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Colin Devroe

Photographer. Podcaster. Blogger. Reverse Engineer.

Attending Venture Idol 2020 via Zoom

Last night I virtually attended Ben Franklin Technology Partner’s Venture Idol 2020 via a Zoom Webinar.

That’s a sentence that I hope I only write in 2020 and not too far beyond.

I’ve written about attending previous Venture Idol’s at Ben Franklin TechVentures, the building in which a previous employer of mine was in for years, and how impactful it can be on entrepreneurs that are building their companies.

I make mention of this fact because the feeling one gets when walking into Ben Franklin TechVentures is that the work that goes on in this building is new, exciting, and is the future of technology in our area. I personally want schools, libraries, incubators, and town squares to feel as though they are leading us into the future. Where the work that I do is raised to meet the expectation of the environment. I feel that Ben Franklin TechVentures does that.

So I was disappointed that this year’s event was forced to be virtual because obviously all of that was lost. I’m sure the Ben Franklin team was too. For many of the hosts, panelist, and perhaps a majority of the attendees, they didn’t really miss out on this fact because they work in the building. But some portion of the attendees, like me, are not there day-to-day. So we missed out on rubbing shoulders with others building companies in an environment that fosters smart, hard-working, forward-thinking individuals and that was sorely missed.

That said, I’m proud the team decided to have the event anyway and that they decided to do it the safe way by going online. And they did it the right way as it was obviously well rehearsed and thought-through.

Wayne Barz hosts an interview with VCs

For me, personally, I found the opening discussion with Wayne Barz and his panelists of Joe Blair, Paul Martino, and Todd Pietri to be the best part of the evening. Though I’ve read a bunch of blog posts by VCs this year – it was good to get the inside scoop on how the early markets have been affected by COVID while the public markets are surging.

The presentations by Rocket Cloud (which presented Pro Supply Direct and I thought that was a bit confusing), Studio Be, and Thread Bioscience were good. Personally, I thought Rocket Cloud (nay, Pro Supply Direct) understood their market the most and had a fairly decent go to market strategy with decent margins in view. But, the collective attendees decided (by “investing” their Ben Bucks) in Thread Bioscience as this year’s winner.

Oh, a short word about the panelists. They were all very positive and gave each presenter their time and attention as well as solid feedback on their presentations. But if you distilled their comments for each of the presenters down you’d find how basic and run-of-the-mill most of the questioning was. Which is the best thing about Ben Franklin’s programs – it is all about the fundamentals. For the most part, BFTP is like the San Antonio Spurs of recent past or maybe the Hoosiers. You come in thinking you’re all cool and have a brand new way of doing things only to find out that every single company – no matter how innovative – must thrive on basic principles. Who are the team? What is the market need? How big is the opportunity? How will the team address those needs and target that market? How much money will the team need to get to each phase of product development, marketing, sales and profitability? Basic basic basic. But most entrepreneurs, including myself, can easily gloss over details due to the excitement they have.

I enjoyed last night’s program. I’m glad they did it. Congratulations to Thread Bioscience on the win. I’m hoping that next year the event can be in-person so that all in attendance can get their blood pumping to build great things.

Attending Venture Idol 2017 at Ben Franklin TechVentures

In 2007 I visited the area where Ben Franklin TechVentures is now. I was there for an interview with the then CEO of Viddler, Rob Sandie, to see about working there full time. At the time, Viddler was housed in Jordan Hall – a one-story building next to the now incredible Ben Franklin TechVentures complex. It wasn’t until many months later we moved Viddler out of the closet-like space in Jordan Hall and into the future-feeling building next door.

That memory pales in comparison to what exists there today.

I make mention of this fact because the feeling one gets when walking into Ben Franklin TechVentures is that the work that goes on in this building is new, exciting, and is the future of technology in our area. I personally want schools, libraries, incubators, and town squares to feel as though they are leading us into the future. Where the work that I do is raised to meet the expectation of the environment. I feel that Ben Franklin TechVentures does that.

In AugustĀ when I presented at the local meet up I loved seeing the new wing being constructed. This month that wing was completed and this year’s Venture Idol 2017 event was in it.

But building’s aren’t everything. The community is of even more import. And the community is strong.

This year’s Venture Idol was the best attended year yet and, as Fred Beste (the emcee for the event) pointed out, everyone had a chair for the first time. He’s seen BFTV’s growth and he was as excited as I was to see where it is today.

The presentations by the three finalists were great. Mark Keith and I remarked how polished each presentation was. In my mind there were two presentations that were clearly the best; Channel Ape (from Scranton woot woot!) and Give Gab. Both had impressive results, tight presentations, and a roadmap that made sense. At the end of the night Channel Ape took home the victory.

Photo: Mike Averto, CEO Channel Ape, preparing for presentation.

Yes, it is a big of a jaunt from Scranton to Bethlehem. But it has been worth it every single time I’ve done it over the last 10+ years. I’m looking forward to seeing the sort of growth that region has been enjoying happening in our area too. It is only a matter of time.