It was similar to the popular television show American Idol, except with entrepreneurs instead of vocalists. During “Ben Franklin Venture Idol,” three early-stage company entrepreneurs seeking funding presented pitches to a panel of investors and the audience. Led by Venture Idol emcee, Pennsylvania State Treasurer Rob McCord, the investors asked questions, the audience voted, and Apeliotus Vision Science was named the winning “Ben Franklin Venture Idol.” John Edwards, CEO of Apeliotus Vision Science accepted the prize of a $5,000 cash investment in his company. RantNetwork, Inc. and Chaperone Technologies, Inc. also competed and received cash investments.
Apeliotus Vision Science has developed a simple diagnostic for the early detection of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is the leading cause of adult blindness in developed countries, affecting more than 30 million people worldwide, including one in six over age 65 and one in three over age 75. There are currently no good means for early detection before significant vision loss has occurred. Apeliotus’ simple, non-invasive test can detect and track AMD from its earliest stages, allowing early intervention.
Approximately 250 guests attended the day-long Ben Franklin Venture Idol – Scranton event, the theme of which was funding “winning” entrepreneurship. This event illustrates a significant way in which early-stage entrepreneurs seek and obtain seed capital. It was held on Thursday, November 5th, at the Hilton Scranton & Conference Center, Scranton.
The day began with a “speed dating” session in the morning. Twenty pre-selected companies delivered multiple rounds of two-minute “elevator pitches” to individual institutional and angel investors. Two minutes, about the length of an elevator ride, provided just enough time for the company CEOs to pique the interest of investors. To help improve the companies’ chances to obtain funding, Steve Bowman, known as the “Pitch Doctor,” helped companies seeking funding to prepare.
The public program started with a luncheon keynote by Jack Tighe, President/CEO of TMG Health. TMG Health, a Ben Franklin client, offers Business Process Outsourcing services to the Medicare, Medicaid and retiree health plan markets. The company provides operational outsourcing solutions and information systems for health plans, providers and insurers. TMG, a major Scranton area employer, is a national company with more than 40 health plan clients and client members in all 50 states. It is one of our region’s winning entrepreneurial success stories.
Ben Franklin Venture Idol concluded with a networking reception. The event was hosted by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, the Scranton Lackawanna Industrial Building Company (SLIBCO), Ben Franklin Technology Partners, the Pennsylvania Angel Network, and the Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA) Venture Partnership.
Ben Franklin Venture Idol complements the Mid-Atlantic Angel Group (MAG) II meeting held on Wednesday, November 4th, at the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce. SLIBCO, the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry and CAN DO, Inc. of Hazleton, have formed the NEPA Venture Partnership. The Partnership’s mission is to foster a regional culture of entrepreneurship by providing access to venture capital funding, peer support, and access to business services. The three local economic development organizations have each invested in the MAG II, a $10 million venture capital fund, as a way to promote entrepreneurship and encourage applications for funding in northeastern Pennsylvania.
The idea to bring Ben Franklin Venture Idol to Scranton was initiated by Austin Burke, President of the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce/SLIBCO, with the full support of John Sider, Deputy Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. The Scranton Chamber, SLIBCO, the NEPA Venture Partnership, and the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania have provided significant business and financial assistance to the region’s business technology community, and are major sponsors of the Venture Idol event.