It was similar to the popular television show American Idol, except with entrepreneurs instead of vocalists. The Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania hosted “Ben Franklin Venture Idol” on Thursday, November 17th. The event was held at Ben Franklin’s Innovation Institute, on the fourth floor of the newly opened expansion of Ben Franklin TechVentures®, Ben Franklin’s award-winning technology incubator/post-incubator on Lehigh University’s Mountaintop Campus.
The day began with a “speed dating” session in the afternoon. Fourteen pre-selected companies delivered multiple rounds of eight-minute presentations to 25 individual institutional and angel investors.
During the Speed Dating session, investors selected three company finalists. These entrepreneurs presented pitches to a panel of professional investors and the audience during the Venture Idol session. Led by emcee Chris McDemus, Director, Lehigh University VENTURESeries, the investors critiqued presentations, the audience voted, and Electrikus, Inc. was named the 2011 winning “Ben Franklin Venture Idol.” Bill Crompton, COO of Electrikus accepted the prize of a $5,000 cash investment in his company.
Electrikus manufactures consumer products that address the dangers, losses, and inconveniences associated with power outages. Its initial product, the Illumaguard, provides up to 10 hours of back-up for residential lighting in the event of a power outage. The product is inconspicuous and intelligent in the way it discharges and recharges, and allows an ordinary household lamp to stay powered to provide lighting as necessary, even over several evenings. The company has patented its ElectroFlo technology, an innovative and energy-smart battery backup system for use with lighting and critical home appliances. Electrikus is currently developing refrigerator power backup units for the consumer market.
EggZack.com, Ben Franklin TechVentures, Bethlehem, and RantNetworks, Inc., Bloomsburg, also competed as chosen finalists. EggZack allows client companies to conduct outbound and inbound marketing with a single entry, dramatically streamlining marketing processes. It integrates a business’ website, email marketing, social media, search optimization, blog, local media, hyper local, and 12 other marketing tools into one system that only requires one entry. RantNetworks produces Communilator, the world’s first mobile phone language translation application capable of recognizing and translating foreign text, such as email messages, books, newspapers, and menus, in 44 languages and dialects captured with the host’s mobile phone camera. These applications provide real-time smart phone communication among people speaking different languages and expand users’ abilities to immediately translate photos of text to any language.
The Venture Idol session began with a keynote presentation by John May, Managing Partner, New Vantage Group. Investor panelists included:
Mike Gausling, Managing Partner, Originate Ventures
Gus Kamnitsis, Representing Lehigh Valley Angel Investors
David Nevas, Business Development Associate, Edison Venture Fund
Terry Williams, Managing Partner, NextStage Capital
More than 200 guests attended the Ben Franklin Venture Idol event. This event illustrates a significant way in which early-stage entrepreneurs seek and obtain seed capital.
The event was hosted by Fred Beste, Managing Partner, Mid-Atlantic Venture Funds, Bethlehem. The evening included opportunities for guests to network with exhibiting early-stage entrepreneurs, private investors, and representatives of venture capital firms.
From (l to r): Chris McDemus, Director, Lehigh University VENTURESeries; Bill Crompton, COO of Electrikus; Chad Paul, President and CEO of Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania; and Jeff Shakespeare, Chief Technical Officer of Electrikus.