News & Events


SOMERSET, PA – For the past two months, several tech-entrepreneurs have been participating in a business startup accelerator program, the TechCelerator@Somerset. On March 14, 2019, they each made a graduation “pitch” to a team of judges from the surrounding area. The winners, Mark Albert Barbera and his company Mark Albert Boots, and Timothy Kretchman with Action Driven Education each took home $5,000!

A standing room only crowd of more than 120 people came to support the local entrepreneurs each of whom had the opportunity to share with the audience and the judges (Don Morrison, George Cook, and Diane Lazarowicz) their intended target market, the problem, their solution, and how their idea will make money for them and future investors. While the judges deliberated, everyone stayed to enjoy the food and networking reception co-sponsored by the Somerset Trust Company, Uptown Works and the SCEDC that followed.

With funding support from Startup Alleghenies and Invent Penn State, Ben Franklin has been offering the TechCelerator Program throughout our footprint for more than six years, and the resulting startup activity and job creation has been exciting.  The graduation pitch events are attended by not only the friends and families of the presenters – but also community partners, local dignitaries, economic development professionals, other startups, and potential investors.

Robert Dornich, Director of Ben Franklin’s TechCelerator Program was the MC for the event as well as the coach for all the teams.  He commented, “If you see Mark Barbera or Tim Kretchman, congratulate them both on a job well done. This event is the culmination of a very rigorous process and all the participants including, Kirk Sherbine, Robert Opett, and Emily Mahler deserve a round of applause for all their hard work.

About the TechCelerator@Somerset:

As an important component of the Startup Alleghenies initiative,, the team at Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central & Northern PA developed a curriculum that is providing Somerset County entrepreneurs, grad-students, faculty members, and emerging tech-startups with a weekly business training accelerator program.