Ben Franklin Venture Idol Combines ‘Shark Tank’ and ‘American Idol’
By Colin McEvoy on November 9, 2018
An IT-enabled care management provider was the winner of the 15th annual Ben Franklin Venture Idol, in which startups and entrepreneurs compete in a live crowdfunded-format event hosted by Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP).
About 300 people attended the sold-out Venture Idol on Nov. 8 at Ben Franklin TechVentures in Bethlehem, where audience members heard presentations from three finalist entrepreneurs, then “funded” the companies by distributing “Ben Bucks” investment dollars.
“Venture Idol is a cross between Shark Tank and American Idol,” said R. Chadwick Paul, Jr., President and CEO of BFTP/NEP. “Supporting early-stage technology firms is a key component of Ben Franklin’s work.”
Earlier in the afternoon, entrepreneurs from seven Ben Franklin portfolio companies delivered pitches to more than 30 institutional angel investors, Paul said. Those investors voted to select the three finalists who presented their companies during Venture Idol.
Ben Franklin will award the three winning companies with $15,000, prorated in real dollars based on the audience vote.
This year’s top winner was Signallamp Health, a Scranton-based company that works as an extension of the physician practice, targeting new and untapped sources of Medicare revenue and helping practices prepare for the changes in reimbursement that will reward value over volume.
The runners-up this year were HootBoard, a digital concierge platform, which won second place, and Grovara LLC, a B2B marketplace and platform for natural foods and beverages companies, which placed third.
HootBoard, based in TechVentures, seeks to be the next-generation digital equivalent of human concierges. The company’s kiosk operating system and applications platform dramatically simplify the current approach to the development and management of digital concierge assets.
The Philadelphia-based Grovara connects U.S. manufacturers of natural, organic and specialty brands with global retailers and distributors, enabling American manufacturers of wellness brands to responsibly go global in 120 days, according to the company.
The other competing companies included ConnexiCore, which supports aerial data collection and analytics from drones; Game Face Products, a creator of biodegradable wipes; Rocket Cloud, Inc., a third-party data enablement solution; and Universal-Cross Connection Control, which provides software-supported services to water companies.
The investor panelists this year included Clark DeHaven of SoundBoard Angel Fund, Mark Kramer of Private Investors Forum, Liz Sigety of Delaware Crossing Investor Group, and Brett Topche of Red and Blue Ventures.
Past winners of Ben Franklin Venture Idol have included Gilson Boards (2015), a snowboard manufacturer; Play Impossible Corporation (2016), creators of the multi-sport “smart ball;” and ChannelApe (2017), the creators of a cloud-based integration platform.
BFTP/NEP creates and retains highly paid, sustainable jobs by investing in and linking companies with experts, universities, follow-on funding, and other resources to help them prosper through innovation.
Since beginning operations in 1983, BFTP/NEP has helped to create 18,056 new jobs for Pennsylvania workers and to retain 31,840 existing jobs, to start 511 new companies, and to develop 1,733 new products and processes.
Since 2007, BFTP/NEP clients have generated $1.5 billion in follow-on funding. The Pennsylvania Ben Franklin Technology Partners network has returned $3.60 to the state treasury for every $1.00 invested in the program.
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