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Wilkes-Barre's EthosGen is the 2015 BFTP Venture Idol winner!

Wilkes-Barre's EthosGen, maker of an innovative power generator that produces electricity from sustainable and renewable sources, is the 2015 Ben Franklin Venture Idol champion.

Sponsor Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania describes Venture Idol as "a cross between Shark Tank and American Idol, but with entrepreneurs and investors instead of vocalists and celebrities."

Jim Abrams of EthosGen took the top prize with this pitch: "Our product, the CraftEngine, can convert waste heat into renewable electricity on-site. This presents a huge market as the largest waste heat producers are also the largest electricity consumers -- such as manufacturing and industrial facilities, hospitals, database centers and other energy systems like solar thermal and geothermal.

"Our win," he adds, "really comes from having a great group of strategic partners including BE Aerospace, Viking Development Group and AVL Schrick."

"EthosGen has developed and commercialized a renewable energy technology that leverages one of the most abundant resources available: waste heat," explains Kenneth G. Okrepkie, regional manager of the Pocono Northeast Region for BFTP-NEP. "EthosGen’s prestigious industrial partners…strategically position the company to ramp up production and sales."

About 250 guests attended the November 20 event, which started with eight finalists (all profiled in Keystone Edge in recent weeks). Besides EthosGen, JUJAMA of Scranton, which provides technology tools for events, and TSG Software of Bethlehem, a maker of software for commercial cleaning concerns, advanced to the final round to pitch their ventures to the audience.

In addition to a cash investment based on audience votes, EthosGen will receive a start-up package from Altitude Marketing of Emmaus that includes a revamped website, and a branding and messaging upgrade. (BFTP-NEP has already invested a total of $314,500 in EthosGen.)

Abrams reports that EthosGen recently won another honor, making the top 25 out of 2,500 companies worldwide in the Extreme Tech Challenge; judging will happen in January.

Source: Jim Abrams, EthosGen; Kenneth G. Okrepkie, BFTP-NEP
Writer: Elise Vider

HiJinx Brewing Company rolls out the barrel in Allentown

Allentown's HiJinx Brewing Company isn’t quite so micro anymore thanks to the opening of its newly expanded brewery at the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center

The new facility features a 10-barrel (310 gallon) brewing system -- boosting HiJinx's capacity tenfold -- and a tasting room where customers can sample the brewery's beers and purchase 64-ounce growlers of their favorites.
Brewer Curt Keck started as a self-taught homebrewer in 1995 "to satisfy my passion for great beer" and then worked at local producers to learn the business. He met Chris Becker, another accomplished brewer, through the Lehigh Valley Homebrewers Club and the pair launched HiJinx in Keck's garage. 

It was another fortuitous meeting, this time at a local brew festival with Anthony Durante, program manager for the Allentown Economic Development Corporation (AEDC), that brought HiJinx to Bridgeworks.

"After a few sips of their beers and talking to the guys, my gut told me this was something special," recalls Durante. A couple of months later, while working with the founders of The Colony Meadery, another AEDC business incubator client, Durante crossed paths with Keck and Becker again.
"It turns out that everyone knows everyone else in the craft beverage industries," says Durante. "Through Colony Meadery, we were able to reconnect with the HiJinx team and began working through the process of bringing them into the business incubation program."

Accommodating a brewery at Bridgeworks required the installation of floor drains, bringing utility services into the space, building a bar for the tasting area and, of course, installing the brewing system.
The new HiJinx has space for a total of fifteen fermenters; the company aims to have its beers offered throughout Pennsylvania and additional northeastern states in the next several months.

For now, HiJinx products are available at Shangy's: The Beer Authority in Emmaus, and on tap at a number of bars in Pennsylvania. The tasting room is open most Fridays from 6 p.m. - 8 p.m. and most Saturdays from noon - 4 p.m.

