News & Events


ERIE, PA – At a standing-room only event held at Room 33 in downtown Erie, two winners were announced in Ben Franklin’s BIG IDEA StARTup Contest. This year’s contest challenged tech-entrepreneurs located in Northwest PA, to develop new “game-changing” products, processes, or techniques in creative spaces.  Sharing the $50,000 prize were Sarah Moody with Maggie Knox Western, who is opening an interdisciplinary center in Little Italy that will allow access to equipment used in a variety of creative processes and Matthew White with Whitethorn Digital, a ten-year veteran of the gaming industry.

In addition to the cash, Sarah and Matthew will receive: three months of free co-working space in Knowledge Park; a one-year pass to seminars offered by Ben Franklin’s eMarketing Learning Center; a free consult on protecting intellectual property from Jonathan D’Silva, the founder of MMI Intellectual Property; and access to SEMrush, a powerful and versatile competitive intelligence suite for online marketing.

Jill Edwards, the Program’s Executive Director, commented, “This was the first time we sponsored a contest that focused on the intersection between art and technology, and we were thrilled with the community’s response. All the finalists did a great job pitching their concepts, and I’m sure it was hard to narrow the field down to just two winners. Many thanks to our judges for their time and expertise.”

The other finalists included: David Hunter with ASAPmaps, who has developed a service that connects with your Google My Business listing; Joel Marz with Efficient Nomad, whose team is providing the design and construction of unique and economical, single family homes; Andrew Stanko with Full Circle Designed, who has developed a process for using plastic waste in the creation of consumer goods; Matthew Harris with Character: Be About It, who has developed a learning management system/curriculum that targets at-risk youth; Jennifer Dennehy with Kinetic Creativity, who has plans to develop a web-based program that allows teaching artists to submit art infused curricula to K-12 school districts; and Brian Wilson with Wakefield Interactive, who has developed adventure video games.