Opinion Columns & Blogs

Ben Franklin programs support business ideas that benefit us all

Stephen Brawley
Stephen Brawley

Many thanks for your article, “Tech startups take many paths to funding,” and your mention of the Ben Franklin Technology Partners programs (www.cnp.benfranklin.org). We always appreciate the coverage we receive from the Centre Daily Times, especially when it includes mention of some of the amazing startups we’ve been proud to help support through either our traditional funding program or through our BF TechCelerator Boot Camps for business startups. The two examples that you mentioned in your Business Matters piece, Airnest and Lasers for Innovative Solutions, are great examples of the 43 startups that have graduated from our BF TechCelerator @ State College, but are also two of the 10 new companies that went on to receive funding from us. To date, Ben Franklin has invested $950,000 in these very promising startups.

While Ben Franklin Technology Partners is probably best known as one of the largest providers of very early-stage investment capital in Pennsylvania, we believe it’s important to also support initiatives that encourage the development of entrepreneurial pipelines. In addition to capital, budding entrepreneurs need access to work space, targeted one-on-one training, business support services, mentor groups, as well as the opportunity to pitch concepts to potential investors. The BF TechCelerator @ State College (www.techceleratorstatecollege.org) was developed to help fill this need. By partnering with a powerful team of business support programs including Penn State’s Small Business Development Center, the Chamber of Business & Industry of Centre County, Innovation Park and Penn State’s Office of Technology Management, we are able to offer a full menu of business mentoring and startup services in one location. Ben Franklin’s TechCelerator helps not only the university’s faculty, staff, and students explore the commercial potential of their ideas, but it offers the same services to entrepreneurs throughout the community.

As I mentioned above, the combination of BF TechCelerator training/guidance and Ben Franklin’s risk capital investments has been very successful. To date, the combined effort has produced not only several dozen startups in our region, but also created 100 new jobs in Centre County. Our graduation “pitches” have become very popular, attended by not only friends and family members of the participants, but also community leaders and possible investors. We are always happy to see one of your reporters at our events, so please feel free to stop by anytime.

In short, we appreciate the exposure that the Centre Daily Times has given to Ben Franklin’s programs over the years. Your coverage of our investments, events and contests has been instrumental in helping us to applaud the folks from the university and the community who step forward with new business ideas that ultimately benefit us all. We are excited about the future of our region. We are all in this together!

Stephen Brawley is president and CEO of Ben Franklin Technology Partners/ Central & Northern Pa.