Source: Curt Keck, HiJinx Brewing Company; Anthony Durante, AEDC
Writer: Elise Vider

New opportunities for military vets in Philly and Pittsburgh

Both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh marked Veterans Day last week with new initiatives aimed at boosting opportunities for military veterans.

Philadelphia is the latest outpost for Chicago’s The Bunker, the country’s first incubator for veteran-owned businesses in the tech sector. Mike Maher, a 2005 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and co-founder of Benjamin’s Desk  a co-working community, is executive director of The Bunker’s new Philly affiliate. 

"We have a special obligation to provide opportunities for our veterans to achieve success once they return home," explains Maher. "With this program, we are making it a priority to promote and recruit veterans to be leaders in our startup and business communities. Veterans make exceptional entrepreneurs and our region is poised to benefit from their leadership."

The Bunker -- which is temporarily located at Benjamin’s Desk in Center City while Maher looks for permanent space -- will initially assist five startups beginning early next year. Technology startups are the focus, but any veteran-led and operated business is eligible. 

Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development launched Service to Opportunity, a new program that places veterans with energy and manufacturing employers who need to fill in-demand jobs. Among its features, Service to Opportunity features a database to help match skills and interests to available jobs, and a toolkit for employers featuring best practices and techniques for interviewing and hiring veterans. 

"Veterans are a good fit for many of the critical workforce needs of energy and advanced manufacturing companies here," said Laura Fisher of the Allegheny Conference in a statement. "They bring technical skills, teamwork and leadership experience, and a strong work ethic."

Source: Mike Maher, Benjamin’s Desk; Allegheny Conference on Community Development
Writer: Elise Vider

DreamIt Athena to provide female entrepreneurs with the tools for success

In the grueling startup culture, female entrepreneurs face particular and well-documented challenges, from limited access to early-stage capital, mentors and networks, to disinclination for self-promotion.

Now DreamIt Ventures has launched DreamIt Athena, a new Philadelphia-based accelerator track focused on providing women with the tools necessary to grow viable companies.

"DreamIt Athena aims to make a significant difference…by providing specific, dedicated resources to meet [female founders’] needs," says Karen Griffith Gryga, DreamIt managing partner.

The accelerator's female-focused curriculum will address the challenges head on.

"The lack of role models is one of the primary differences," she explains. "Women are relatively new to the entrepreneurial scene; we were only granted the right to business credit in our own names in 1974. Like any successful entrepreneurial ecosystem, the presence of role models is critical. 
"The lack of access to capital is another challenge faced more acutely by female entrepreneurs," continues Griffith Gryga, noting that most angel investors and venture capitalists are males and often not interested in women entrepreneurs’ ideas. "Female founders also face challenges that are more trait based. Women’s qualifications and decision-making skills are often scrutinized more deeply and critically than their male counterparts. Additionally, women have a tendency not to self-promote, and research indicates that women downplay their accomplishments in comparison to men even though they are actually over-performing."
Named for the Greek goddess of wisdom, DreamIt Athena will offer $25,000 in seed money, plus coaching, mentorship and workspace at the Innovation Center @3401, DreamIt Ventures’ Philadelphia headquarters. DreamIt Athena will also partner with the women’s angel network Golden Seeds and women entrepreneur/top-level exec network Springboard to further ensure access to resources, guidance and seed money.

DreamIt received nearly $500,000 from the state Department of Community and Economic Development  to launch Athena, and is looking to accept, at minimum, four women-led startups for the program, which runs February through May 2015.

The application deadline is Monday, December 8.

Source: Karen Griffith Gryga, DreamIt Ventures
Writer: Elise Vider

Ben Franklin Venture Idol Preview: Bethlehemís Ed startup Skaffl subs iPads for paper and pencil

Keystone Edge is profiling contestants in the upcoming Ben Franklin Venture Idol competition (Nov. 20 at Ben Franklin TechVentures). After earning their way through the afternoon selection process, entrepreneurs pitch their startups to investors and attendees. Ben Franklin will invest $15,000 based on the "crowd-funded" audience vote.

