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With a virtual audience of more than 100 Zoom participants, on Thursday, June 18, 2020, a panel of independent judges awarded (3) cash prizes in Ben Franklin’s $50,000 BIG IDEA Contest.

In partnership with the Startup Alleghenies initiative, Ben Franklin Technology Partners is pleased to congratulate the winners:

First place ($25,000) was awarded to Timothy & April Kretchman, with Action Driven Education in Somerset County.  The team is developing a web-based APP that empowers the development of an effective education for children with disabilities.

Sam Thurau, with HHG Drums in Blair County and Mary Kate Zima with Nurse Navigator Solutions in Cambria County each took home $12,500. HHG Drums manufactures high-end snare drums using a unique solid wood construction and Nurse Navigator Solutions offers external nurse navigation services to urology medical practices and their patients.

The People’s Choice Award of $2,500, which was sponsored by Somerset Trust Company went to Ankit Patel, with Meerya LLC in Bedford County. The company is developing a plug and play device, Smart Horns, for autos that gives drivers alternative, customized sound options.

Dozens of people located in the counties covered by the Startup Alleghenies program (Bedford, Blair, Fulton, Cambria, Huntingdon, and Somerset) in Pennsylvania applied to this year’s contest.  Other finalists who particpated included Duncan Everhart, with Hinterland Tools in Bedford County, who is developing the “No-Math Miter” for use with table saws. Travis Lodolinski and Derek Lengenfelder, with On Air in Cambria County have developed a social audio platform.

Jill Edwards, Executive Director for Ben Franklin’s Venture Investment Forum, the umbrella organization for the BIG IDEA Contest, commented, “The BIG IDEA is a fun, no-risk way to help an entrepreneur take their idea to the next level. Sponsoring these types of competitions, with the help and support of the Startup Alleghenies team, encourages other emerging entrepreneurs to step forward and share their ideas.”


About Ben Franklin Technology Partners:  The largest seed investor in our region, Ben Franklin Technology Partners (an initiative of the PA Department of Community & Economic Development and funded by the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority) has been providing investment capital, business support services, and operational assistance to emerging tech-startups and small manufacturers for nearly 40 years.

About Startup Alleghenies: Startup Alleghenies (  is a free program that connects existing and potential entrepreneurs with experienced Coaches to help them navigate a vast network of partners at economic development groups, private organizations, colleges and universities.  It was launched with a POWER grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), a federal-state partnership investing in the socioeconomic future of 420 counties in 13 states in the Appalachian region.  The support of the PA Department of Community & Economic Development also was instrumental in establishing SUA.