2017 Annual Impact Report

  • Regional Focus.
  • Statewide Strength.
  • Global Impact.

2017 Annual Impact Report

Why Ben Franklin Technology Partners?

Ben Franklin Technology Partners (BFTP) is an internationally-acclaimed, award-winning model for technology-based economic development and job creation. We strategically invest in companies and support them with finely tuned expertise and comprehensive networks that foster innovation, to advance the Pennsylvania economy.

Our deep understanding of tech-based entrepreneurship, innovation in manufacturing, and investment make BFTP a venture development organization that generates results in regional economies—and throughout the world. The success of BFTP’s portfolio clients creates new companies, new jobs, new investments, technological innovation, and a higher Pennsylvania Gross State Product.

Our Mission

is to grow the Pennsylvania economy by supporting and investing in tech-based startups and established manufacturers to create high-paying, sustainable jobs within the Commonwealth.

Engineering Economic Growth

BFTP serves as a catalyst for economic growth and job creation by providing access to the capital, knowledge, and networks that foster innovation and success for early-stage technology firms and established manufacturers throughout Pennsylvania.

With four headquarters, and satellite offices positioned strategically throughout the state, BFTP builds on regional strengths, capitalizes on new opportunities, and addresses the specific needs of each area.

Economic growth is about more than jobs created or dollars leveraged. It’s also about nurturing companies that solve real-world problems across a broad spectrum of sectors. Ben Franklin alumni companies have expanded internationally, revolutionized industries, tackled global health issues, and changed the way businesses operate.

Impact 2017

1,891

Jobs Created
by Client Companies

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CNP

Mission Critical Partners Grows Beyond 80Partners

Located in State College, Mission Critical Partners (MCP) is a comprehensive public safety consultant rather than a firm with a single focus or specialization. MCP’s practice areas are driven by subject matter experts in each of the respective fields – in other words, their specialization is in all areas of public safety communications – from operations to technology.

With a professional staff of more than 80 employees, MCP has experienced rapid growth since opening its doors in 2008. The company’s 10,000 square foot facility located in Port Matilda, PA is a physical representation of their commitment to continue growing their business in Central PA.

“In 2008, Ben Franklin provided the financial support necessary for us to start a three-person company called Mission Critical Partners. That dream has grown into a company of more than 80 employees working across three offices in Pennsylvania, as well as in Southlake, Texas and Raleigh, North Carolina. We know we couldn’t have grown this quickly without the help and support provided by Ben Franklin.” – Kevin Murray, CEO, Mission Critical Partners

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CNP

Salimetrics Employs 29

Nearly 20 years ago, Ben Franklin made its first investment in the State College-based company, Salimetrics. Today, with a total BF investment of $395,000, the company is widely regarded as a global leader in salivary bioscience and a pioneer in saliva collection methods, science, and assay technology that supports the field. Their saliva collection methods and salivary ELISA kits are tools used to get reliable results for research and diagnostics. Their saliva testing lab and extensive salivary training and support staff offer expert guidance for salivary research and clinical studies; not only for tools of the trade, but how to best utilize them for consistent, reliable, results for research, pharmaceuticals, discovery, and improving people’s lives.

Salimetrics supports thousands of saliva researchers in more than 20 countries around the world. Their essays have been used in more saliva-related published papers than any other assay in the field, and their customer support staff is unparalleled. In 2017, Salimetrics invested $350,000 in R&D and testing, had 29 employees and generated $6,500,000 in revenue.

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NEP

Simplex Industries, Inc. Plans $30M, 40-Person Investment for 2018

Simplex Industries, Inc. manufactures high-end, top-quality modular homes by incorporating innovative designs, working through complicated customized projects, and providing energy-efficient modular manufacturing.

The company created 80 new Pennsylvania jobs in 2017, growing their Scranton team to more than 215 strong. In response to escalating demand, the company recently announced plans to add 40 more jobs and increase production with a $3 million investment in the plant.

BFTP/NEP invested five times in Simplex between 2011 and 2017 for factory integration and productivity improvements and linked them to Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center. Through that connection, Simplex was able to fully integrate AutoCAD 3-D printing, develop plans to transform two plants and address production bottlenecks. The 3-D modeling, specifically, significantly reduced change orders, unexpected costs, and delays. Simplex won the BFTP/NEP Manufacturing Achievement Award in 2017.