"No paper, no problems" is the mantra at Skaffl, a Bethlehem-based ed tech startup that aims to substitute tablets for pencils and notebooks in K-12 classrooms.

Skaffl has developed a mobile iPad application that allows teachers and students to exchange class materials, assignments, homework, assessments and grades, all in real time. Students can write or draw on their tablet and teachers can view -- and provide feedback -- to student work in progress.

The last year has been a heady one for Skaffl, reports co-founder and CEO Rita Chesterton. The company launched the beta version of its app live onstage at Tech Crunch Disrupt in San Francisco in September 2013. That same month, Skaffl received a $100,000 investment from Ben Franklin Tech Partners of Northeast Pennsylvania. Shortly after, Skaffl was awarded a $15,000 grant from the city of Bethlehem as part of the Keystone Innovation Zone program.

Starting in February, Skaffl spent four months in Boston as part of the LearnLaunchX accelerator program, testing its product in several schools in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. And just a few weeks ago, Skaffl presented at the EdSurge Seattle Summit and was named "a S'cool Tool of the Week."

"Since returning to our home offices in Pennsylvania, we had our official launch in July of 2014," says Chesterton. "We have growing numbers of teachers and students across the U.S. and around the world who are now using Skaffl everyday in their classrooms."

Skaffl (available for most late-model iPads) is free at the App Store until January, as Skaffl rolls out new features. 

Source: Rita Chesterton, Skaffl
Writer: Elise Vider

Nine healthcare startups 'Dream' big in Philadelphia

Nine healthcare startups are poised for growth on the heels of the DreamIt Health Philadelphia 2014 accelerator program, which draws to a close this week.

The participating companies, selected by DreamIt VenturesIndependence Blue Cross and Penn Medicine, received $50,000 each in seed capital along with four months of hands-on support and resources to develop their ideas into scalable companies with high-growth potential. The companies pitched to investors, industry leaders and potential customers last week.

"Philadelphia has all the right components to become a national magnet for healthcare innovation," says Independence President and CEP Daniel Hilferty. "Through this unique joint venture, we’ve already brought several promising, unique, young companies to Philadelphia, and we look forward to seeing the results of this year's program come to life at Demo Day."

DreamIt Health Philadelphia 2014 participating companies include:

BioBots, a Philadelphia startup, offers plug-and-play desktop 3-D bioprinters, enabling users to easily create functional biological structures.

Philadelphia's Drop Diagnostics enables rapid mobile disease detection using only a drop of blood.

NarrativeDx from Austin, Texas, provides healthcare administrators and clinicians with actionable insights from patient experiences to improve care and reduce the risk of losing millions of dollars in reimbursements.

Bear, Del.'s RegDesk connects mobile health, medical device and biopharma companies with the largest global network of on-demand compliance experts, eliminating delays and expense in launching their products.

Pittsburgh's RistCall helps hospitals improve patient safety and satisfaction scores by replacing traditional wall-mounted nurse call-bell systems with wearable, connected devices.

Tissue Analytics from Baltimore turns the common smartphone into a sophisticated medical imaging and diagnostic platform for chronic wounds.

TowerView Health offers payers and other risk-bearing entities a service that improves patient adherence to multiple medications using a next-generation connected pillbox. The company is based out of Chicago, Ill., Houston, Texas, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, Calif.

TrueClaim, based in both Philadelphia and Jacksonville, Fla., helps health plans engage their members to substantiate claims and prevent billing errors, waste, fraud and abuse.

Philly's Willseeyou has developed predictive scheduling software that helps clinics boost their bottom line by booking more appointments, reducing inefficiencies and improving the patient experience.

Additionally, two companies born out of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia are participating in DreamIt's Open Canvas@CHOP program:

Haystack develops analytics and monitoring solutions that help hospitals detect, investigate and report patient privacy breaches.

