The Penn State Berks LaunchBox and the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP) have teamed up to support entrepreneurs in Berks County. Both organizations have a core mission of supporting technology-based startups, and the services that they provide are a natural complement to each other.
Penn State Berks LaunchBox helps entrepreneurs develop their ideas, refine their business plans, and define their target markets. Then they are referred to BFTP for seed funding and additional business and technical input, links to a Solutions Network of proven expertise, and/or introductions to potential follow-on funders. Likewise, when BFTP identifies Greater Reading startups that need help developing their product and target market, the Berks LaunchBox provides assistance.
“We are grateful to have Connie Faylor, regional manager of the Ben Franklin Technology Partners, on our Berks LaunchBox board, cementing a close connection between our organizations and allowing for valuable cross-support of Berks County startups,” stated Erica Kunkel, interim director of continuing education at Penn State Berks.
The most recent startup to benefit from the partnership is Enigma Networkz, LLC, a cybersecurity software company that began working with the Berks LaunchBox in 2019, becoming a co-working company in 2020. The company received an investment of $30,500 from BFTP to support sales, marketing, positioning for investment, and product development. The company has developed a proprietary Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) product, Enigma Glass, a turnkey, cloud-based cybersecurity data analytics platform that ingests and analyzes source data from disparate systems and quickly transforms it into actionable intelligence. The application is currently being beta tested in a variety of settings, including two Penn State Berks cybersecurity analytics and operations classes.
BFTP has also collaborated to support several projects for the Penn State Berks Learning Factory, an initiative that brings real-world engineering challenges into the classroom, connecting students to BFTP client companies. Companies present their design challenges and engineering students work to develop fresh, innovative solutions, with oversight from their professors. Ben Franklin client, Solarflux Energy Technologies, Inc., is currently participating in one such Learning Factory project.
“Ben Franklin brings more than 35 years of client support and business incubation experience to our partnership with the Penn State Berks LaunchBox,” stated Connie Faylor, regional manager, Greater Reading/Berks and Schuylkill, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania. “Penn State provides the deep faculty, student and equipment resources. All of this benefits early-stage technology-based firms in Greater Reading.”
Penn State Berks faculty and staff members have been strong supporters and partners of the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Members of the campus have served on Ben Franklin’s Berks/Schuylkill advisory board for many years. Faylor is a member of the Berks LaunchBox advisory board and the Penn State Berks entrepreneurial advisory board.
In March 2019, Penn State Berks Chancellor R. Keith Hillkirk accepted, on behalf of Penn State Berks, the Frederick J. Beste III Partnership Award from BFTP. The award is presented to an organization whose strong vision, dedication and commitment have helped the Ben Franklin Technology Partners accomplish its goals. This support demonstrates the college’s sincere desire to see the region thrive.
About the Berks LaunchBox
The mission of the Berks LaunchBox, located in Suite 105 of the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts in downtown Reading, is to support economic development and entrepreneurship. An innovation hub of Penn State Berks, the Berks LaunchBox connects local entrepreneurs to the support, resources, and facilities that they need to build sustainable and scalable businesses with a viable plan for growth. Services include assistance with prototyping, conducting market research, and connecting with advisors. The Berks LaunchBox offers entrepreneurship workshops, coworking space for startups, Meetups focused on business development, a makerspace with 3D printers for prototyping, and special youth programs.
The Berks LaunchBox is supported by Invent Penn State — a commonwealth-wide initiative to spur economic development, job creation and student success, launched by Penn State President Eric J. Barron in 2016. For more information, visit berkslaunchbox.psu.edu or contact Michelle Hnath, Berks LaunchBox Facility Coordinator, at [email protected] or 610-914-7595.
About the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania
Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania creates and retains highly paid, sustainable jobs by investing in and linking companies with experts, universities, follow-on funding, and other resources to help them prosper through innovation. It is part of a four-center economic development initiative of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and is funded by the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority.
BFTP/NEP’s strategy encompasses three key areas: developing and growing early-stage technology-oriented companies; supporting established manufacturers as they creatively apply new technology to help them succeed globally by producing better, faster and at a lower cost; and promoting an innovative community-wide infrastructure that supports Pennsylvania’s business technology ecosystem.
Since beginning operations in 1983, BFTP/NEP has helped to create 19,257 new jobs for Pennsylvania workers and retain 43,880 existing jobs, start 525 new companies, and develop 2,113 new products and processes. Since 2007, BFTP/NEP clients have generated more than $1.6 billion in follow-on funding. The Pennsylvania Ben Franklin Technology Partners network has returned $3.90 to the state treasury for every $1 invested in the program.