‘Venture Chesco’ officially launches, seeks tech companies to locate and grow in county

The Chester County Retirement Board and Ben Franklin Technology Partners have officially kicked off Venture Chesco — an initiative to encourage companies to locate in and grow in the county. Shown here at Tuesday’s announcement are, left to right: RoseAnn B. Rosenthal, president and CEO of Ben Franklin; Guy Fardone, Chief Executive Officer, Evolve IP; Scott Nissenbaum, Chief Investment Officer, Ben Franklin; Chester County Commissioners Michelle Kichline, Terence Farrell and Kathi Cozzone; and Tony Green, vice president, Technology Commercialization Group, Ben Franklin.

Wayne >> Chester County wants to encourage the development of start-up companies in the county. To help make it happen, the Chester County Retirement Board and Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania have officially kicked-off the Venture Chesco Fund.

Tuesday’s formal kick-off at Evolve IP in Wayne, follows the December announcement of the partnership.

Under the initiative, a $4 million pool of venture capital has been created that will be used to invest in emerging and growing companies located in Chester County. It includes $2 million in county funds matched by $2 million in Ben Franklin Technology Partners’ funds.

“Chester County has a long history of growing strong technology companies. From QVC to Shared Medical Systems, and from Centocor to Vanguard and Evolve IP, we have seen small start-ups apply innovation and new technologies and grow to employ thousands of county residents,” Chester County Commissioners’ Chairwoman Michelle Kichline, one of the five members of the Chester County Retirement Board, said in a press release. “We are pleased to be able to join with Ben Franklin to bring even more of their knowledge, experience and resources to bear on growing young technology companies here in the county.”

Venture Chesco funding will be invested in new technology companies as well as existing technology companies looking to add new technologies to their business operations.

The funds allocated by Chester County represent a small percentage of the overall pension fund, valued at $431 million in December 2017, according to the release. The Retirement Board’s commitment to the initiative is a direct result of the goals set for the county’s 10-year economic development strategy, VISTA 2025, to “improve access to capital for start-ups and early stage business ventures.”

Chester County Commissioner and Retirement Board member Kathi Cozzone said the initiative has the potential to be a catalyst for starting companies that will employ Chester County residents in the future.

“Venture Chesco fills a critical early stage funding gap in the growth cycle of Chester County’s young companies and companies looking to apply technology to improve business performance,” she said in the release. “Based on Ben Franklin’s successful history, we expect to get two things from this new endeavor — a reasonable return for the pension fund and the ability to help grow the next generation of Chester County companies.”

Under the terms of the partnership agreement, Ben Franklin Technology Partners will help identify companies and technologies suitable and appropriate for funding and will manage the process of assessing the companies and the technologies for possible investment from the Venture Chesco fund.

Investments are structured to fit the need and industry; and may be flexible debt or equity, according to a fact sheet about Venture Chesco.

The fund will work with companies that are developing new technologies in several areas, including information technology, life sciences, financial services, physical sciences and agricultural sciences.

According to Terence Farrell, Chester County Commissioner and Retirement Board member, Venture Chesco is a critical piece of financing that’s being added to an already strong entrepreneurial ecosystem in Chester County.

“Adding this new source of capital to the ongoing efforts of our county incubators and accelerators positions us very well to continue to be a prime location for innovation, entrepreneurship and growing young companies,” he said in the release. “It is our hope that young entrepreneurs will take advantage of this new funding source to start and grow their company within Chester County.”

Businesses that are interested in Venture Chesco can start applying for consideration now, according to a county spokeswoman. For more information about the program, visit www.sep.benfranklin.org/venture-chesco. For information about ways to connect to Chester County’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, contact David Sciocchetti at dsciocchetti@chesco.org.

The Venture Chesco partnership will bring more support and critical investment capital to innovative technology enterprises in Chester County, according to RoseAnn B. Rosenthal, president and CEO of Ben Franklin Technology Partners.

“It builds on consistent, dedicated efforts in support of smart growth strategies by many of Chester County’s leaders over the years. In bringing capital, counsel and connections to its growing enterprises, we’re proud to invest in the county’s innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem,” she said in the release.

The Chester County Retirement Board members include the three Chester County Commissioners, County Treasurer Patricia Maisano and County Controller Margaret Reif.

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania is an initiative of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and is funded by the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority. For more information visit www.sep.benfranklin.org

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