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SEP

Sidecar

Sidecar develops advanced machine learning technology for retailers hungry to unlock the full potential of today’s fastest-growing online shopping channels. In 2017, Sidecar raised $11 million in a Series C funding round, underpinning their substantial growth trajectory. BFTP/SEP has invested in five rounds of the company’s growth since 2009 and looks forward to seeing their more than 150-person team continue to grow.

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11,581

Jobs Retained
by Client Companies

406

New Products & Processes Launched by Client Companies

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CNP

SoftGenetics Develops New Process for Forensic & Research DNA Analysis

Located in State College, SoftGenetics is a long-time Ben Franklin alum-company boasting 18 employees and more than $2.5 million in revenue. This year, the company applied to BFTP/CNP for funding that would allow them to offer a new process referred to as Mitochondrial DNA analysis for forensics and research. Using DNA specimens, particularly from hair and bone samples, this new analysis service allows the company to help identify crime perpetrators, missing persons, and mass disaster victims even from cold cases, as only an extremely small evidence sample is needed.

While many forensic DNA Labs are equipped for the analysis of genomic DNA fragments (synonyms STRs and ‘DNA fingerprints’), most laboratories do not have the resources to perform the specialized methods required to obtain routine mtDNA data or mtDNA from degraded or minute (millimeter sample size) hair/bone samples. It is more cost efficient for them to send the samples to a service laboratory that specializes in forensic mtDNA isolation and analysis. Isolation and sequence analysis of mtDNA from bone or hair, including challenging samples of degraded or small (2mm hair) using Sanger sequencing is the gold standard for accurate mtDNA sequencing.

In short, the addition of Mitotyping analysis to the company’s product offering allows them to perform analysis on specimens that other services or internal forensic laboratories can’t handle. This year’s R&D expenditures topped $360,000.

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NEP

Highwood USA, LLC, Launches Four New Products

Highwood USA, LLC is a Hometown manufacturer of extruded-plastic synthetic-wood products that are used for outdoor furniture and hot tubs/spas, as well as in exterior lumber applications such as decks, fencing, gazebos, and garden sheds. Founded in 2003, Highwood has expanded its facility four times to keep pace with growth, most recently adding 146,000 more square feet, and has expanded its process capabilities with the addition of injection molding and thermoforming equipment.

In 2017, the company launched a total of four new products/processes. The new process technologies augment Highwood’s product range targeted at Carefree Backyard Living. Highwood has also pursued a variety of environmental sustainability projects such as using high-efficiency lighting, starting a photovoltaic solar farm, and achieving zero landfill status.

Highwood has grown from employing 32 people in 2016 to 135 today, and revenue has increased 70% over the last four years. They’ve received three financial investments from BFTP/NEP including a technical investment in 2004 for improvements in manufacturing efficiency, a challenge grant investment in 2005 for product development, and a challenge grant in 2011 for operations improvements. Additionally, BFTP/NEP linked Highwood with three college and university resources for product, process, and quality improvements.

This year, Highwood received a $1,200,000 follow-on investment from strategic partners. Through thoughtful planning, bold strategy, and skillful execution, the firm continues to grow, providing high-value jobs in Schuylkill County for years to come.


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CNP

Lia Diagnostics Receives FDA Clearance for First and Only Flushable Pregnancy Test

Lia Diagnostics

Using innovative materials and unique manufacturing techniques, Lia Diagnostics has developed a pregnancy test designed for women who value privacy and sustainability. Lia is the first and only flushable, biodegradable pregnancy test—and it costs less to produce than the standard retail pregnancy tests.

Leveraging the support of Ben Franklin’s FabNet for prototype development, Mentor Connect for team development, and Ben Franklin investments for growth ($600,000), Lia secured $2.44M+ in investments and patents leading to its FDA approval in December 2017. With US-based manufacturing in its plans, including Philadelphia-based manufacturing for components, Lia will bring its product to market in 2018.

