ChannelApe, Scranton, won Ben Franklin Venture Idol, hosted by the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP), on Tuesday evening, November 14. Venture Idol was one of the first public events held in the newly expanded Ben Franklin TechVentures® West Wing. TechVentures is the business technology incubator/post-incubator owned and managed by BFTP/NEP and located on Lehigh University’s Mountaintop Campus.
Ben Franklin Venture Idol is a cross between Shark Tank® and American Idol®. The event illustrates a significant way in which early-stage entrepreneurs seek and obtain seed capital.
Approximately 300 guests attended Venture Idol, which included pre- and post-event executive networking receptions. Eight entrepreneurs from Ben Franklin’s portfolio were selected as competitors. In addition to ChannelApe, the 2017 Ben Franklin Venture Idol competitors were Ethnic Beauty Store, LLC, East Stroudsburg; GiveGab, Inc., Dunmore; Grovara LLC, Ben Franklin TechVentures, Bethlehem; Medtrics Lab, LLC, Lewisburg; PlanGuru, Wilkes-Barre; webCemeteries.com, Fleetwood; and Xverity, Ben Franklin TechVentures, Bethlehem. Company descriptions and logos are at http://sites.ennect.com/e2854/p22663.aspx. Three of the eight start-up technology companies, ChannelApe, GiveGab, and Xverity, earned their way to finalist status in a round of judging in the afternoon prior to the event.
Following a networking session beginning at 5:30 PM, Ben Franklin Venture Idol began with a keynote address by Kirstie Chadwick, CEO and President of the International Business Innovation Association (InBIA). Ben Franklin TechVentures has earned the InBIA Incubator of the Year Award on two occasions. Chadwick identified methods to building “amazing entrepreneurial ecosystems.” Ben Franklin TechVentures serves as an “entrepreneurial super hub” in that capacity, anchoring and accelerating the region’s economic growth.
The three company finalists then pitched their ventures to a new panel of accredited investors and the audience. After short critiques from the 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. Based on the vote, the finalists finished ChannelApe, GiveGab, and Xverity, as first, second, and third. Ben Franklin will award $15,000 in real dollars to the companies based on the audience vote.
ChannelApe offers a cloud-based integration platform as a service (iPaaS) that helps e-commerce storeowners automate redundant data tasks between any two systems. ChannelApe is targeting the 29,000 e-commerce businesses in the U.S. with at least 1,000 online orders per month. Most e-commerce storeowners waste time on redundant tasks like product catalog, inventory, order, and fulfillment management using patched-together software, spreadsheets, and manual copying/pasting of data. ChannelApe offers the first and most flexible commerce integration platform as a service on the market.
The evening’s investor panelists were:
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.
BFTP/NEP President and CEO Chad Paul; ChannelApe Founder/Chief Success Officer Jason DePietropaolo; ChannelApe Founder/CEO Mike Averto; and BFTP/NEP Board Chairman Fred Beste. PHOTO BY RYAN HULVAT.