First-Ever Lehigh Valley Startup Weekend Wildly Successful

Ben Franklin TechVentures®, at the Lehigh University Mountaintop Campus in Bethlehem, was the temporary headquarters for 11 potential startup companies during Lehigh Valley Startup Weekend. The 54-hour event took place from November 2-4, 2012.
Rita Churhan leading team Skaffl
Rita Churhan leading team Skaffl
Nov. 12, 2012 - PRLog -- Aspiring entrepreneurs test their metal during 54-hour event.

Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania – Ben Franklin TechVentures®, at the Lehigh University Mountaintop Campus in Bethlehem, was the temporary headquarters for 11 potential startup companies during Lehigh Valley Startup Weekend ( The 54-hour event took place from November 2-4, and is one of more than 400 such events that will take place around the country this year.

Startup Weekend ( began on Friday night with a Pitch-Fire session during which any participant could pitch a project to the crowd – but they only had 60 seconds to capture the crowd’s attention and interest. During a short networking session, the participants then voted on the top ideas to be developed over the weekend and began forming teams to work on those projects. Saturday and most of Sunday were spent brainstorming, doing customer validation, and building prototypes of the ideas. The teams had access to coaches and mentors, who volunteered their time in order to guide these fledgling companies to success. On Sunday evening, the teams presented their project to a panel of experts to compete for prizes.

The event attracted attendees from outside the Lehigh Valley as well. There were several participants from Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, and other states. Smart IMS, an information management solutions company from northern New Jersey, both sponsored the event and sent two executive to be coaches: CEO Amar Reddy and Sr. Business Development Manager David Easton.

“We chose to sponsor the Lehigh Valley Startup Weekend because we feel it is a great way to give back to the industry that has made us successful,” said Easton.

There were several unique aspects to the weekend event that distinguished Lehigh Valley Startup Weekend from other similar events. Steven Chau, Startup Weekend facilitator and employee, noted that there was a much higher female to male ratio than at other events he’s attended. Additionally, there were three physical products that were developed during the weekend, which is atypical for an event that generally attracts software developers. One of the teams even filed a provisional patent on their product idea – a first in Startup Weekend history.

“The Lehigh Valley really showed its true colors this weekend,” said Anthony Durante, one of the organizers of the event. “With such a strong engineering base in the area, it’s great to see teams applying that regional expertise and working on projects based on building a physical product.”

Several local universities paid for tickets in order to encourage their students to attend, including Lehigh University (, Kutztown University ( and Northampton Community College ( Katelyn Noderer participated at the recommendation of her Lehigh University professors Marc de Vinck and Michael Lehman of the Technology Entrepreneurship Professional Master’s degree program (

“Startup Weekend reinforced the entrepreneurial process that I'm learning in my master’s program,” said Noderer about her experience. “When you have an idea, you really need to figure out who your customer is, then get talking with them and get your prototypes in their hands. Prototypes don't need to be fancy or expensive to get valuable feedback.”

“[I was] impressed at the comprehensive nature in which each team attacked their idea in just a weekend,” said prize sponsor Matt Sommerfield, president of MTS Ventures (, a product development and design engineering firm located in Allentown. “From market research to functioning prototypes, each team spent a significant about of time in a holistic approach to building a business model and addressing the prospective market for their product.”

By the event’s conclusion, four teams were selected as winners:

First Prize:  Skaffl, with its education-based mobile app RUNG, which allows teachers to distribute, collect, grade, and return assignments to students using devices like iPads.

Second Prize:  Das Bier Macher, a compact automated system used to homebrew craft beer.

Third Prize:  We Got Your Site, a web application that allows small businesses to build and maintain a website using just their Facebook feed.

Honorable Mention: Bar-O-Metrics, intelligent coasters that can be used in bars to measure and record how much bartenders pour and/or spill from their liquor bottles.

The teams have been awarded more than $20,000 in services that can help them continue their path towards launching their companies. These included accounting and legal services, entrepreneurial education, website hosting, and coworking space.

"I have already started recommending Startup Weekend to others!” said Noderer. “It's an amazing experience to be surrounded by motivated people who want to challenge the status quo and who aren't afraid to take risks. It's a great place to meet and get to know people with different skills and experiences than you.”

For more information on Lehigh Valley Startup Weekend, including future events, go to:
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Tags:Startup Weekend, Lehigh Valley, Ben Franklin TechVentures, Entrepreneurship, Startup
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Location:Lehigh Valley - Pennsylvania - United States
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