3D Peds is currently operating in stealth mode.

Source: DreamIt Health Philadelphia
Writer: Elise Vider

Mercyhurst U 'Quickstarter' boosts entrepreneurship in Erie

You've no doubt heard of Kickstarter, the popular online crowdfunding platform. Now Kristan Wheaton, a Mercyhurst University professor, has developed "Quickstarter," a tool to identify and help potential entrepreneurs conceive successful crowdfunding campaigns.

Quickstarter is to Kickstarter what entrepreneurs are to "pre-entrepreneurs," Wheaton’s term for individuals with ideas and skills who haven’t yet "made the mental leap to entrepreneurship."

Under Quickstarter, Wheaton and his students form support teams to provide pre-entrepreneurs with targeted assistance needed to move the project forward. The help might come in the form of copywriting, public relations, graphic design, social media management or video production. If crowdfunding is successful, Quickstarter will direct the entrepreneur to appropriate resources to advance their idea.

Three projects are already underway with funding from a Mercyhurst Academic Enrichment Grant. Now, a $10,000 investment from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pennsylvania will enable five more Quickstarter projects through June 2015.

"Quickstarter, which is basically just my plan for supporting crowdfunding campaigns and increasing the likelihood of their success, is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs in the Erie region who need specific kinds of technical support to launch their ideas and potentially turn them into real business opportunities," explains Wheaton.

There is also a larger mission in mind. Citing a March 2014 report, "Northwest Pennsylvania’s ‘entrepreneur problem’ is a simple one. There aren’t enough of them," says Wheaton.

The lack of entrepreneurs and a workforce skills gap, "exacerbate the so-called ‘brain drain’ as both young college graduates seeking relevant skills to build their resumes and entrepreneurs leave the area. To remedy this, the No. 1 recommendation of the study…was to improve the entrepreneurial culture and generate additional deal flow -- in short, increase the supply of entrepreneurs. Quickstarter addresses this recommendation directly."

Wheaton has laid out a strategy for scaling up Quickstarter with the goal of supporting 100 successful projects over three years. 

Source: Kristan Wheaton, Mercyhurst University
Writer: Elise Vider

Ben Franklin Venture Idol Preview: Lewisburg company builds software for accrediting physicians

Keystone Edge is profiling contestants in the upcoming Ben Franklin Venture Idol competition (Nov. 20 at Ben Franklin TechVentures). After earning their way through the afternoon selection process, entrepreneurs pitch their startups to investors and attendees. Ben Franklin will invest $15,000 based on the "crowd-funded" audience vote.

Accrediting the hundreds of thousands of students and physicians who receive clinical training at healthcare institutions in the U.S. and abroad is a vast and complex undertaking. And now the Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education requires hospitals to report performance data for each resident physician on a bi-annual basis, a much more onerous task from its old reporting requirement of every three to five years. 

Meeting the requirements is made even more difficult by outdated software products -- created in the mid-'90s to replace paper -- that dominate the industry. 

Santhosh Cherian, a radiology resident at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, was sure there had to be a better way. Combining his background in medicine and in software and web design, he formed Medtrics Lab in 2013 with Adityo Sagir, a management consultant, to fill the gap in the healthcare technology market.

Working with physicians who are actively involved in graduate medical education accreditation and software engineers, Medtrics developed a cloud-based clinical education management system for hospitals, medical schools and universities. The software handles all aspects of training, including scheduling, performance evaluations, demographics data, procedure credentialing and data necessary to maintain national accreditation. 

Several medical institutions are piloting the platform for their residency programs: Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (Lubbock) Internal Medicine program, Mayaguez Medical Center in Puerto Rico, and Lutheran Medical Center’s Internal Medicine program in Brooklyn, N.Y.  

The startup recently moved to Bucknell University Entrepreneurs Incubator where it is at work adding features to improve efficiency for large institutions and to develop full featured iOS and Android applications. 

