Ben Franklin News

Pennsylvania Innovation Shines at Ben Franklin Northeast’s Venture Idol

Pennsylvania Innovation Shines at Ben Franklin Northeast’s Venture Idol

Bethlehem startup Ilico Genetics Named the Winner

Fernando Alarcon of Ilico Genetics | Photography by Marco Calderon

Bethlehem-based startup Ilico Genetics won the 20th annual Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s Venture Idol event, held at TechVentures on April 25, 2024. Ilico Genetics is developing the first methylated DNA based molecular test specifically designed for the early detection of gastric cancer, with only a blood sample. Now located in Ben Franklin Northeast’s incubator, TechVentures, the company is a spin-off of Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, a university located in Chile, South America.

Venture Idol brought together 300 community members, entrepreneurs, students, and investors from Northeast PA for an evening of networking, awards, and a pitch competition. Four Ben Franklin Northeast portfolio companies – CatapalloVR, Ilico Genetics, Showcase, and Unity Lab – competed for up to $17,500 in prize money.

The event served as a platform to showcase and celebrate innovation, offering inspiration and support to both emerging and established entrepreneurs. Three Innovation Awards were given out during the event, winners included:

  • The R. Chadwick Paul, Jr. Entrepreneurial Achievement Award: Presented to Gilson Snow (Selinsgrove, PA), accepted by Nicholas Gilson, Founder and CEO

Awarded to the portfolio company that best exemplifies 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

  • The Manufacturing Achievement Award: Presented to Production Systems Automation (Duryea, PA), accepted by Michael McHale, President and CEO of Production Systems Automation

Awarded to the portfolio 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

  • The Frederick J. Beste III Partnership Award: Presented to Dr. Rodney Ridley of Alvernia University’s O’Pake Institute (Reading, PA)

Awarded to an individual or organization whose strong vision, dedication, and commitment have helped advance the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, aligning with the mission of the Ben Franklin Technology Partners. Recipients can be portfolio companies, incubator network members, or other economic development partners

After the awards, Wayne Barz, the event’s emcee, and Chief Investment Officer at Ben Franklin Northeast introduced the judge’s panel to kick off the pitch competition. Judges Paul Martino from Bullpen Capital, Aston Pierce from the GO PA Fund/Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania, and Elizabeth Sigety from Fox Rothschild provided feedback after each pitch.

After the pitch competition, attendees invested “Ben Bucks” among the contestants and awaited results in a dessert reception. Ilico Genetics took home both prizes, with the $2,500 Judge’s Choice announced by Pierce and the audience-voted $15,000 Grand Prize Winner announced by Jennifer Gilburg, Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development’s Deputy Secretary of Technology and Entrepreneurship.

The event featured all local partners, including catering by Zekraft and The Aging Moon, mobile bar services by Sol & Spirits Mobile Bar Co., wine by Binah Winery and Franklin Hill Vineyards, and beer by Sherman Street Beer Company.

Venture Idol was made possible through the generous support of sponsors, including: presenting sponsors Activate Venture Partners, ARS Investment Partners, Service Electric Business, and PenTeleData; cocktail sponsors Fulton Bank, M&T Bank Wilmington Trust, MarshMcLennan Agency, and Penn Strategies; and silver sponsors Agility Systems Group, BMI Mergers & Acquisitions, Made by Craft, ESPI, Graham Partners, Insperity, Involve Technology, Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation, MarketGenesis, Prelude Solutions, Rittenhouse Ventures, Social T Marketing & PR, Tech Council Ventures, and TWG Security.

Fernando Alarcon of Ilico Genetics pitching to Venture Idol audience | Photography by Marco Calderon

Jennifer Gilburg, Deputy Secretary of Technology and Entrepreneurship with PA’s Department of Community and Economic Development, with winner of Venture Idol 2024, Ilico Genetics | Photography by Marco Calderon