On Tuesday, May 12th, the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania hosted its annual i xchange at the Zoellner Arts Center on the campus of Lehigh University. More than 600 technology entrepreneurs, business people, venture capitalists, economic developers, political leaders, and regional influencers from Ben Franklin’s 21-county service area attended.
The i xchange combined the presentation of Ben Franklin’s fifteenth annual Innovation Awards and executive networking sessions with a keynote address by Jeff DeGraff. DeGraff is known as the “guru to the innovation guru” at Fortune 500 companies, having created a broad array of widely used tools and methodologies for implementing innovation. DeGraff is a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. He is also the managing partner of Competing Values Company, a consulting firm that assists leaders in facilitating change, and the executive director of the Innovatrium Institute for Technology.
3M, Apple Computer, American Express, GE, Johnson & Johnson, LG, Pfizer, Toyota, and Yahoo are a few of DeGraff’s representative clients. Besides being a charismatic and in-demand speaker, DeGraff is a thought leader at top innovation incubators and think tanks such as the Aspen Institute. His advice is frequently sought by the investment community on how to choose, manage, and harvest winning ideas and successful business enterprises.
The event included the presentation of Ben Franklin’s Northeastern Pennsylvania Innovation Awards. Awards were presented in eight categories, to companies, organizations, or individuals who have achieved business success through Ben Franklin, have helped others to achieve success, or who have improved their business through innovation.
The 2009 Northeastern Pennsylvania Innovation Awards winners are:
The individuals who best exemplify 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.
Scott Sanfilippo and Joseph Palko, Co-Founders, Solid Cactus, Shavertown
Solid Cactus is the largest developer of e-commerce stores using the Yahoo! Store platform. It is a total solutions e-commerce company, providing a range of products including search engine optimization, affiliate program management, e-commerce store development, print and website design, call-center services and back-end order management. Company principals leveraged their Internet expertise to start Solid Cactus in 2001 after growing and selling one of the first e-commerce stores, which they launched in 1994. Ben Franklin helped Solid Cactus to refine its strategic business plan, and invested in new product development for its flagship software product, FeedPerfect. In 2007 and 2008,Solid Cactus was listed among the Inc. Magazine top 500/top 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. and was named one of the “Best Places to Work in Pennsylvania” in 2006, 2007, and 2008. Solid Cactus’ staff grew 40% last year to 150 employees, and the company was just successfully sold to web.com.
An individual affiliated with an institute of higher learning that has contributed his time and expertise to supporting the Ben Franklin program. This person’s contribution has clearly surpassed “normal” expectations for involvement with and support of the Ben Franklin Technology Partners.
Dale F. Falcinelli, Professor of Practice, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA
A long-standing and eminently qualified resource to Ben Franklin clients and consultant to hundreds of firms for over three decades, Dale Falcinelli is a key source of strategic-level guidance and direction to early-stage companies. His skills are a rare combination of marketing expertise and financial acumen in approaching solutions from an enterprise-wide perspective. Falcinelli has served on more than twenty corporate boards, often assuming leadership roles including chairman.
He pioneered an innovative model in entrepreneurship education through VENTURESeries, a highly popular track in Lehigh’s MBA program that builds on every aspect of new venture creation. For this loyal Lehigh alumnus, VENTURESeries represents his legacy. Falcinelli holds the position of Professor of Practice, a title which recognizes his vast experience and mastery of entrepreneurship. He was twice named the Swartley Visiting Professor of Entrepreneurship, and won the Lehigh MBA Teaching Excellence Award three times. Dale Falcinelli brings an unsurpassed passion and enthusiasm to his work that is energizing, motivating, and infectious to his clients and students.
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.
Right Reason Technologies, East Stroudsburg, Thomas C. Schmitt, Co-Founder
Right Reasons Technologies is an eLearning provider that offers comprehensive software solutions, web-based training courses, and a variety of content and software services. The company’s product line includes two proprietary learning management systems. CyberExtensionTM is targeted to secondary education, and blends the advantages of distance education and conventional classrooms to educate non-traditional learners while containing costs.
RightTrackTM provides organizations with the ability to deliver and track web-based training among employees. Right Reason Technologies is a 2008 graduate of the East Stroudsburg University (ESU) Accelerator and will be an anchor tenant in ESU’s expanded incubator, both of which are in the Pocono Mountains Keystone Innovation Zone. The company was awarded a Wall Street West grant for its “Bridging the Gap” initiative, developed in partnership with ESU. The company has grown to 15 employees, and revenue increased more than 25% in 2008.
The company that best demonstrates the commercialization of a unique, innovative product that creatively and effectively meets a market need.