"Over the next year we also hope to improve our marketing and sales strategy, so that we can share what we built with more institutions," adds Cherian. "We have already started working with experienced advisors at [Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeast PA] and Bucknell University to accomplish this." 

Source: Santhosh Cherian, Medtrics Lab
Writer: Elise Vider

Philly's University City Science Center wins $1 million grant for new commercialization program

Philadelphia's University City Science Center has won a $1 million federal grant, enabling it to offer a new turnkey accelerator for the launch and growth of emerging companies.

The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) awarded the Science Center the funds to create Phase 1 Ventures (P1V), aimed at promising technologies that have moved beyond the initial, technical proof-of-concept stage.
"Initially, P1V will focus on projects in healthcare and the life sciences; however, it is our intent to expand the scope of the program in the future to assist projects in other science and technology domains, such as materials, energy, advanced manufacturing and communications," says Chris Laing, the Science Center’s vice president for science and technology. "The program is likely to have most impact in launching companies around technologies and industry sectors where there is traditionally a long development lead-time."
This is the second Science Center commercialization program supported by the EDA. In 2011, the Center was awarded $1 million for its QED proof-of-concept program, which Laing says can serve as a potential pipeline for the new effort. 

"It’s too early to identify specific projects/companies in the pipeline. However, we have been having conversations with most of the area universities and research institutions," he explains. "Our QED program is a great starting point for us -- it has earned us relationships with 21 research institutions throughout the region, and of course has developed more than 60 projects that could be candidates for P1V."  
The Science Center applied for the latest grant through a competitive process managed by the EDA, and matched the EDA funding. The grant period is two years and Laing says the Center is actively raising further funds in hopes of running P1V for five years.

Source: Chris Laing, University City Science Center
Writer: Elise Vider

EFE Labs boosts SE PA startups through Ben Franklin Technology Partners alliance

For many aspiring entrepreneurs and small businesses, finding the money to design and prototype their ideas can be a tremendous challenge.

Ben Franklin Technology Partners (BFTP) helps bridge that gap through its various programs and grant offerings, and a new alliance with EFE Laboratories will provide young companies with even more of the connections, technical expertise and financial capital they need to bring their products to market.

Led by majority owner and engineer Kip Anthony, EFE is a leading manufacturer of controllers, communication tools, medical devices, and other electrical and mechanical engineering solutions.

With 35 employees and growing, the Horsham-based lab has already helped clients obtain matching Ben Franklin FabNet (BFFN) prototyping grants.

For example, its work with SureShade has allowed founder Dana Russikoff to both expand the company's market reach, and move the design and manufacturing of its retractable boat shades back to the Philadelphia area.

Not content to simply refer clients to the BFFN program, EFE actively reaches out to growing companies facing various developmental challenges and a lack of R&D capital.

"I’m trying to make sure that, through the network and connections I have, clients receive the help they need to move their manufacturing process forward," says Anthony.

An established engineer with an MBA, Anthony understands the vital role manufacturing plays in the economy, and is passionate about sharing EFE's capabilities and experience with the larger entrepreneurial community.

"There are a lot of good people behind this," he insists, discussing how EFE's new alliance might help bring manufacturing jobs back to the region. "[There’s] a lot of shared passion, and a lot of drive and desire to succeed."

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Kip Anthony, EFE Laboratories

For three young entrepreneurs in Malvern, 'Maholla' means eco-centric products

Three young entrepreneurs, committed, they say, "to getting back to the basics of good business: high-quality innovative products, unparalleled customer satisfaction, social responsibility and having the smallest environmental impact possible," have launched Maholla Products, an eco-centric lifestyle products company in Malvern.

The company name comes from a mixture of the Hawaiian word "mahalo," meaning thanks or gratitude, and the slang greeting "holla."

