On Tuesday, May 12, 2009, the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania hosted its annual i xchange at the Zoellner Arts Center on the campus of Lehigh University. More than 600 technology entrepreneurs, business people, venture capitalists, economic developers, political leaders, and regional influencers from Ben Franklin’s 21-county service area attended.
The i xchange combined the presentation of Ben Franklin’s fifteenth annual Innovation Awards and executive networking sessions with a keynote address by Jeff DeGraff. DeGraff is known as the “guru to the innovation guru” at Fortune 500 companies, having created a broad array of widely used tools and methodologies for implementing innovation. DeGraff is a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. He is also the managing partner of Competing Values Company, a consulting firm that assists leaders in facilitating change, and the executive director of the Innovatrium Institute for Technology.
The event included the presentation of Ben Franklin’s Northeastern Pennsylvania Innovation Awards. Awards were presented in eight categories, to companies, organizations, or individuals who have achieved business success through Ben Franklin, have helped others to achieve success, or who have improved their business through innovation.
The 2009 Northeastern Pennsylvania Innovation Awards winners honored for Entrepreneurial Achievement include Scott Sanfilippo and Joseph Palko, Co-Founders of Solid Cactus, Inc., an NPTI Associate Member company. Solid Cactus is the largest developer of e-commerce stores using the Yahoo! Store platform. It is a total solutions e-commerce company, providing a range of products including search engine optimization, affiliate program management, e-commerce store development, print and website design, call-center services and back-end order management. Company principals leveraged their Internet expertise to start Solid Cactus in 2001 after growing and selling one of the first e-commerce stores, which they launched in 1994. Ben Franklin helped Solid Cactus to refine its strategic business plan, and invested in new product development for its flagship software product, FeedPerfect. In 2007 and 2008,Solid Cactus was listed among the Inc. Magazine top 500/top 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. and was named one of the “Best Places to Work in Pennsylvania” in 2006, 2007, and 2008. Solid Cactus’ staff grew 40% last year to 150 employees, and the company was just successfully sold to web.com. Co-Founder Scott Sanfilippo is also a member of the Great Valley Technology Alliance Board of Directors.
The Award for Incubator Graduate was reserved for a company that has best demonstrated successful Ben Franklin business incubation. The business has been operated skillfully and confidently, meeting all challenges from the development of the product concept, execution of the business and technical plan, successful start-up and operation, to graduation from the incubator. NPTI Associate Member Right Reason Technologies of East Stroudsburg received this honor. Right Reasons Technologies is an eLearning provider that offers comprehensive software solutions, web-based training courses, and a variety of content and software services. The company’s product line includes two proprietary learning management systems. CyberExtension™ is targeted to secondary education, and blends the advantages of distance education and conventional classrooms to educate non-traditional learners while containing costs. RightTrack™ provides organizations with the ability to deliver and track web-based training among employees. Right Reason Technologies is a 2008 graduate of the East Stroudsburg University (ESU) Accelerator and will be an anchor tenant in ESU’s expanded incubator, both of which are in the Pocono Mountains Keystone Innovation Zone. The company was awarded a Wall Street West grant for its “Bridging the Gap” initiative, developed in partnership with ESU. The company has grown to 15 employees, and revenue increased more than 25% in 2008. In addition to being an NPTI Associate Member company, Right Reason Technologies’ co-Founder Peter Schmitt is also an active member of the NPTI Board of Directors.
The Northeastern Pennsylvania Technology Institute and the Great Valley Technology Alliance would like to congratulate Solid Cactus and Right Reason Technologies on their reception of 2009 Northeastern Pennsylvania Innovation Awards and their ongoing contributions to the economic future of the region.