, INetU and Lehigh Valley Angel Investor Group.

Still plenty of room if you want to attend -- RSVP here.

Check out the official event blog here.

JOE PETRUCCI is managing editor of Keystone Edge. Send feedback here.
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