Ben Franklin iXchange Event Focuses on Innovation, Virtualization of the World
By Colin McEvoy on May 12, 2015
Innovation in business and the ongoing virtualization of the world were among the areas of focus at the 21st annual iXchange event organized by Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania last week.
More than 500 people attended the May 7 event, which was held at the Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University in Bethlehem. Participants included technology entrepreneurs, business people, venture capitalists, economic developers, political leaders, and regional influencers.
Seven companies and individuals were presented with Innovation Awards in recognition for substantially enhancing the northeastern Pennsylvania economy. These awards honored entrepreneurs, business incubators, ground-breaking products, innovation applications of technology and more.
The award-winners included three Lehigh Valley-based companies. LifeAire Systems, LLC, of Allentown, won the Product Innovation award; Luminaire Testing Laboratory, Inc., of Allentown, won the Incubator Graduate award; and Andrew Stanten, president of Emmaus-based Altitude Marketing, won the Entrepreneurial Advocate award.
LifeAire Systems, which also won Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) Award for Entrepreneur of the Year, develops and manufactures revolutionary air purification systems for the healthcare industry.
Luminaire Testing Laboratory, Inc., a provider of testing services for manufacturers of lighting products, was the first company to locate in Allentown’s Bridgeworks Enterprise Center. Starting with just seven full-time workers, the company was sold to Underwriters Laboratories in 2010 and was moved to a 38,000 square-foot facility in Lehigh County, where it continues to increase revenue.
Stanten is an unwavering supporter of regional entrepreneurship and freely shares his expertise with start-ups, established manufacturers, and students in northeastern Pennsylvania, according to Chris Paul, Ben Franklin president and CEO. Stanten frequently meets with Ben Franklin clients, providing strategy and marketing advice on a pro-bono basis.
“Ben Franklin has inspired me to give back and to focus on the entrepreneurial community here in our region because it shows day in and day out, every week, every month, how spending just a little bit of time providing help and support can go so far to help an emerging company really succeed,” Stanten said during his acceptance speech.
The event included a keynote speech by Michael Rogers, a technology pioneer and “practical futurist” who most recently served as a futurist-in-residence for The New York Times. Rogers discussed the virtualization of America and the world, and what the digital lifestyle means for business and life.
Rogers noted that in 2004, iPhones and YouTube had not been created yet, and Facebook only had 10,000 members. Today, smart phones are ubiquitous, 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, and Facebook has 1.44 billion users. Technology is changing at such a rapid pace that he believes virtualization is one of the biggest transitions in human history since urbanization.
“Virtualization is the next step,” Rogers said. “Just as we created cities, we’re now creating a level of intelligence; a sort of invisible, virtual layer that sits atop the physical world. And the real winners in business will be those who best connect this virtual layer to the physical world.”
Ben Franklin invests in and supports early-stage technology firms, many of which are manufacturers, as well as established manufacturers to help them utilize innovations to competitive advantage in the global economy. Paul said the organization has helped lead Pennsylvania’s economy from a focus on heavy manufacturing sectors that were on the decline to an economy with a strong and growing technology base.
“A key to Ben Franklin’s continued success is leverage,” Paul said. “We leverage our financial resources with complementary investments from venture capitalists, angels, and other institutional investors, as well as from the clients themselves. We leverage our staff expertise and the resources of Pennsylvania’s universities. We invest more than money in our clients; we provide them with comprehensive, enterprise-wide support.”
In addition to LifeAire Systems, Luminaire Testing Laboratory, Inc., and Stanten, other 2015 Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania Innovation Awards were presented to Highwood USA (Entrepreneurial Achievement), EthosGen LLC (Innovative Application of Technology), Medico Industries Inc. (Manufacturing Achievement) and Edward J. McCann Jr., retired COO of the Berks County Workforce Investment Board (Partnership Award).
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