"'Mahalo' is a really powerful word that encompasses how we approach people, life and our company," says co-founder Evan Hajas. "We chose 'holla'… to mean 'keep in touch' or 'see you soon.' The combination of the words, to us, is a respectful and friendly greeting. It sums up our company in one word. We respect our customers and our products, and want them to keep in touch. When we sell a product, that is just the beginning of our relationship with the customer -- we don't want it to be a cold 'see-you-never' sale."

Hajas, along with co-founders Andrew Lees and Jim McHugh, recently launched Grassracks, a line of easy-to-hang, bamboo racks that can be used to hang skateboards, bikes, skis, etc. Grassracks make a stylish statement and are made of 100 percent bamboo, a highly sustainable material.

Grassracks are manufactured in Malvern and Ohio, and sold online in a few brick-and-mortar locations around Philadelphia.

"Our product is unique in that brick-and-mortar stores buy them for use as in-store displays, but also to sell to end consumers,” explains Hajas. "That has allowed us to develop some creative referral programs that have worked out great for us and the retailers."

Maholla is currently developing some new home decor lines. "Even some that dip into the audio and accessory industries, but those are still a little hush hush," adds Hajas. "We started this company to live the American dream. We're three young guys that are committed to making high-quality products, being good to our customers, and doing what we can to protect the environment and raise the bar in terms of environmental awareness for companies."

Source: Evan Hajas, Maholla Products
Writer: Elise Vider

Three biotech companies and a legal tech startup land at the University City Science Center

Four early-stage companies, including one making its first foray into the U.S. market, are settling in at the University City Science Center's Port Business Incubator. 

CETICS Healthcare Technologies is a medical device company based in Germany. With its analysis technology and digitalization of sample profiles, the company's products drastically simplify how in-vitro diagnostics are used, opening new application areas in quality control, chemical stability testing, toxicology, and process optimization and control.

In Philadelphia, the company is launching a new product for genotoxicity testing. The TOXXs Analyzer is an automated method for fast quantification of DNA strand breaks and DNA repair capacities. 
In the longer term, CETICS is developing a new generation of breakthrough in-vitro diagnostic products known as "Spectral Biomarkers" that can provide early, non-invasive diagnoses of Alzheimer Disease, prostate cancer and liver fibrosis.

HaRo Pharmaceutical, another new Port company, is conducting research and development focused on the treatment of high-risk neuroblastoma, funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). HaRo was the only small molecule therapeutic company -- out of 75 startups nationwide -- admitted to the Innovation Corps Team Training Pilot Program (ICORPS),  an NCI/National Institutes of Health-sponsored intensive commercial development course.
Hyalo Technologies is a biotech and pharmaceutical company developing an innovative nanotechnology drug delivery system that promises to drastically reduce systemic side effects and increase patient compliance. Potential applications include cancer, pain management, wound healing and dermatology.

Legal Science Partners (LSP), spun out of Temple University's Beasley School of Law in 2013, builds tools for the legal profession. LSP's knowledge management platform, The Monocle, allows easy, low-cost access to legal information across jurisdictions and topics. Meanwhile, products such as LawAtlas.org and Workbench convert unstructured legal text into structured question-and-answer formats.

LSP is currently building custom platforms in particular areas of law such as Prescription Drug Overdose Prevention Laws for the National Institute for Drug Abuse and Everytown for Gun Safety, and is planning to release a prototype in the coming weeks of its 50StatUS, which will include pay-per-use statutory data in the business law sector.

Source: Kristen Fitch, University City Science Center
Writer: Elise Vider

Carlisle's CRIMEWATCH PA helps law enforcement get the bad guys

When the epic manhunt for Eric Frein began last month, the first warrant-and-reward notice was released through PA Crime Stoppers, managed by Pennsylvania State Police and the first paying customer of CRIMEWATCH PA

The Frein alert was quickly syndicated across the CRIMEWATCH PA network, generating over 200,000 unique views in September and hundreds of tips to the State Police.

