On Tuesday, May 7th, the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP) hosted its annual i xchange at the Zoellner Arts Center on the campus of Lehigh University in Bethlehem. More than 550 technology entrepreneurs, business people, venture capitalists, economic developers, political leaders, and regional influencers from Ben Franklin’s 21-county service area attended. The evening event celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Ben Franklin Technology Partners statewide program.
The i xchange began with a video entitled Stories of Challenge, Perseverance, and Success that illustrated BFTP/NEP’s work through brief testimonials by clients and colleagues. Featured spokesmen included Patrick Clasen, Director of Finance, EcoTech Marine LLC; Dale Falcinelli, Advisory Council Chairman, Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Lehigh University, Investment Banker, Spouting Rock Capital Advisors LLC, and long-time Ben Franklin Solutions Network resource; Jack Tighe, Founder, President, and CEO, TMG Health, Inc.; and Michael Whitman, President and CEO, Micro Interventional Devices, Inc. The video will be available online shortly at nep.benfranklin.org.
Chad Paul, President and CEO of BFTP/NEP, announced that Ben Franklin TechVentures®, BFTP/NEP’s recently expanded business technology incubator and post-incubator facility, has just been awarded LEED Gold Certification. The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) evaluates and certifies Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) buildings. LEED provides third-party verification of green buildings, and participation in the voluntary process demonstrates leadership, innovation, environmental stewardship, and social responsibility.
The i xchange combined the presentation of Ben Franklin’s nineteenth annual Innovation Awards and executive networking sessions with a keynote address by Todd Buchholz. In his presentation, “Competing in a Chaotic Economy,” Buchholz addressed why we need competition to keep us going and going strong. Weaving in everything from neuroeconomics to evolutionary biology to renaissance art to General Motors, Buchholz said that the race to compete has not only made us stronger and smarter, it’s what we love and need. He explained why laid-back firms get entangled in their own red tape and why contented CEOs end up driving their companies to bankruptcy court. He argued that businesses need internal competition and described how to inspire creative competition rather than a shark-infested culture.
Buchholz is an international economist, former White House senior economic advisor, Tiger Hedge Fund manager, former Harvard lecturer, and frequent TV and radio commentator. He has written several best-selling books on the economy, including New Ideas from Dead Economists, New Ideas from Dead CEOs, and Market Shock. Buchholz’s speaking excellence has earned him a place in Successful Meetings Magazine’s “21 Top Speakers for the 21st Century.”
The 2013 Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania Innovation Awards were presented:
The company that best exemplifies the quintessential entrepreneurial spirit: a combination of ingenuity, hard work, and innovation that has resulted in the creation of a successful and growing business venture.
CyOptics, Inc., Breinigsville
Ed J. Coringrato, Jr, Chief Executive Officer
The early- to mid-2000s were filled with uncertainty in the telecom optoelectronics sector. CyOptics not only survived this difficult time; it thrived by building intellectual property and market share. In addition to developing its own technology and products, the company made key acquisitions that helped it to become a global leader in its sector.
CyOptics manufactures Indium Phosphide-based optical components that enable applications in the fiber, cable, data center, and long haul/metro segments of the communications network, as well as in defense and aerospace, high-performance computing, and security sectors. CyOptics is one of the few companies in the optoelectronics component industry with vertically integrated technology and manufacturing platforms that span from device fabrication to proprietary, highly automated assembly and test facilities.
Thanks to astute leadership and outstanding execution, CyOptics has grown rapidly and expanded its client base to more than 180 customers worldwide including many of the nation’s largest fiber optic-based bandwidth carriers. Despite a recessionary economy, the company achieved a compound annual sales growth rate of 34% from 2005 to 2012. In early 2005, 86 people worked at CyOptics in the Lehigh Valley. Today, the company employs more than 330 regionally and 837 worldwide.
Industry leader Avago Technologies (NASDAQ: AVGO), a leading analog semiconductor manufacturer with $2.4 billion in sales, recently announced plans to acquire CyOptics for $400 million. This sale is the largest acquisition in the optical components industry since 2001, and represents great opportunities for the local operations.
The company that has best demonstrated successful Ben Franklin business incubation. The business has been operated skillfully and confidently, meeting all challenges from the development of the product concept, execution of the business and technical plan, successful start-up and operation, to graduation from the incubator.
Computer Aid Inc., Allentown
Anthony J. Salvaggio, President
From its start in the early 1980s, Computer Aid, Inc. (CAI) has focused on building a business that provides dramatically improved productivity for the information technology software sector. For most of its life, CAI has been a worldwide leader in IT metrics, process, and productivity. That capability typically provides CAI’s clients with a 30 percent cost reduction and improved quality and capability.
Now a global operation, Computer Aid traces its beginning and initial success to support within the Ben Franklin Business Incubator. The company is a classic incubator success story, benefitting not only from the affordable working space, but also from the assistance and mentorship that helped accelerate the start-up’s growth.
