Bethlehem Startups Receive $120,000 Investment from Ben Franklin

By Colin McEvoy on June 17, 2019

Two early-stage Bethlehem companies have been approved for $120,000 in investments this month from the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP).

Rocket Cloud, which provides software tools that allow heating, ventilation, and air conditioning wholesalers to transact sales on the web, will receive $100,000 in funding to help complete enhancements to its software platform, among other benefits.

Ophidion, which is developing a new class of safe and effective drugs targeting some of the most important receptors in the central nervous system, was also approved for a $20,000 investment to support a definitive pre-clinical study.

Those two investments are part of a $488,400 funding round approved by the BFTP/NEP board of directors this month in support of regional economic development in the organization’s 21-county service area.

“Investing in promising early-stage firms and established manufacturers is central to our mission of creating and retaining highly paid, sustainable Pennsylvania jobs,” said BFTP/NEP spokeswoman Laura Eppler.

“All of our clients are competitively selected as having the greatest potential for introducing novel products or processes, or filling a viable market niche,” she said. “We work with ventures on an enterprise-wide basis to enhance their entire way of doing business.”

BFTP/NEP clients include early-stage, technology-based firms and established manufacturers.

Rocket Cloud and Ophidion are both resident companies at Ben Franklin TechVentures, a business incubator owned and managed by BFTP/NEP. Headquartered on Lehigh University’s Mountaintop Campus, BFTP/NEP helped start 520 new companies since the program began operations in 1983.

Ben Franklin is one of several components of a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem in Lehigh Valley, which includes business incubators, financial resources, educational institutions, government and non-profit economic development organizations, and more.

“Lehigh Valley’s entrepreneurial community is one of the many things that makes this region special, as we’ve been sharing in our Made Possible in Lehigh Valley campaign,” said Don Cunningham, President & CEO of Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC). “All of the elements an entrepreneur needs to start a successful company can be found right here in Lehigh Valley.”

The region also offers tremendous competitive advantages in the life, biological, and biomedical science fields, which is why it has been identified as one of the four target sectors of the regional economy. Visit here to learn more.

Rocket Cloud’s innovative cloud- and machine-learning-based software solutions streamline the supply chain and allow traditional wholesalers of equipment and supplies to supplement physical locations with third-party ecommerce channels. Easy on-line access through e-commerce sites will increase sales and lower the cost of delivering product.

“Ben Franklin TechVentures has been instrumental in supporting Rocket Cloud towards building out superb technology, office space for our growing staff, and tremendous networking opportunities to continue pushing the envelope forward,” said Zeiad Hussein, Chief Revenue Officer at Rocket Cloud.

In addition to supporting enhancements to the software platform, BFTP/NEP’s $100,000 investment will help Rocket Cloud implement a new marketing and sales strategy for this software platform interface for the building materials supply industry.

Ophidion is targeting relief of the symptoms of schizophrenia, ADHD, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease as well as addiction and anxiety. The founder launched the company in the Pasadena Bioscience Collaborative and relocated to TechVentures.

“Ben Franklin Technology Partners has greatly enabled us to advance our technology through its expertise in value creation and support for the company’s development,” said Julie Miwa, President & CEO of Ophidion.

The pre-clinical study supported by the grant will seek to optimize delivery of central nervous system therapeutics to targeted sites in the brain. Ophidion is leveraging its proprietary blood-brain barrier transport technology to advance a systemically delivered gene-silencing siRNA product for the treatment of Huntington’s disease, a fatal neurodegenerative disease with no current cure.

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.

The organization recently held its iXchange 2019 event, in which officials discussed findings from a recent study, presented Innovation Awards to client companies, and featured a keynote speech by Seth Mattison, an internationally renowned expert on workforce trends, generational dynamics, and business strategy.

Since beginning operations in 1983, BFTP/NEP has helped to create 18,536 new jobs for Pennsylvania workers and to retain 37,328 existing jobs, to start 520 new companies, and to develop 1,935 new products and processes.

Ten other startups were supported by BFTP/NEP’s newly-announced $488,400 investment, including companies in Berks, Carbon, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Lycoming, Monroe, Pike, and Union counties.

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