Based in Carlisle, CRIMEWATCH PA is a system comprised of law enforcement websites, social media accounts and a mobile application that facilitates the distribution of local crime information. It allows law enforcement agencies to manage, organize and control fugitive and offender data, and quickly share it with the public and each other. From arrests and investigations to full fugitive profiles and a tip submission platform, CRIMEWATCH enables law enforcement to have a unified virtual presence.

With functions including crime mapping, notifications and tip submission, the subscription-based service eliminates the need for agencies to build or maintain their own websites and social media presences. The company just announced the launch of its 2.0 platform. 

Twenty active police departments in Central Pennsylvania already use the CRIMEWATCH PA technology. Over 500 actionable tips have led to more than 100 arrests in a year, and the network has helped police identify and capture individuals wanted or suspected in connection to crimes ranging from shoplifting to child sexual assault

"We’ve been having tremendous success in helping police act more transparently, engaging the public and using technology to assist in investigations," says CRIMEWATCH PA's Matt Bloom.

For now, the platform is marketed to qualified Pennsylvania police agencies. Next year, Bloom plans to expand CRIMEWATCH PA throughout the mid-Atlantic region, hoping to reach 300 police departments and clear its first million in revenue. 

The company just hired a new chief technology officer and anticipates adding customer service, sales and industry experts to its payroll next year. In September, CRIMEWATCH PA received an investment from Benjamin Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pennsylvania

Source: Matt Bloom, CRIMEWATCH PA
Writer: Elise Vider

BFTP to invest $357,100 In Northeastern PA Companies

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania will invest $357,100 to support regional economic development.

Since its founding, BFTP/NEP has helped create 16,214 new jobs for Pennsylvanians and retain 22,155 existing jobs; they have been instrumental in the formation of 458 new companies and the development of 1,279 new products and processes. The Pennsylvania Ben Franklin Technology Partners network has returned $3.60 to the state treasury for every $1 invested in the program. 

The following early-stage companies will receive investment in the form of loans.
HB Custom Media, Inc., Ben Franklin TechVentures, Bethlehem, Northampton County
Ben Franklin Investment: $25,000
This company will expand the commercialization effort for producing and selling custom tissue culture media, reagents, cell culture supplements and mouse embryo culture media to the Research-Use-Only market. These products are essential for life sciences companies in various applications, including drug development, cancer research, nerve cell regeneration investigation and treatments for heart attacks.
Medtrics Lab, LLC, Lewisburg, Union County
Ben Franklin Investment: $25,000
Medtrics will conduct an expanded market launch of a cloud-based clinical education management software system. This software is crucial for healthcare institutions training the next generation of healthcare professionals. Work will include completing the web application for physician training programs, developing both Apple mobile (iOS) and Android applications, and building additional features to support nursing schools.
Skaffl, LLC, Ben Franklin TechVentures, Bethlehem
Ben Franklin Investment: $100,000
The investment will enable adding additional functionality to Skaffl, a new mobile application through which teachers and students can exchange class materials, assignments, completed homework, assessments and grades. This product addresses the growing use of tablets in K-12 classrooms and the needs of teachers as they develop tools and curricula to enhance real-time educational interaction.

