Ben Franklin News

New Ben Franklin Award at FACTORY’s StartUp Lehigh Valley

More than $30,000 in prize money up for grabs in 4th annual StartUp Lehigh Valley pitch competition for entrepreneurs

StartUp Lehigh Valley, a pitch competition for entrepreneurs developed and hosted by Factory LLC, is back for a fourth year!

This year’s competition will be held live at Factory’s headquarters in south Bethlehem broadcast and streamed live on 69 WFMZ-TV.  The competition is scheduled for Wednesday, October 26, 2022, from 6:30-8:00 PM.  Barry Fisher, President and GM of WFMZ said, “Richard Thompson and his team have created an exciting program, which we are proud to be able to share with our viewers. We received a lot of positive response to last year’s StartUp Lehigh Valley show. The wide variety of entrepreneur’s and their products were innovative and interesting. We are excited to see what new ideas will be a part of StartUp Lehigh Valley this year.”

In a Shark Tank-style event designed to showcase startup companies in the Lehigh Valley community and throughout Pennsylvania, 10 finalists will pitch their products and businesses to a panel of judges in front of a live and virtual audience. More than thirty thousand dollars in prize money is up for grabs, along with essential resources for startup businesses.

“The StartUp Lehigh Valley pitch competition is designed to help grow and showcase the entrepreneurship that’s already happening in the Valley from Easton to Allentown and getting the communities excited about supporting these local startups,” said Richard Thompson, managing partner at Factory. “We are thrilled to be partnering with WFMZ this year to broadcast the event live and reach more people than ever before. We also want to applaud Penn State Lehigh Valley LaunchBox for working with us to help pull off this competition, and for providing vital resources to our local entrepreneurs year-round, but to be clear all college and university students are welcome to participate.”

“We considered dozens of cities across the U.S. before building our innovation and scaleup facility, and we found exactly what we were looking for here in the Lehigh Valley,” Thompson continued. “The Lehigh Valley has easy access to major airports and cities, a competitive talent pool, top-tier universities, and an exploding logistics industry. It’s perfectly poised to become a hotbed for innovation, and this competition is all about building that entrepreneurial community. This event is helping to create a startup ecosystem right here in the Lehigh Valley.”

The grand prize winner will take home $20,000, with two runners up earning $3,000 and $2,000 respectively. The live and virtual audience will also vote for the winner of a $1,000 Audience Choice award. Entrepreneurs have until October 7th to apply and can find all the details at

The prize money is presented by Lehigh Valley LaunchBox. The PSU-LV LaunchBox innovation hub is located in Center Valley and provides comprehensive startup resources ranging from free legal services to access to expert business advisors. LV LaunchBox is powered by Penn State’s expansive innovation network of 21 hubs across Pennsylvania. All participants will have the opportunity to network at the event and are invited to take advantage of the full range of LaunchBox’s services.

“These early-stage entrepreneurs and the innovation, talent, and raw determination they bring to the StartUp stage is what we see every day at Lehigh Valley LaunchBox and across PSU’s state-wide innovation hub network,” said Tina Q. Richardson, chancellor of Penn State Lehigh Valley. “These are the individuals who will continue to fuel the Commonwealth’s economy – most importantly our job market – and the reason Penn State has doubled down on our commitment to foster that innovation. We’re pleased to again partner with Factory to offer an event that spotlights these essential businesses.”

JPMorgan Chase & Co. also contributed towards the event’s production. The company is committed to supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses that create jobs and build vibrant communities.

“As our firm continues to grow and add branches in the Lehigh Valley, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to support the area’s future business leaders and entrepreneurs through the Factory’s StartUp event,” said Susan Youngs, relationship executive for Lehigh Valley and Northeast Pennsylvania at JPMorgan Chase Commercial Banking. “JPMorgan Chase has a strong commitment to small businesses and entrepreneurs as they generate jobs, create diverse communities and are vital to prosperous cities. It’s our pleasure to help shine a spotlight on local entrepreneurs.”

