Four Lancaster companies are among nine central Pennsylvania finalists that will compete for a $100,000 investment in AOL co-founder Steve Case’s “Rise of the Rest” initiative.
They were selected from among 80 startups in the area, said Steve Fafel of Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern PA, a state-funded organization that provides funding and consulting to early stage companies.
Each of the four Lancaster firms — BeneFix, Fizika Group, Schedule Engine and TurnoutNow — applies information technology to a different field: benefits administration, brain health, contractor scheduling and event management, respectively.
The fact that Lancaster secured four spots is a tribute to the strength of its startup ecosystem, Fafel said. It’s also a feather in central Pennsylvania’s cap that nine finalists were picked: The standard number is eight.
“We’re thrilled with the outcome,” Fafel said.
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In late June, Central Pennsylvania was announced as an October stop on the Rise of the Rest tour.
On Oct. 10, Case will make stops in York and Lancaster before heading to the Harrisburg Midtown Art Center, where he will conduct a “fireside chat” on the local startup economy with Penn State University President Eric Barron.
After that, finalists will make a direct pitch to Case, who will be joined by J.D. Vance, author of “Hillbilly Elegy.”
“It’s an incredible honor to be a finalist,” said Matt Ranauro, founder and CEO of BeneFix. And it’s “truly awesome” for a young company to have a chance to work with Case.
“Myself and the BeneFix team are thrilled to represent Lancaster and to continue being a driving force in the tech scene developing in our community,” he said.
Martha Lester Harris, the founder, president and CEO of Fizika Group, will be pitching Fizika Flex, a brain fitness program for people at risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias, created in partnership with St. Andrew Development and Thomas Jefferson University.
It’s a new venture for Fizika, and will be the first time the company seeks outside investors, so Rise of the Rest “came at the right time,” Harris said.
She’s looking forward to what comes next: All the competitors get expert advice and training to make their Oct. 10 pitches as compelling as possible.
“That’s the exciting part of all of this,” she said.
Rise of the Rest aims to encourage entrepreneurship and startup investments outside traditional hotspots such as Silicon Valley.
October’s tour will be the sixth. Central Pennsylvania is the first stop, after which come Ann Arbor, Michigan; Indianapolis, Indiana; Columbus, Ohio; and Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Case has visited 26 cities and invested more than $4 million in over 50 startups in the previous tours.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional information and comments.