Two Companies Successfully Graduate from Bethlehem Business Incubator
By Colin McEvoy on April 28, 2017
Two thriving startup companies have successfully graduated from a Bethlehem business incubation program, and have moved into larger spaces elsewhere in the Lehigh Valley.
Orbweaver Sourcing, a provider of supply chain integration solutions for the electronics manufacturing industry, has graduated from Ben Franklin TechVentures and is moving into a downtown Bethlehem facility five times the size of its current space.
Sunbound Technology, which is developing custom LED lighting products for industrial and commercial applications, has also graduated from Ben Franklin and is moving into a new Whitehall Township facility seven times larger than its incubator space.
The fact that both companies are moving into larger spaces exemplifies one of Ben Franklin TechVentures’ roles in the regional economy, according to Wayne Barz, manager of entrepreneurial services at Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP).
“We provide a supportive environment in which start-ups test their business models with a minimal financial obligation,” Barz said. “After early success, they graduate from the incubator to larger spaces in the region and make room for new startups at Ben Franklin TechVentures.”
Orbweaver Sourcing, which had been at Ben Franklin TechVentures for four years, will be moving into a 2,500 square-foot space at 1 E Broad Street in Bethlehem. They had occupied 600 square-feet spread across three spaces during their time in the incubator.
Chris Ciesielka, CEO of Orbweaver, said the debt financing provided by Ben Franklin provided capital they probably would not have been able to obtain otherwise, and that Barz provided excellent advice for the company in his role as mentor, often serving as a soundboard for them.
“Ben Franklin has been absolutely critical to our success, and we’re very appreciative of their involvement,” Ciesielka said. The company has 12 full-time employees and 6 part-time employees, have just recently hired three more on a full-time basis.
Ciesielka and fellow Orbweaver co-founder Tony Powell both attended Lehigh University, as did most of the company’s employees. It was an easy decision to stay in the region, Ciesielka said, because of the local workforce and the region’s proximity to markets like New York City and Philadelphia.
Sunbound Technology is moving into 5,500 square feet at 262 Lehigh Street in Whitehall Township, which will provide greater space for warehousing and displaying products than the 700 square-feet at Ben Franklin TechVentures afforded them.
“They probably had one or two customers walk in here every day to see their products, even though their customers are all up and down the East Coast,” Barz said. “So they want an opportunity to have more of a welcoming, showroom atmosphere.”
Located on Lehigh University’s Mountaintop Campus, about three-dozen early-stage firms are housed on more than 109,000 total square-feet at Ben Franklin TechVentures. Other resident companies include Azevan Pharmaceuticals, Cernostics, Crowdplsr, EggZack, Eventuosity, Hager Bioscience, MindMe Mobile, Saladax Biomedical, U.S. Specialty Formations, and viihealth.
Ben Franklin TechVentures is owned and managed by BFTP/NEP, an initiative of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development that creates and retains highly-paid, sustainable jobs by linking companies with experts, universities, funding, and other resources to help them prosper through innovation.
Since beginning operations in 1983, BFTP/NEP has helped to create 17,415 new jobs for Pennsylvania workers and to retain 27,384 existing jobs, to start 492 new companies, and to develop 1,591 new products and processes. Since 2007, BFTP/NEP clients have generated $1.4623 billion in follow-on funding.
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