by Brian Slawin, NW Regional Director
Ben Franklin Technology Partners has a reputation for success.
For the last 35 years, the statewide initiative has served as one the nation’s premier technology-based economic development programs, driving growth through innovation.
Because of that success, a lot of people know what we do. But they don’t know all that we do.
Yes, Ben Franklin makes direct investments in promising, innovation-led companies to fund critical activities and growth needs. That includes early-stage startups and established companies looking for a competitive edge.
We also support select seed/early-stage Pennsylvania venture funds and provide support for angel groups.
With our reputation for success, and because of our rigorous vetting process, an investment by Ben Franklin often serves as a key endorsement to other funding sources, enabling companies to attract the follow-on investments they need to move beyond startup to full-fledged market operations.
As important as those investments are, however, Ben Franklin is about so much more.
Ben Franklin also provides these early-stage and established companies with hands-on business and technical expertise and access to a network of experienced, expert resources designed to give new entrepreneurs the tools they need to get started.
At Ben Franklin of Central and Northern Pennsylvania, existing companies work with us on new product development as startups rely on us for our management and mentoring services.
That includes a wide range of mentoring, business and technology development services --- from business plan reviews, technical assessments and intellectual property counsel to sales and marketing advice, fund-raising strategies and operational issues like finance and human resources.
Unique to our high-tech development platform are programs like “techcelerator” boot camps and idea competitions.
Emerging entrepreneurs who participate in our 10-week business startup boot camps are more likely to make an educated decision on how to move forward with their business concept and learn how to apply for startup funding. Participants have the opportunity to pitch their business concepts to a panel of local professionals with the possibility of winning money prizes.
Clients cite many of these support services as being key factors in their eventual success.
The Erie Reader recently spotlighted the services Ben Franklin provides in a piece (“Brookings Institution's Insights on Innovation,” Sept. 25, 2019) about innovation investments in Pennsylvania and surrounding states.
The article focused on a new Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program study, “Ideas for Pennsylvania Innovation: Examining Efforts by Competitor States and National Leaders,” that looked at spending by state and local governments, as well as businesses and universities, on research and development and other incentives.
Clearly, Ben Franklin remains the premier model.
Ben Franklin’s investments generate $3.90 in additional Pennsylvania tax revenue for every state dollar invested, according to recent independent studies. The program boosted Pennsylvania’s economy (Gross State Product) by $4.1 billion over a five-year period.
A large reason for that huge return on investment is those high-value client services.
This high-value support typically does not generate revenue for Ben Franklin, but it is a critical piece of Ben Franklin’s work that helps to enable client success.
Imagine the dividends to Pennsylvania residents from increased investment in innovation, a sector that has become increasingly competitive.
The services Ben Franklin surrounds entrepreneurs with is among the many factors that make us different.
Our work may begin with an investment, but it does not stop there, which is why more and more people are starting to understand and appreciate all that we do to help companies over many years to grow and thrive.