By R. Chadwick Paul, Jr., President and CEO
Business incubators provide innovative entrepreneurs and start-up companies with access to needed essential support services when they are most at risk – during their formative years. These environments nourish emerging companies by providing them with resources, expertise, and networks that would otherwise be difficult for them to obtain on their own.
Business Incubators play a pivotal role in building early-stage firms. With more than 35 years owning and managing its own incubators, the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania was one of the earliest pioneers of business incubation in the nation. We have decades of experience in helping entrepreneurs turn innovative ideas into commercially-successful products and services, and creating high-paying, sustainable jobs for Pennsylvanians.
Business incubation is vital to early-stage technology firms. Here are four reasons why:
1. Reduced Operating Costs: A young firm needs to move from launch to profitability as quickly as possible. Indeed, this time in a firm’s lifecycle is often referred to as a race against insolvency. Saving on overhead is crucial for young companies. Rather than spending limited resources on property leases and office equipment, incubator-based firms can use their cash to perfect their products and services, and recruit the best talent to help them grow.
Today, our 129,000 square foot Ben Franklin TechVentures® business incubator is home to 42 firms. TechVentures resident companies share basic office services and access to equipment, conference and meeting rooms, high-speed Internet, on-site mentoring, and other amenities. Because of our location on Lehigh University’s campus, our clients have access to the faculty, students, and equipment at this major research institution. We also own and operate the Bloomsburg Regional Technology Center, bringing key entrepreneurial support to that region.
2. Award-Winning Expertise: While the reduced operating costs of starting a company in a business incubator are often what initially attract an early-stage company to one of our facilities, incubator graduates often cite the business development support from our staff and the sharing of best practices among tenants as even more crucial.
Our experience in nurturing young firms in an incubator is extensive and effective. Ben Franklin TechVentures has twice been recognized with the prestigious International Business Innovation Association (InBIA) Incubator of the Year Award, as well as the 2012 State Science and Technology Institute Building Entrepreneurial Capacity award and first-place national honors in the US EPA 2011 ENERGY STAR Challenge.
3. Access to Proven Resources: The Ben Franklin team supports TechVentures resident companies with management guidance, business direction, strategic planning, marketing counsel, technical resources, and connections to angel investors and venture capitalists. Our clients also receive assistance in preparing and perfecting funding presentations. Ben Franklin’s Innovation Institute meeting, learning, and conference center at TechVentures also supports local partners and programs that contribute to the region’s success.
4. The Power of Networking: Resident companies in Ben Franklin TechVentures and the Bloomsburg Regional Technology Center benefit from the ideas and support of other entrepreneurs in the facility. The shared experience and camaraderie among resident companies creates an important network for a young firm.
In the early 1990s, Ben Franklin Northeast developed and seed funded the Ben Franklin Business Incubator Network. The network brings together incubator managers in northeastern Pennsylvania to exchange ideas and information, work collaboratively, and learn guidelines that are in accordance with InBIA standards.
Through the Incubator Network, we leverage our incubator knowledge and success throughout the region. Today, the Ben Franklin Business Incubator Network, among the largest in the nation, is comprised of 13 facilities.
Business incubation provides a venue, setting, and culture that have become a key component of Pennsylvania’s entrepreneurial and technology ecosystem. Ben Franklin continues to build on its legacy as a “job creation factory” by providing incubator space and support to young companies that fuel economic growth and create products that improve the human condition.
I invite you to re-visit this blog in the coming weeks as the other Ben Franklin Technology Partners CEOs and I discuss a wide range of topics related to innovation, entrepreneurship, business development, and the important work that has made Pennsylvania’s Ben Franklin Technology Partners the gold standard of technology-based economic development in the world.