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Win big with your BIG IDEA


Once again, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pennsylvania (BFTP/CNP) is soliciting budding entrepreneurs, researchers, software developers and existing small businesses for its annual BIG IDEA contest. 

“Sponsoring contests and business startup training boot camps is our way of offering something akin to a test drive,” says Liz Wilson, BFTP/CNP’s director of marketing & communications. “In a safe and friendly environment, you can compete with other like-minded tech entrepreneurs and come out the other end with a better concept of what it’s going to take to get from startup to up-and-running. Of course, getting to cash the check is nice, too.”

That check she refers to will entitle the first-place winner to $25,000, plus a $10,000 seed grant. Second place gets $15,000; $7,500 for third, and $2,500 for the “People’s Choice Award.” The first-place winner will also receive a one-year pass to seminars offered by Ben Franklin’s eMarketing Learning Center, valued at $3,000, and a free consultation (and proposal prep) on how to access federal R&D grant money from the Innovation Partnership (also valued at $3,000).

“The monetary prizes are a great way to infuse your startup business with some much- needed cash,” Wilson wrote in a recent blog post. “But getting feedback from a panel of experts is even better. The experience you gain and the contacts you make will be worth every bit as much as the prize money. Whether you win or not, pitch contests are typically a good way to get your feet wet in the startup world, find out in a relatively non-threatening venue if your idea has merit, and begin to understand what it will take to get folks to open their checkbooks.”

2015 winner: Acoustic Sheep

BIG IDEA has been around for more than 20 years. Recent winners include FORAC LLC of York, which developed an insurance solution for consumers and online marketplaces engaged in the sharing economy; MathEdge Fantasy Sports of Carlisle, developer of the Draft Hog website, which allows fans to rank fantasy football players; and Acoustic Sheep of Erie, maker of soft, comfortable headphones for sleep and exercise.

Building on the Startup Alleghenies initiative, this year’s BIG IDEA competition targets the Southern Alleghenies, which include Blair, Cambria and Somerset counties, along with Fulton, Indiana, Jefferson, Bedford, Huntingdon, Centre, Juniata, Mifflin and Clearfield counties.

To be eligible, applicants must be located in one of those counties, developing or commercializing a new, innovative tech-based product, have not previously received an investment from Ben Franklin, and be either pre-revenue or have sales that didn’t exceeded $500,000 in 2016.

The simple online application, “makes no requirement to share your ‘secret sauce’ or any detail you believe is proprietary,” insists BFTP/CNP. The deadline is October 2 at 5 p.m.

ELISE VIDER is news editor of Keystone Edge.

Ben Franklin Technology Partners are a partner in Keystone Edge.

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Region: South Central

Region: South Central

Region: South Central

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