Ben Franklin TechVentures
, one of Pennsylvania's first technology incubators, continues to rack up awards and attract fledgling companies.
With two fresh international honors bestowed by the National Business Incubation Association
this month, CEO and President Chad Paul says the 109,000-square-foot incubator is 96% occupied and "I have the best deal flow that I've ever had in 10-plus years. The quality of the applications goes up and up."
The reason, ironically, is the economic downturn, which has prompted many seasoned professionals who have lost corporate jobs to take a gamble as entrepreneurs. "They know the science, but they don’t know business math, marketing or [how to attract capital]," Paul says.
That's where TechVentures comes in, offering a range of facilities (including much-coveted wet labs), services, mentoring and, critically, investments typically in the $50,000-to-$150,000 range.
TechVentures has launched 55 companies and created 5,400 jobs since its establishment in 1983 in an unused building at Bethlehem Steel. One current tenant with great potential is Micro Interventional Devices
, which is starting human trials this month of a device that could minimize complications in heart-valve-replacement surgery for high-risk patients. Paul sees medical devices like this as among the growth areas for the future.
But he cautions, "In Bethlehem, we learned a long time ago there's big time liability for being a one-company town. So you won't see us focus on just life science, just energy, just optics. Every application we get is based on its own merits."
Source: Chad Paul, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania
Writer: Elise Vider