Maitham's Corner: Brian Slawin
Brian Slawin shares his optimistic outlook for small manufacturers and technology entrepreneurs in northwestern Pennsylvania.
I recently sat down with Brian Slawin, the NW Regional Director and Portfolio Manager for Ben Franklin Technology Partners. The St. Louis native and Penn State graduate shared his optimistic outlook for small manufacturers and technology entrepreneurs in northwestern Pennsylvania.
Maitham Basha: Please tell us about the Ben Franklin partnership.
Brian Slawin: The Ben Franklin Technology Partnership is a PA-statewide early-stage seed investor providing investment capital and business support services to emerging tech-based companies and small, existing manufacturers. By providing committed entrepreneurs with the connections, mentoring and capital to go from idea to startup, Ben Franklin continues to create a significant economic impact ($25 billion, 51,000 jobs and $3.60 of PA state tax revenue for every $1 invested) since 1985.
MB: Which start-up companies have you helped out and what has been the success rate?
BS: In the past year, Ben Franklin has invested in 34 companies and provide much more than capital. Through our Transformations Business Support program, we provide more than 10,000 hours of support to help our clients start and run a successful business. Those companies have gone on to generate more than $163 million in revenue and created or retained more than 1,100 jobs in 2017 alone. We also invest in innovative entrepreneurial development programs that help mentor and support the companies that come to us for support.
MB: You seem very optimistic about Erie and its future especially about the entrepreneurial startups and the downtown innovation hub… please tell us more.
BS: Entrepreneurs, by their nature, are optimistic about the future. But even the most rose-colored glasses can be tempered with reality.
One of the most visible is the Erie Innovation District that's focused on creating the next generation of businesses and industries that will spring from Erie. And of course, our collective vision extends well beyond the business environment. Our children are the future and Senator Dan Laughlin fought for $14 million from the state to sustain our schools. These are just some of the reasons for, "Why Erie!" and the excitement I see from the people that we get to work with on the next generation of what's going to be great about Erie.
MB: We have a new administration in City Hall, Erie Insurance is expanding, Velocity net is moving downtown, and the Renaissance Building is becoming a hub for innovators and creatives. Let's look 10 years from now. What is Erie's vision?
BS: I'm beginning to see us focus on a vision I call "10/100/1,000/$1 million". It's more than realistic that in the next 10 years, 100 tech companies will collectively employ 1,000 tech workers and each company will generate at least $1M in revenue, per year. It can be done and I think Erie is the place that can do it. So, what will it take to get there? A laser focus on building four pillars of a truly innovative community: 1) LIVE, 2) LEARN, 3) PLAY, and 4) BUILD.
MB: Let's say I want to start a small startup business in Erie but I have zero idea about the process. What are the do's and don'ts?
BS: There's really only one "do" and that's get engaged. For those that are more socially networked, definitely join the Erie Entrepreneurs community on Facebook and by all means read the "7 Ways to Get Involved with the Erie Entrepreneurial Community" (https://tinyurl.com/7WaysErie).
When he's not out snapping photos, Maitham Basha can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org