What Do You Mean When You Say, “Technology”?
When I tell people that Ben Franklin Technology Partners has been investing in technology startups and small manufacturers for more than thirty years, someone usually asks, “What do you mean when you say technology – is that just software, computers, or new apps?” The short answer is a tech-product is one that is not easily duplicated and can be protected in some way – either through patents, trademarks, encryption, or just plain old “secret sauce.”
Since I’ve been with Ben Franklin, I’ve had the privilege of meeting countless numbers of talented, gutsy entrepreneurs. Many of them came to us through our BIG IDEA Business Plan Competitions, or in this region, through our Erie Innovation Fund, which is a partnership with the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority. I wish I had the space to highlight all the folks in our portfolio, because they deserve a huge round of applause. But here’s a quick glimpse at some of our recent investments in Erie-based entrepreneurs and their tech-companies.
If you’ve seen car insurance commercials on TV, then you know that the latest trend is to target the “safest” drivers by using telematics (the car communicates information about your driving habits). Using this information, Dr. Jeff Stempora, CEO of Advanced Insurance Products and Services, has developed advanced proprietary actuarial models, insurance risk scores, software applications, and support services that offer greater predictive power to insurance companies.
Plagued my chronic allergies? Robert Schultz/CEO and his team at Direct Allergy provide a turnkey service to primary-care doctors for testing, diagnosis, and treatment of patients who suffer from all types of allergies. The service is especially important to those in underserved rural areas, who can’t always make the trip to a specialist.
Thousands of in-home medical equipment distributors across the nation must love Jim Noland and his company, Conduit Technology. They have developed patent-pending software that allows users to complete all the clinical documentation required by insurance providers to purchase medical equipment for use in the home. No more piles of files!
Are your maintenance technicians constantly climbing ladders to replace burned out lighting? The team at Green Lighting LED™ has 30 years of lighting technology experience. The company supplies innovative LED lighting products, bulbs, and technology to consumers in commercial, industrial, institutional, and residential applications.
If you are familiar with the automotive industry at all, then you know that the design for brake systems hasn’t changed much since the days of the Model-T. Aaron Lewis, with Lewis Designs LLC is in the process of shaking that up with his innovative spherical brake designs that perform more efficiently, improve control, and meet the stringent federal motor safety standards.
TM Filtration, a Division of TM Industrial Supply has been located in Erie, PA for 35 years. You may have even seen a story about them in the local newspaper regarding Erie’s own water filtration equipment. Carl Steiner and his team are now designing industrial filtration equipment that can be used to serve the ever-expanding Shale Gas industry.
Last, but not least, many of you know Dan Bensur from his creative agency. In 2006, he and his team started MDot, a wireless loyalty and coupon processing company that went on to win the Amazon Startup Challenge in 2010. The company was later acquired by InMar Holdings.
All entrepreneurial activity is great for a community. If you are starting a restaurant, retail business or you want to do contract manufacturing or website development, there are a variety of traditional sources of capital such as bank loans and local/regional/state economic development funds available to help you. Contact the Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership, and they can point you in the right direction. If your plan is to get into a new market with your own proprietary tech-product or device, let’s talk.