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$3,170,419,083

Sales Revenue Generated
by Client Companies

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CNP

KCF Technologies Revenue Exceeds $14K

KCF Technologies is headquartered in State College, PA and currently employs 60 people. Founded in 2000, KCF Technologies develops and sells wireless condition monitoring sensor systems for defense and industrial markets. The company has achieved successes in paper manufacturing, wastewater, power generation, commercial buildings, and oil & gas applications, with easy-to-use monitoring of pumps, fans, compressors, valves, etc.

KCF’s SmartDiagnostics® machine-condition monitoring system includes everything a company needs to enable sensor-based predictive maintenance practices. This includes smart wireless sensors, networking, and facility- and enterprise-level software (either installed at the company or via the cloud for a subscription fee). KCF also offers SmartDiagnostics® Sentry Service™ for those customers who want to outsource the entire predictive monitoring process.

Revenue for KCF totaled $14,284,000 in 2017, sixteen patents protect the company’s SmartDiagnostics® products, and 2017 expenditures on R&D exceeded $450,000.

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CNP

Sensor Networks, Inc. Reaches $5M in Sales

Sensor Networks, Inc. (SNI) was founded in 2014 as an equipment/technology business and is focused on three product lines: ultrasonic non-destructive testing transducers, remote corrosion monitoring and remote visual inspection and loose-parts retrieval.

SNI’s strength is in its employees, many of whom were hired as a result of the lay-offs at GE in Lewistown. Collectively, they represent several hundred years of experience in the field of non-destructive testing. As of December 2017, SNI employs 20 full time people and its annual sales were $5 million. Projections for 2018 are nearly $7 million and the company plans to hire up to six new employees: project engineer, assembler, machinist, CNC operator, and two additional sales positions.

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NEP

Rea.deeming Beauty Wins Fastest Growing Company in the LV Three Years Running

Rea.deeming Beauty, Inc., located in Bethlehem, PA, manufactures the award-winning elliptical-shaped beautyblender® makeup applicator. Combining an innovative design and material, the applicator allows for line- and streak-free makeup application, gaining wide acceptance in both the professional and consumer markets.

The company relocated to the Lehigh Valley in 2007 and has experienced massive growth, increasing revenue by a factor of seven over the last five years and employing approximately 123 people. BFTP/NEP invested in the company in 2014, 2015, and 2017 for plant design, operations support, and improvements in production capacity and efficiency. And Rea.deeming Beauty won the BFTP/NEP Entrepreneurial Achievement Award in 2016 and the Fastest Growing Company in the Lehigh Valley award for three years in a row (2015-2017).

BFTP/NEP also linked Rea.deeming with Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center to enhance its production and fulfillment capabilities to meet steep increases in demand. The result was a productivity increase of more than 28%.

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SEP

Dynamic Energy Solutions

Dynamic Energy is a full-service solar energy provider that brings together the diverse expertise needed to design, finance, build and maintain projects to meet the needs of corporate, industrial and institutional customers. Since 2014, Dynamic Energy has received two rounds of funding from BFTP/SEP to support their growth, and in 2017 they secured and completed multiple megawatt solar projects across the Northeastern U.S.

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SWP

Rorus: Clean water, anywhere

SXSW award winner Rorus uses new nanotechnology to make their Filter Pack, the first comprehensive solution for carrying and instantly purifying drinking water. They pride themselves on producing the simplest filters in the world by focusing on user-centered specifically for humanitarian relief. After getting independent lab verification for their filters to WHO standards, they ran a pilot with Emmanuel Hospital Association and spent two weeks deploying filters in rural India.


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$410,231,976

Post-BFTP Financing Secured
by Client Companies

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CNP

New Company BeneFix Attracts $855,000 in Investments

The health insurance industry is stuck in a paper-driven world. Brokers, often too comfortable with their antiquated system, run quotes for their clients through each individual carrier. By offering a digital portal to manage small group benefits, BeneFix allows agents to run quotes in a matter of minutes instead of days.

BFTP/CNP’s investment in BeneFix is helping the company market the platform that automates and simplifies the complex process used by brokers to sell and enroll benefit products online. In 2017, the company spent $575,000 on development, testing, and evaluation of their platform and was able to generate $173,000 in licensing revenue, hired eleven employees, and attracted outside investment totaling $855,000.