Saladax Biomedical Inc., Bethlehem, Salvatore J. Salamone, Ph.D., CEO and CSO, and Adrienne Choma, Esq., President and COO
Saladax Biomedical is pioneering the development of simple blood tests to enable oncologists to adjust and personalize chemotherapy drug dosing by measuring its concentration in the blood of cancer patients. Individual absorption rates of chemotherapy drugs vary widely, and the optimum level of medication is critical to effectively treat the cancer while minimizing debilitating and potentially life-threatening side effects.
Saladax began in the Ben Franklin Business Incubator, is currently located in Ben Franklin TechVentures, and has received three Ben Franklin investments in addition to comprehensive start-up support services in the incubator. Since joining the Ben Franklin portfolio in 2004, Saladax has received 7 patents with an additional 7 patents pending, raised $12.2 million in follow-on funding including investments from the Life Sciences Greenhouse, Delaware Crossing, and other angels and venture capitalists, and increased employment from the two original founders to 16 people.
Innovative Application of Technology
The company that best demonstrates a “break the mold” approach to integrating new or existing technology into a manufacturing environment.
Diversified Information Technologies, Scranton, Scott Byers, Esq., President & CEO
Diversified Information Technologies provides automated information management solutions to clients in the insurance, financial services, healthcare, and government sectors to perfect their business processes and secure compliance. Diversified began as a records storage company 26 years ago as a lower-cost alternative to companies in New York City. In 1987, Diversified recognized an opportunity to prepare to meet changing market needs, and worked with Ben Franklin and Wilkes University to re-engineer its service offerings.
Diversified developed a communication center for electronic vaulting, a technologically sophisticated application that utilizes satellite transfer communications and Internet capabilities. Today, Diversified’s core competencies in data capture, processing, and preservation result in reduced cost, shorter cycle time, and risk mitigation for clients’ critical information management needs. Diversified now employs 375 Pennsylvanians, and credits 264 of those jobs to its work with Ben Franklin.
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.
United Corrstack, LLC, Reading, David F. Stauffer, General Manager
At a time when recycling, renewable fuel, and energy independence are at the forefront of national consciousness, United Corrstack (UCI) is a model of green efforts. The company produces recycled corrugated fluting paper which is a component of cardboard boxes, and is in the process of developing its own power plant that burns biomass organic waste. UCI worked with Ben Franklin and Northampton Community College’s Electrotechnology Applications Center (ETAC), first to evaluate options to allow higher throughput at the facility, and later to assess boiler fuel alternatives for UCI.
Because of rising energy costs, UCI is creating its own cogeneration plant, generated by materials such as wood and agricultural waste, to provide steam and electricity. UCI currently employs 80, and through the energy plant has created 25 new positions. UCI’s work with Ben Franklin and ETAC helped the company to significantly improve its competitive position, and will increase employment and reduce landfill waste in the region.
Individuals from the community who have contributed their leadership, time, and expertise to helping entrepreneurs and the Ben Franklin Technology Partners accomplish their goals. These people demonstrate a sincere and selfless desire to see the region thrive, and back up their commitment with appropriate action.
Yvette and William Palmer, Principals, CFO & Stuff, LLC, Emmaus
Yvette Palmer has worked with Ben Franklin clients for more than a decade, providing pro bono reviews and critiques to a number of business plans, and feedback to companies on the financial and operational aspects of starting and operating a business. Bill Palmer, Yvette’s husband and business partner, complements her expertise with deep operational and management experience as former president of two manufacturing enterprises. These diversified skill sets allow CFO & Stuff to understand clients from a multi-faceted perspective, providing companies with comprehensive and coordinated input.
CFO & Stuff has worked with Ben Franklin clients including Acurlite, American Holtzkraft, Blazing Technologies, Effort Foundry, Fragrance Manufacturing, the Halide Group, and Spectrum Diving, among others. The Palmers help early-stage clients with pro forma budgets, including pricing and costing assistance, provide cash management and operational budgeting assistance to manufacturers, and share expertise on financial management and analysis, and financing options with all clients.
An individual whose strong vision, dedication and commitment to the program have helped to bring about a better business environment for Ben Franklin clients.
Ellen T. Horan, President and CEO, Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Ellen Horan has been a valued partner with Ben Franklin since 1995, to the tremendous benefit of the business community in Greater Reading. Years ago, Horan worked with Ben Franklin and the Berks Business-Education Coalition to develop a dislocated worker training program to address the local need for manufacturing workers. On an ongoing basis, she links Ben Franklin with prospective clients, and is a source of referrals for the Ben Franklin-led Medical Devices Consortium.
In 2005, Horan was named President of the combined Berks Chamber of Commerce and Manufacturers’ Association of Berks County because of her comprehensive understanding of and ability to advance both the manufacturing and business communities in the region. Horan was selected as a Fellow in the Ford Foundation Regional Sustainable Development Program in 2008, and was named the Girl Scouts of America Women of Distinction recipient in March 2009. In January of 2009 the Greater Reading Chamber that she leads was awarded the highest rating possible, five-star accreditation, by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.