Apr. 26—TecBRIDGE, an organization focused on entrepreneurship and innovation in Northeast Pennsylvania, will crown the next winner of its annual Business Plan Competition Thursday at the FM Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre.
Don Webster, executive director of tecBRIDGE, witnessed the scope and caliber of the projects evolve over the past two decades.
“The judges have really been impressed with the quality of the submissions, particularly this year and last year,” he said. “It’s become really hard to figure out how to distinguish between some of the good work that everybody is doing.”
Webster feels fortunate to have many dedicated business leaders willing to lend their time and expertise as more than 50 people participated as a mentor or judge this year.
“We’re pretty lucky to have a strong group of community supporters,” he said. “They come from all the different industries… it’s really people who are interested in giving back to the community.”
Webster noted participants gain valuable skills through the competition that can be utilized even if they don’t plan to launch their own firm.
“We’re trying to encourage younger people to see what the different attributes of entrepreneurship are because they apply well beyond creating your own business,” he said. “You can learn a lot of things that can apply to your career pursuits that can make you successful.”
TecBRIDGE incorporated high school students into the competition about five years ago after seeing a growing need to expand the program, Webster said.
“We started noticing high school teams from the region trying to enter the collegiate division,” he said. “Two of the teams in two different years made it to the finals.”
Webster identified Scranton-based Signallamp Health, a remote nurse care management company formed in 2015, as one of the biggest successes to come out of the business plan competition.
Andrew Goldberg, co-founder and CFO of Signallamp Health, noted being selected as the competition winner in 2016 provided a jolt to help the company grow from a handful of employees to about 250.
“It’s a little bit of a coming out party, most of the time, for an entrepreneur,” he said. “To see and hear the enthusiasm for an idea that is in its early stages gives you a charge of energy. You need those wins along the way.”
Goldberg credits assistance from tecBRIDGE, the City of Scranton, Lackawanna County and Ben Franklin Technology Partners for helping Signallamp Health grow.
“It makes it a much better place to try to be an entrepreneur when you have support across multiple lines,” he said.
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