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NEP

Select Products Holdings Receives More Than $1M in Funding

Select Products Holdings, LLC manufactures paper products including paper towels, napkins, and facial and bathroom tissue. The company received more than $1,000,000 in federal and state funding for a new 160,000-square-foot building in Vandling, PA, allowing it to integrate patented paper conversion machinery, produce proprietary novel products, and engage in contract manufacturing.

BFTP/NEP invested in the Select Holdings to implement production and support sales and marketing efforts as they expanded the Long Island-based operation into northeastern Pennsylvania.

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Bftp Rigorously Measures And
Quantifies Its Impact Annually

167

Patents and Software Copyrights Awarded to Client Companies

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CNP

Croptix Patents Methods and Mobile Platform

Every year, $220 billion in crops are lost to disease. Croptix has developed the first, practical early disease detection for the citrus industry.

The company’s turnkey solution includes a patented optical device, mobile app and beta mapping web/app platform. Their handheld device can take a measurement within three seconds and detect disease with up to 90% accuracy up to 21 months before the plant presents visual symptoms. Each Croptix device can capture 2000 samples a day which is then analyzed with proprietary algorithms and plotted on a map indicating which trees to remove in order to prevent the spread of disease.

Croptix has an exclusive license with Penn State University for the core spectrometer technology and also had a methods patent awarded. Another provisional patent which is pending will protect the mobile embodiment of the sensor platform and methods for detecting plant health.

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NEP

RADIUS Corporation Patents Two Product Designs

Kutztown-based RADIUS Corporation designs and manufactures premium personal care products including eco-friendly toothbrushes, molded travel cases, dental floss, and organic toothpastes. The completely solar-powered, certified woman-owned company is committed to ongoing R&D to identify innovative and sustainable manufacturing approaches to make everyday products distinctive. Its Source toothbrush uses replacement head technology with a handle made from recycled dollar bills, paper, and wood, reducing waste by 93%.

Through BFTP/ NEP funding and connections, RADIUS received marketing and strategy support, teamed with the Plastics Manufacturing Center at Penn College to address a breakage problem with toothbrushes, and more recently worked with Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center on facility optimization.

Since last year, RADIUS increased employment from 30 to 35, and in the past five years company revenue has increased by 3½ times. The firm is in the process of renovating and relocating into a larger building to respond to burgeoning demand and received two patents for product design.

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SEP

Practice Is Acquired by Instructure

BFTP/SEP invested a total of $322,000 in Practice from 2015 to 2016 until the company was acquired by Instructure in November 2017. Practice created a SaaS that allowed clients to deliver high impact, experiential learning using mobile video technology. The technology allows trainers to retain the power of face-to-face, small group exercises while achieving the cost savings and convenience of online delivery.

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SWP

Toys That Cross the Physical-Digital Divide

Digital Dream Labs grew out of a project at Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center. The team incubated and tested their project at the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum before being accepted in AlphaLab, the accelerator program of Innovation Works (the Ben Franklin partner in Southwest PA) that helps startups get off the ground quickly and successfully. At the time, the prototype for a large-scale game to be played in a museum setting needed to be market-tested and re-designed for a consumer audience interested in games that teach children logic, sequencing and fine-motor skills.

The AlphaLab program of intense mentoring and early capital led the Digital Dream Labs team toward their first “Puzzlets” game called Cork the Volcano. Puzzlets connect real puzzle pieces (which are manually controlled) to a video game played on a variety of devices. Now used in schools across the country and sold to consumers by global retailers, Digital Dream Labs is a great example of a company that started in a university setting, moved through the product and market development experience of the AlphaLab accelerator, and went on to receive additional funding and business assistance from Innovation Works as a portfolio company.

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BFTP Creates High-Paying, Sustainable Jobs in Pennsylvania.

Far Beyond Funding

“BFTP has been a tremendous resource to shine a spotlight on entrepreneurs and startups outside the typical coastal hubs. They aren’t just an important source for seed investment for startups but also collaborative and energetic ecosystem builders throughout Pennsylvania.”

Steve Case, Chairman and CEO of Revolution and Co-founder of AOL
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