Economics / Investing / Philadelphia

Chester County gets $4-million fund to boost startup activity

Venture Chesco is a team effort from the Chester County Retirement Board and Ben Franklin Technology Partners.

Chester County is hoping to boost its tech sector. (Photo by Chester county Ramblings, used under a Creative Commons License)

Access to capital is among the hardest boxes to check for local entrepreneurs following the venture-backed playbook.

And for Chester County’s tech ecosystem — despite being a key node of Philly’s tech growth in the 1980s and housing VC firms like Safeguard Scientifics and a bevy of large pharma firms — access to sufficient venture capital has proven to be a challenge.

Per Chester County Economic Development Council COO Michael Grigalonis, some 100 startups have received grants through the i2n-Ideas x Innovation Network initiative, but more fuel is needed.

Enter Venture Chesco, a $4-million partnership between the Chester County Retirement Board and Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania seeking to provide early-stage funding to companies housed in — or willing to relocate to — the county.

“Chester County has a number of locations within incubator/accelerator settings and we have many options for technical assistance, but access to capital for young, start-up companies continues to be a real challenge,” Chester County Commissioner and Retirement Board member Kathi Cozzone said in a statement. “Venture Chesco will help respond to this challenge.”

The partnership is reminiscent of the $6-million health IT fund started in 2016 by Safeguard, Ben Franklin and IBX’s parent company Independence Health Group in the sense that BFTP and the Chesco retirement board will each kick in $2 million to invest together, following the Navy Yard–based org’s playbook.

“Venture Chesco will fill 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 — which will help add to the growing innovation culture in the county,” said Ben Franklin’s RoseAnn Rosenthal.

Companies: Ben Franklin Technology Partners / Chester County Economic Development Council

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