For the first time, this year the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania will present a Ben Franklin Technology Partners award to the top early-stage technology-based firm. This winner, which may be the grand prize winner or another competitor, will receive a $5,000 Ben Franklin Business and Technical Assistance grant for a specific project that is crucial to the company’s development.

“We are delighted to partner with our economic development colleagues to support entrepreneurship in the Lehigh Valley,” said Angelo J. Valletta, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania. “With 40 years’ experience in investing in and networking entrepreneurs, including hosting many young firms at our award-winning Ben Franklin TechVentures technology business incubator, building the region’s innovation ecosystem is fundamental to our mission.”

Joining this year’s sponsor lineup is Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN), the Lehigh Valley’s largest employer and the region’s top-ranked hospital by U.S. News and World Report.

“As an innovative healthcare leader with a track record of creating new services and programs that save and improve lives, LVHN values the inspiration, drive and leadership required to create a new product or service,” said Edward Dougherty, SVP & Chief Business Development Officer of Lehigh Valley Health Network “We are excited to support this program that helps innovators turn ideas into reality.”

HNL Lab Medicine has also joined as a first-time contributor to the event. With the belief that encouraging creativity leads to the birth of innovation, HNL is proud to support the LaunchBox initiative and excited to see the diversity of concepts that result from it!

“As a company that recognizes the value of innovation, HNL Lab Medicine is thrilled to see what the brilliant minds of the Lehigh Valley have in store for us,” says Martin Till, President and CEO of HNL Lab Medicine. “In our industry, innovation saves lives, so we strongly encourage the entrepreneurial spirit when it comes to new ideas and fresh perspectives.”

Additional sponsorship support comes from the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC), which markets the economic assets of the Lehigh Valley and seeks to help grow the regional economy, not only by attracting new companies and retaining existing ones, but also by helping foster entrepreneurship in the region.

“The Lehigh Valley has a long history of innovation and entrepreneurship, from the Bethlehem Moravians’ building the first waterworks in the American colonies to Joel Spira inventing the electronic dimmer switch and starting the Lutron company here,” said LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham. “We’re pleased that Startup Lehigh Valley and the Factory are continuing to showcase the Lehigh Valley’s innovative spirit and help foster the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.”

This year we are proud to announce additional sponsorship support from the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. Serving nearly 5,000 businesses and members with more than 280,000 employees, the Chamber is the largest in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and in the top six nationwide. Our thirty-plus affiliated chambers, councils and committees are On Every Main Street with more than 1,500 community focused volunteers who actively contribute, at the grass roots, to develop and achieve their respective and collective goals.

“I can’t think of another initiative that creates more excitement for entrepreneurs in this region than StartUp Lehigh Valley. The incredible, highly visible forum provides them not only with needed dollars, but also the guidance and hope to chart a successful future!” states Tony Iannelli, President & CEO, Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The City Center of Allentown is also supporting StartUp Lehigh Valley this year, giving us great encouragement from established business owners and a warm welcome to entrepreneurs in Allentown looking to start a business within this fast-growing community.

Adams Outdoor is again, a media partner this year…spreading the word for all to see on your travels around the Lehigh Valley!

The pitch contest will be hosted by Rich Thompson and Liz Keptner, who is Director of Multimedia Innovation Center Penn State University, Lehigh Valley. Each pitch will be a lightening round for two minutes, followed by a round of follow-up questions from the judges.

This year’s panel of judges is comprised of local business leaders and innovators:

Sue Yee is the founder and CEO of Active Data.

Mike Tierney is the founder & CEO of Stuffed Puffs.

Chris LaBonge is the owner of Doan Distillery, co-owner of the Trolley Barn Public Market, Principal at Adtell, Inc.

Doug Engler is the Lehigh Valley Regional Manager for the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

The judges are waiting for you to apply now to get your pitch! Make it dynamic!

The in-person audience is limited to 250, and is open to the public and free of charge. Advance registration is required.

About Factory LLC

About Lehigh Valley LaunchBox

About JPMorgan Chase & Co

About  Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania

About Lehigh Health Network

About HNL Lab Medicine


About The Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce

About City Center of Allentown

For more information, contact: Donna Sledzik-Pereira, 201.320.2114 |