Thread Bioscience, Inc. was selected as the winner of the 2020 Ben Franklin Venture Idol competition. The Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania hosted its 17th annual Ben Franklin Venture Idol, held virtually this year, on Tuesday evening, November 17. More than 200 guests attended free-of-charge.
Thread Bioscience, Bethlehem, is poised to disrupt the urinary tract infection (UTI) testing market with its innovative new diagnostic test, CultureStat. Using patented technology, CultureStat detects UTIs at the Point of Care faster, more accurately, and at a lower cost than current testing methods.
UTIs are the number one infection afflicting women, and are responsible for the largest number of antibiotics prescriptions. Delays inherent in current testing methods lead to the greatest number of improperly prescribed antibiotics for any infection. There is an urgent need for a rapid, reliable, cost effective test for UTIs to provide results quickly to improve patient care and support proper antimicrobial stewardship by reducing the frequency of improperly prescribed antibiotics. With an estimated 150 million UTIs worldwide annually and accounting for $6 billion in health care expenditures, there is a global market for a more efficient test for UTIs to reduce the incidence of improperly prescribed antibiotics.
Ben Franklin Venture Idol is a cross between Shark Tank® and American Idol®, but with entrepreneurs and investors instead of vocalists and celebrities. The event illustrates a significant way in which early-stage entrepreneurs seek and obtain seed capital. Ben Franklin Venture Idol was also a “crowdfunding” event.
The Venture Idol event started with a keynote panel presentation by Joe Blair, Cota Capital; Paul Martino, Bullpen Capital; and Todd Pietri, Activate Ventures on What Has 2020 Taught Us About Start-Ups And Funding Them In 2021?” Wayne Barz, Chief Investment Officer, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania, moderated.
The panelists observed that business in general slowed down for the first six to eight weeks after the pandemic started, in a sort of triage period. After that, entrepreneurial deal flow increased and is robust now. Many companies were hurt by COVID, but others that were able to pivot or adjust rapidly have come back and some have even benefitted. Because innovative thinking and nimbleness are emblematic of startups, these firms are uniquely positioned to generate rapid solutions to this pandemic and future crises.
It may be harder for new founders to garner seed capital than pre-COVID, as there is a “flight to the familiar,” a greater propensity for investing in proven entrepreneurs versus first timers. Investors themselves had to change their way of doing business, including their due diligence in evaluating prospective portfolio companies. Paul Martino noted about investors, “If you weren’t willing to be nimble the way our companies had to be nimble, business passed you by.”
In addition to Thread Bioscience, Rocket Cloud, Inc. and studio BE Mindfulness, LLC presented as finalists at Ben Franklin Venture Idol. The finalists were evaluated in a panel discussion by investors Dan Loikits, Lehigh Valley Angel Investors; Michael March, 1855 Capital; Margot Matouk, Next Act Fund, and Katherine O’Neill, Broad Street Angels, which was emceed by Don Yount, Activate Venture Partners. The investors commented on the company presentations and audience members then “funded” the companies, crowdfunding style.
Ben Franklin will allocate a total of $15,000 in investment funding among the three finalists based on the audience vote. The event concluded with post-event chat rooms at which guests could speak directly with the entrepreneurs.
This year’s Venture Idol program book is available at https://bit.ly/2U8N3Xb. The program includes venture profiles of each of the seven competitors, an article by Paul Martino, upon which the keynote was based, bios on investor panelists and emcees, a listing of regional venture capital resources, and event sponsors.
Thread Bioscience CEO Craig Serio pitches his company to a panel of investors at Ben Franklin’s Virtual Venture Idol