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Scranton company claims top prize at Venture Idol

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A record crowd of more than 300 attended the 14th annual Ben Franklin Venture Idol competition Tuesday night in the new West Wing addition of Ben Franklin Technology Partners in Bethlehem. (Photo/Melinda Rizzo)
A record crowd of more than 300 attended the 14th annual Ben Franklin Venture Idol competition Tuesday night in the new West Wing addition of Ben Franklin Technology Partners in Bethlehem. (Photo/Melinda Rizzo)

A cloud-based software development company won first place Tuesday night and will take home the top share of a $15,000 Ben Franklin Venture Idol prize.

ChannelApe won after pitching its e-commerce Scranton-based platform service before a record audience of 300 and four investor panelists.

ChannelApe helps e-commerce retailers automate and sync data with single-source integration software.

The 14th annual Venture Idol competition is a mash-up of Shark Tank and American Idol and hosted by Ben Franklin Technology Partners, a state-funded economic development organization.

It was the first event to be held inside the new 20,000-square-foot West Wing addition of Ben Franklin Technology Partners on the Mountaintop Campus of Lehigh University in Bethlehem.

Venture Idol offers startups a chance to compete for a share of $15,000 in investment capital to grow their business.

ChannelApe beat two other finalists, second-place GiveGab of Dunmore and third-place Xverity Inc. of Bethlehem.

Michael Averto, CEO of ChannelApe, said his company’s mission was to make e-commerce store owners’ lives easier.

“Most waste time using patched-together software. Our software makes product, inventory, ordering and fulfillment easier,” Averto said.

ChannelApe reported it targets 29,000 e-commerce businesses nationally with its services and wants a bigger share of the $1.9 billion market.

Investor panelists were James Marciano, Strategic Exit Advisors; Paul Martino, Bullpen Capital; Doug Petillo, Leading Edge Ventures; and Don Yount, Activate Venture Partners.

Earlier Tuesday, eight companies vied to become one of the evening’s three finalists. Finalists then had 10 minutes to pitch their product or services, and investors offered brief critiques.

Winners were selected by audience vote.

Evening keynote Speaker Kirstie Chadwick, CEO and president of the International Business Innovation Association, said longevity and community engagement were keys to growth and continued long-term business success.

Chadwick’s advice to entrepreneurs was “gain traction before looking for outside investment.”

“Less than 1 percent of new businesses in the U.S. raise outside capital,” she said. “Many think, ‘I have a great idea and people will give me money.’ That’s putting the cart before the horse.”

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