Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pennsylvania Anti-Entrepreneur?

Dear Innovation Works and AlphaLab Stakeholders,

It was great seeing many of you at our AlphaLab Demo Day event earlier this month. At Innovation Works, we are continuing to see strong interest in our investment and business assistance programs from entrepreneurs across the region and AlphaLab's recent application cycle- during which we received almost 100 applications - is another example of this demand for start-up funding.

Innovation Works needs your help in maintaining funding for promising technology companies. A current bill in the state Senate would cut funding 60% for the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority, the body that funds Innovation Works and its counterpart centers across the state (known collectively as the Ben Franklin Technology Partners or BFTP).

So, what can you do? We are asking all our stakeholders to do the following before June 8, 2009:

· Contact your legislators by going to: This link takes you to a page on the Pittsburgh Technology Council's website, where you can automatically send a letter to your legislator.

o You can personalize the letter to refer to your own company, experience, or reason to want to support funding for Innovation Works (the Ben Franklin Technology Partner of Southwest PA).

o When you put in your zip code, your legislators will be identified and the email will be sent to the right office. The letter is pre-populated to ask legislators to: maintain the current level of funding for the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority, especially maintain the existing level of funding for the Ben Franklin program, and communicate with their caucus leaders in the House or Senate about the need to maintain these current levels of funding.

o Send me an email about who you have contacted so we can track these efforts.

· Activate your own network of contacts who care about maintaining funding for start-up entrepreneurs. Send the URL ( ) to others to write a letter, use Facebook or Twitter to create awareness about the need to reach legislators, post blog comments, whatever you can do to reach more people who can subsequently reach out to their legislators.

· Give us your ideas and feedback about how to reach more people to communicate about this critical issue.

This is an extremely challenging year for the state budget and difficult decisions must be made. Here are a few facts about where we stand in the budget framework:

· the BFTP program more than pays for itself in additional capital and tax revenue brought into the state as a result of follow-on funding and business growth, so 'cost savings' from slashing this budget hurts state revenues in the end,

· there is little to no private sector spending for technology companies at this very early stage so there is not an alternative pool of money to draw on,

· other social and arts programs are mobilizing their considerable constituents to fight their own proposed cuts and the technology sector is comprised of a smaller number of stakeholders who can reach out to their legislators.

This isn't about funding Innovation Works. It's about funding entrepreneurs and growing technology companies. Please help us continue to fund and assist our region's promising start-ups and other innovative companies.

Thanks very much for your help and support.

Jim Jen
Director, AlphaLab
Innovation Works

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