CAI now manages active engagements with Fortune 1000 companies and is a trusted partner of these clients. In addition to its U.S. headquarters, CAI also has offices in the Philippines, India, Australia, England, and Brazil. Starting with just two employees at its inception, Computer Aid today has more than 3,000 full-time associates.
The company that best demonstrates the commercialization of a unique, innovative product that creatively and effectively meets a market need.
Micro Interventional Devices, graduate of Ben Franklin TechVentures®, now headquartered in Langhorne
Michael Whitman, President and Chief Executive Officer
Beginning at Ben Franklin TechVentures in 2010, Micro Interventional Devices has developed a new, minimally invasive product for surgeons and cardiologists to use in life-saving and life-extending structural heart valve repair and replacement procedures. The company’s Permaseal™ closure device is a disruptive technology that will enable crucial procedures to be conducted through a small incision between the ribs as opposed to open heart surgery. Before the product, only 10% of patients in need of aortic valve repair were considered candidates for the high-risk procedure. Permaseal will reduce operating room time, abate blood loss, and simplify complex structural heart repair procedures, addressing critical unmet needs in structural heart repair.
Permaseal is particularly appropriate for the increasingly popular Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation (TAVI) procedure. Company leaders have attracted substantial follow-on funding that complements Ben Franklin’s $450,000 investment. Micro Interventional expanded to its own manufacturing facility in Langhorne in early 2013, and will continue its clinical trials in Europe. It is estimated that the global transapical closure device market will exceed $400 million by 2015.
The company that best exemplifies achievement in the manufacturing arena, showing a proven track record of success and an unbending commitment to achieving and maintaining excellence in manufacturing.
East Penn Manufacturing Co., Lyon Station
Robert P. Flicker, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
East Penn Manufacturing has been producing and recycling lead-acid batteries for a wide variety of markets for more than 67 years. The company is a very significant regional employer that has worked with Ben Franklin repeatedly since 1987, partnering with Lehigh University and the Enterprise Systems Partners, the Penn College of Technology’s Plastics Innovation and Resource Center, and Northampton Community College’s Emerging Technology Applications Center. These connections assisted East Penn in implementing innovations that increase efficiencies, reduce costs, and enhance profitability.
East Penn’s most recent work focused on developing a special process for the company’s new UltraBatteryⓇ. This advanced lead-acid battery is being used in Smart Grid projects with or without renewable energy, such as wind turbines and solar power, as well as in hybrid electric vehicles, thereby enabling these alternative energy solutions. Last fall, East Penn announced plans to increase battery manufacturing capacity and create jobs with an expansion of its Lyon Station-based manufacturing campus. East Penn currently employs more than 6,500 people in the Greater Reading area, and its growth has consistently exceeded average industry rates.
An individual whose strong vision, dedication, and commitment have helped the Ben Franklin Technology Partners accomplish its goals. This support demonstrates a sincere desire to see the region thrive.
Edward Thompson, CPA
Consultant, Clarks Summit
As a seasoned finance and accounting advisor to a number of Ben Franklin early-stage clients, Ed Thompson is enormously helpful, supportive, and proficient. Many start-ups experience the exhaustion of their initial capital investments, revenues that are not ramping up as quickly as planned, and panic setting in. Thompson enters with analysis and advice, helping young firms successfully navigate their typically difficult cash flow challenges.
Thompson rapidly and effectively collects data, enhances financial reporting structures, and analyzes a client’s fiscal position. Then he presents the facts, along with short- and long-term solutions, in a clear manner without alienating the company’s management team. Addressing crucial activities from managing cash flow, to restructuring debt, to serving as part-time CFO, Thompson rolls up his sleeves to help companies at their most vulnerable times. His consulting work has saved companies that, together, have created numerous sustainable technology-based jobs throughout the region.
About the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania
The Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania links companies with business and technical experts, universities, funding, and other resources to help them prosper through innovation. The organization is a non-profit corporation that is part of a four-center, state-funded economic development initiative of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, the Ben Franklin program was created by the Commonwealth in 1983 to play a leadership role in strengthening regional economies, building the state’s technology economy, and creating and retaining high-wage, high-skilled jobs.
BFTP/NEP’s strategy encompasses three key areas:
- Developing early-stage, technology-oriented companies;
- Helping established manufacturers creatively apply new technology and business practices; and
- Promoting an innovative community-wide infrastructure that fosters a favorable business environment for high-growth companies.
Since 1983, the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania has achieved the following results:
- Created 15,820 new jobs
- Retained 21,645 existing jobs
- Started 442 new companies
- Developed 1,189 new products and processes
The northeastern center is headquartered in and owns and manages Ben Franklin TechVentures®, an award-winning incubator/post-incubator facility located on Lehigh University’s campus.