Thanks to the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pennsylvania (BFTP/CNP), entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs in Central Pennsylvania have a new choice when it comes to accelerating their business ideas.

BFTP/CNP has launched the TechCelerator business accelerator/incubator program in Carlisle, Hershey and State College, giving potential job creators access to insights, education and advice. This innovative, one-stop-shop approach to business incubation and development is designed to encourage an entrepreneurial climate, increase technology transfer opportunities and help develop a robust start-up culture in Central and Northern Pennsylvania.

A ‘non-judgmental’ approach

DCED Secretary C. Alan Walker at the TechCelerator @ State College kick-off event.

The idea behind the TechCelerators is simple: Entrepreneurs – or anyone with a potentially viable, tech-based business idea- can take advantage of a menu of service programs, including the opportunity to attend a four or eight-week entrepreneurial training session. There, they receive intensive training focused on helping them determine whether they’re willing – or able – to invest the time and resources necessary to create a company.

Participants receive dedicated workspace in a shared environment, on-site, one-on-one business mentoring, professional marketing research, some financial assistance, start-up “boot camp” sessions and entrepreneurial training classes. “Graduates” – who find a market for their product and commit to starting a business – become candidates to pitch their business idea to the BFTP/CNP funding program and angel investors, compete for seed money and use incubator office space.

“The idea is to take a non-judgmental approach about early-stage entrepreneurs,” said Pam Martin, the regional director for BFTP/CNP’s Harrisburg office. “We’re working with people who think they might want to start a business, but aren’t quite sure about their idea. They’re not yet companies. We offer them an opportunity to decide whether there’s a market for their product, and whether they can afford the time and cost to start a company. We consider either decision to be a success.”

A growing concept

The TechCelerator @ Carlisle, a partnership between BFTP/CNP and the Harrisburg Regional Chamber and CREDC, is located at 453 Lincoln Street in Carlisle. In the program’s one-year existence, 20 potential companies have taken part in three sessions resulting in nine graduations. BFTP/CNP is continuing to work with five of the resulting companies, and one has taken up residency at the incubator. Interest in the Carlisle program has grown to the point that additional sessions are now being offered in the Hershey area.

The TechCelerator @ State College is up and running.

The TechCelerator @ State College program, which is a partnership between Ben Franklin and several other regional economic development providers, officially launched on Friday, March 2, at 200 Innovation Boulevard in State College. The kick-off event featured several speakers, most notably C. Alan Walker, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and Dr. Henry C. “Hank” Foley, Vice President for Research & Dean of the Graduate School at The Pennsylvania State University.

“The kick-off event was very well attended, and we’re hoping that moving forward this program will benefit the entire community,” said John Vidmar, the director of the Ben Franklin Transformation Business Services Network. “Our participants get the value of a variety of on-site programs while working with people like themselves to give them a better chance to succeed. That’s what incubation is all about; we’re just re-invigorating some of the basic concepts.”

Those who want to learn more about the “Next Generation of Entrepreneurial Business Support Services” should go to http://www.cnp.benfranklin.org and click on the TechCelerator button.