TSG Software, Ben Franklin TechVentures, Bethlehem, Northampton County
Ben Franklin Investment: $50,000
TSG will implement processes to significantly increase marketing and sales lead generation in commercializing software for business cleaning services, property and facility managers, and building management contractors. TSG's Accelerator CC brings traditionally manual processes into cloud software to automate mission-critical processes. This eliminates workflow disruption.
Virterras Foods, Moosic, Lackawanna County
Ben Franklin Investment: $50,000
This investment will support the development of a large, state-of-the-art hydroponic greenhouse for climate-smart, year-round agriculture in Pennsylvania. The market for fresh, local food is growing rapidly. The U.S. now imports 65 percent of all fresh produce and Virterras is part of a growing trend to bring agriculture and jobs back to Pennsylvania.
Ben Franklin will also invest in the following established manufacturers, providing 1:1 matching funding for work with a college or university partner on tech-based innovation.
B. Braun Medical, Inc., Allentown
Ben Franklin Investment: $50,000
University Partner: Lehigh University's Enterprise Systems Center
These funds will support a baseline energy assessment and carbon footprint analysis at this manufacturer and distributor of disposable medical devices. The company is committed to sustainable manufacturing processes while also reducing costs and increasing market competitiveness. The overall goal is reducing energy use by at least 10 percent.
Custom Processing Services, Inc., Reading, Berks County
University Partner: Lehigh University's Enterprise Systems Center
Ben Franklin Investment: $15,000
With help from their partner, this company will create new processes to manage internal logistics and minimize material handling costs during its continued growth. CPS provides sophisticated air-jet milling, micronizing, blending and testing of powdered materials on a contract and toll basis. 
A. Rifkin Company, Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County
University Partner: Lehigh University's Enterprise Systems Center
Ben Franklin Investment: $17,100
This investment will help improve the cutting operation process and develop labor costs for the company's newly acquired Hope Uniform product line, which is relocating from New Jersey. Rifkin is the leading manufacturer of commercial and financial security bags, and is expanding into specialty apparel.
Simplex Industries, Inc., Scranton, Lackawanna County
University Partner: Lehigh University's Enterprise Systems Center
Ben Franklin Investment: $25,000
Simplex will map and analyze the designs of current processes to improve factory automation, material handling, storage and inventory control. Simplex is a regional leader in high quality modular construction, and is positioning itself as an industry-leading builder of energy efficient homes. The company built a prototype Net Zero home that is both environmentally conscientious and economically prudent for homeowners.


Accolades roll in for Lehigh's entrepreneurship program

Entrepreneurship education is thriving at Lehigh University, where the Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation continues to rack up top rankings and national recognition.

In September, The Princeton Review ranked the school No. 17 on its list of "Top 25 Undergraduate Schools for Entrepreneurship Programs for 2015." This is the fourth time Lehigh has received a top 25 ranking. Last year, the Bethlehem-based school was ranked No. 20.

Based on surveys sent to school administrators at more than 2,000 institutions from April to June, the lists recognize 50 programs in all -- 25 undergraduate and 25 graduate -- for their excellence in entrepreneurship education. The Princeton Review has compiled these lists annually since 2006 in partnership with Entrepreneur Media Inc., publisher of Entrepreneur magazine. 

This summer, Lehigh was also named to Forbes' Top 50 Startup Schools list (No. 45) and to the Top 30 Most Entrepreneurial Schools list (No. 29) by entrepreneur networking website FounderDating.com

In the past year, Lehigh's entrepreneurship programs have also been recognized by the University Economic Development Association -- which named the school's Masters of Technical Entrepreneurship program the top program in North America for talent development -- and by the international organization that runs Global Entrepreneurship Week

Last year, Bloomberg BusinessWeek ranked Lehigh’s College of Business and Economics No. 12 for entrepreneurship specialty programs.

The Baker Institute, founded in 2010, provides students, faculty and alumni with the skills, resources and connections needed to make their entrepreneurial ventures launch and prosper. Its network encompasses a worldwide alumni base, regional economic development and incubation resources, and campus-based courses and programming. Since 2010, Lehigh students and recent graduates have launched more than 150 startups. 

"I'm remarkably proud of our Lehigh entrepreneurship family -- students, faculty and staff from across the whole campus,” says Todd A. Watkins, Lehigh professor of economics and Baker Institute executive director. "The continuing stream of national recognition like this is, I think, testimony to the vibrant innovation ecosystem we're building and our deeply cross-campus approach to entrepreneurship. Lehigh has emerged as a national-class destination. Creative thinkers and entrepreneurs want to be in environments like this that energize, mix and grow great ideas from all corners."

Source: Lehigh University
Writer: Elise Vider
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