Lehigh’s successful programs in entrepreneurship and innovation were formally recognized yesterday by Bethlehem Mayor John B. Callahan during a press conference at the Pi: Partnership for Innovation facility in South Bethlehem.
Callahan singled out the university’s Dexter F. Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation and the Ben Franklin Technology Partners’ TechVentures®, located on the Mountaintop Campus.
He also noted that Lehigh was recently named one of the nation’s top 25 schools for entrepreneurship by Entrepreneur Magazine and The Princeton Review.
“It’s one thing to be recognized by your peers, but it is another thing entirely to be recognized on a national level,” said Callahan. “I think this is a testament to how Bethlehem benefits from having a top 25 research institution here.”
The rankings take into account academic requirements, student success, faculty engagement and entrepreneurship outside of the classroom. Callahan said Lehigh’s efforts to promote entrepreneurship in Bethlehem were an important contributor to the area’s economic future.
Callahan’s citation was accepted by Todd Watkins, the Arthur F. Searing Professor of Economics and director of the Baker Institute, and William D. Michalerya, associate vice president for government relations and economic development.
“Student start-up companies are coming out of Lehigh year after year,” said Watkins, who also directs the microfinance program in Lehigh’s College of Business and Economics. “We’re working hard with faculty and staff to accelerate the marketing of new technologies that are being developed here.”
For entrepreneurs, “world class” support
Callahan also recognized Ben Franklin TechVentures, an internationally acclaimed high-tech workspace and business technology incubator owned and operated by the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP) on the Mountaintop Campus.
The National Business Incubation Association (NBIA) named TechVentures the 2012 Randall M. Whaley National Incubator of the Year, and Inc. magazine has recognized its expansion, TechVentures2, as one of the top start-up incubators to watch.
“Just a year after opening, Ben Franklin TechVentures was named NBIA’s 2012 Randall M. Whaley National Incubator of the Year, the highest achievement in business incubation,” said Callahan.
TechVentures will be the site of the first Lehigh Valley Startup Weekend on Nov. 2-4, an event hosted by Lehigh Valley Tech. Startup Weekends are entrepreneurship competitions in which groups come together to share ideas and launch companies, and they occur simultaneously around the world, including New York City, the United Kingdom and Mexico.
“The success that’s happening in Bethlehem, the Lehigh Valley and Pennsylvania with respect to technology and economic development is not an accident,” said R. Chadwick Paul Jr. ’76, president and CEO of BFTP/NEP.
“We’ve created a fabric that shows young entrepreneurs that if you’re really serious about starting a company, we will help you do it, and we will help you do it in a world-class way.”
The mayor’s press conference also celebrated the first anniversary of Pi, an 8,000-square-foot facility that offers low-cost office space to innovative technology companies. One of these companies, Viddler, an interactive, on-line video platform, was founded in 2006 by Robert Sandie ’06 and other Lehigh alumni. Pi’s proximity to New York and Philadelphia has been a selling point for businesses – including HigherNext, a Philadelphia-based company that recently acquired space at Pi.
“2012 has been a banner year for entrepreneurship in Bethlehem,” said Callahan. “2013 will be even better.”
Photos by Christa Neu