Ben Franklin News

Gilson Boards Wins Ben Franklin Venture Idol

Gilson Boards, Winfield, won Ben Franklin Venture Idol, hosted by the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP), on Thursday evening, November 12. The event was held at the Innovation Institute in Ben Franklin TechVentures®, BFTP/NEP’s award-winning and LEED Gold-certified technology incubator/post-incubator on Lehigh University’s Mountaintop Campus.

Ben Franklin Venture Idol is a cross between Shark Tank® and American Idol®, but with great networking and food. The event illustrates a significant way in which early-stage entrepreneurs seek and obtain seed capital.

Approximately 250 guests attended the sold-out Venture Idol, which included pre- and post-event executive networking receptions. Eight entrepreneurs were selected as competitors. In addition to Gilson Boards, the 2015 Ben Franklin Venture Idol competitors were: CDC Software, LLC, Bloomsburg; ChannelApe, Jessup; MindMe, Inc., Bethlehem; Orbweaver, Bethlehem; Precision POS, LLC, Jessup; US Specialty Formulations, LLC, Bethlehem; and viihealth, Inc., Bethlehem. Company descriptions/logos are at

Three of the eight start-up technology companies: CDC Software, LLC; Gilson Boards; and Orbweaver earned their way to finalist status in a round of judging in the afternoon of November 12th. Following a networking session beginning at 5:30 PM, the evening event began with a keynote address by Kathryn C. Worrilow, Ph.D., Founder and Chief Executive Officer of BFTP/NEP client, LifeAire Systems, LLC, Allentown. The three company finalists then pitched their ventures to investors and the audience.

After short critiques from the panel of investors, the audience members “funded” the companies, crowdfunding style. With $100 of “Ben Bucks,” each guest distributed his or her “investment dollars” in whole or part among the three finalists. Ben Franklin will award $15,000 in real dollars to the companies based on the audience vote.

Gilson Boards is a snowboard manufacturer that designs bases in three dimensions for an enhanced and unique “feel” on the mountain. Applying aeronautical engineering concepts, Gilson snowboards have a three-dimensional base that is faster, stronger, and more flexible than traditional products, storing more energy for the “pop” that is sought by snowboarders. The company merges the woodworking heritage of rural Pennsylvania with the precision of modern technology. Gilson snowboards take advantage of the concept that in motion, snow behaves much like water and air, and, like airplanes and boats, the boards are curved to deliver a better ride. Outside Magazine ranked Gilson Boards among the “Top 6 U.S. Ski and Snowboard Manufacturers,” and WIRED lists Gilson Boards in “2015 Gear of the Year.”

The evening’s investor panelists were:
Clark DeHaven, Soundboard Angel Fund and Inflection Point Strategic Advisors
Mike Gausling, Originate Ventures
Bruce Luehrs, Rittenhouse Ventures
Stephanie Olexa, Lehigh Valley Angel Investors and Lead to the Future

Chad Paul, Ben Franklin Technology Partners President and CEO, hosted Ben Franklin Venture Idol. Fred Beste, CEO of the General Partners, Mid-Atlantic Venture Funds and Ben Franklin Technology Partners Board Chairman, was the emcee.

Finalists Chad Fred_smaller

Tony Powell, CTO, Orbweaver; Nick Gilson, CEO, Gilson Boards; Chad Paul, CEO and President, Ben Franklin/NEP; Fred Beste, Board Chairman, Ben Franklin/NEP; Tim Chapin, Founder and President, CDC Software, LLC. (Photo by Ryan Hulvat)

See coverage: Lehigh Valley Business, Morning Call.