The winner of Gannon University's Technology Business Accelerator business pitch event went home with a $10,000 check, along with six months of residency, coaching and strategic mentoring from the Erie Technology Incubator and legal support services from Erie law firm MacDonald, Illig, Jones, & Britton LLP this morning.
The winning entrepreneurs, Phil Ventrello and Michele Vorberger, are the second recipients of this award and prize through the Integrated Business Transformation program's Technology Business Accelerator. Their company, MUNIO Self Defense, received the grant after successfully pitching the MUNIO self-defense keychain. Ventrello, Vorberger and 10 other entrepreneurs/teams presented their concepts and businesses to a panel of five judges during the last class meeting of the current Accelerator program, which concluded on Wednesday evening.
Jeff Parnell, executive director of the Erie Technology Incubator at Gannon University, said, "We are pleased to congratulate Phil and Michele on winning our Accelerator award package. The five judges quickly realized that the competition was keen and they were clearly impressed with the entire group's motivation and preparation. When the evening concluded, they agreed that MUNIO can make a real economic impact in our region. Their enthusiasm was obvious, and it's easy to see why our team here at Gannon is so excited about supporting entrepreneurs in northwest Pennsylvania."
Gannon University Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Carolynn Masters, Ph.D., RN, said, "This Accelerator and the Integrated Business Transformation program gives Gannon an opportunity to demonstrate the synergy that we are creating across our College of Engineering and Business, Erie Technology Incubator and Small Business Development Center. These programs allow us to foster innovation and provide entrepreneurial training, encouragement and mentoring-all of which are crucial to launching and growing a business. I would also like to thank the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development for providing the grant that makes this program possible."
The four finalists, who also included Duane Clement (Data Inventions); Tony Cusati (Sky Labs Aerospace); and Scott Boyd (The Counselors Inn), were all recognized at today's event.
The winner of the inaugural Accelerator session, Jack Barton of Roast Assured @ Out of the Grey Coffee House Cafe in Fairview, Pa., is now developing online software that will enable customers to create unique, personalized coffee and tea blends. His venture is now located at ETI, where he receives extensive mentoring from ETI staff and an external team.
The next eight-week Accelerator training session will begin March 25 at 6:30 p.m., culminating in an additional $10,000 award to be given May 14. Space is limited, but applications are being accepted online here.
The Accelerator integrates resources from Gannon's College of Engineering and Business, Small Business Development Center, and Erie Technology Incubator, and was created to give participating entrepreneurs an opportunity to test a new concept, idea or line of business through the support of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development's Discovered in PA, Developed in PA (D2PA) program, which was established to build capacity to support Pennsylvania businesses and to spur creativity and innovation in the provision of economic development services. Last fiscal year, the D2PA program supported initiatives tied to growing life sciences, advanced manufacturing, business incubators, and education, workforce and economic opportunity collaborations.