Home News As Entrepreneurs Develop Firms, the Number of IT Employment Is Increasing

As Entrepreneurs Develop Firms, the Number of IT Employment Is Increasing

As Entrepreneurs Develop Firms, the Number of IT Employment Is Increasing

Kyle Burrell helps athletes better understand how brain activity impacts their actions in the heat of the moment.

“We’re building custom training programs for athletes powered by artificial intelligence and brain analytics,” said Burrell, 25. “We’re seeking to completely revolutionize the way athletes train for performance and the way they understand how their brain is affecting the way they’re making instinctive decisions in live game scenarios.”

Burrell’s startup company, Neuralytics AI, was one of eight chosen to participate in the TechCelerator program – a collaboration of Lackawanna County, the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania, tecBRIDGE and the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce – which inspires entrepreneurs with early-stage, tech-based ideas to start a small business in the county.

The University of Scranton graduate praised the TechCelerator program for grooming him to excel as an entrepreneur.

“The number one thing I’ve learned is how to go out and talk to people,” said Burrell of Simpson. “I’m coming from an engineering background so talking to people wasn’t necessarily my strong suit. This program forced me to get out of my comfort zone and start talking to my customers and get the information I need by asking the right questions.”

As Pennsylvania added 9,918 new tech jobs in the past year, the eighth-highest total among all states, according to CompTIA, the nonprofit association for the information technology industry and workforce, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area has emerged as a hotbed for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Ken Okrepkie, regional manager for Ben Franklin Technology Partners’ northeast division, feels the creation of business incubators fueled the rise of tech startups.

“I think the investment made in business incubation a number of years ago is paying off today as we’re not only having success stories, but these business incubators are pretty full with technology companies that have significant growth potential,” he said.

Okrepkie believes the conversation and camaraderie among incubator tenants leads to successful businesses.

“When you create a place where like-minded individuals can come together and support one another, entrepreneurs attract other entrepreneurs,” he said.

Okrepkie pointed to companies like Pepperjam and Net Driven, which created 100-plus jobs within the incubators for inspiring others to start their own businesses in the region.

“They see the success and want to replicate it,” he said. “There is a tech hub that is percolating because of our incubators, the colleges and universities and the investment in our ecosystem.”

One of those companies – NanoZebra – started by brothers Alex and Arthur McCarthy inside the TekRidge Center in Jessup in August 2019- has grown to 16 employees.

“(Arthur) had the idea to do YouTube advertising in terms of sponsorships by working with creators and big brands who want their product promoted,” Alex McCarthy said. “We started just by signing on creators exclusively which meant they were only allowed to work with us when it came to sponsorships on their YouTube channel. Eventually, we saw the need for more than just exclusive management because other agencies didn’t have the same brand relationships we had. We would jump in and provide our same service.

Alex McCarthy attributes the company’s success to the quality of the NanoZebra team.

“We’ve been fortunate to have been in a good, fast-paced space that continues to grow, and every team member helped form relationships with big brands,” he said.We’ve worked with more than 100 different brands and probably about 500 to 600 different creators over the years. It’s been a good journey.

The region’s reputation for developing prosperous companies also sparked interest from entrepreneurs from outside the area.

“In the last month, I’ve talked to people from Baltimore, Syracuse and New Jersey who said they’d like to take a look at Northeastern Pennsylvania,” Okrepkie said.

Brianna Florovito, who manages Ignite, the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce’s entrepreneurship and business incubation program, expects more budding entrepreneurs to create their own firms in the coming years.

“I think as AI (artificial intelligence) and certain technologies become more accessible to the general public and popularized, people are coming up with new ways to utilize them and solve everyday problems,” she said.As time goes on, we’re going to see more technology-based businesses evolve.

Florovito stressed the importance of keeping local entrepreneurs in the region through the chamber’s assistance.

“We’re happy to serve them through the Ignite program and do what we can to make sure the jobs stay in our community,” she said.

Florovito also credits the TechCelerator program for bringing business plans to the forefront in Northeast Pennsylvania.

“A lot of people have really great ideas but typically tech businesses require a lot of resources and capital to get them started, she said. “There are really smart and knowledgeable people here in the tech space, they’re just lacking the resources needed to bring those concepts to reality.

Shanie Mohamed, director of economic development for the Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce, witnessed a steady rise of people looking to launch their own business.

“Startup culture in general has seen a major upward trend in recent years, especially coming out of the pandemic,” she said.We have such an expansive network of resources in our entrepreneurial ecosystem, locally, and that web of resources is creating the right systems of support to get people interested in exploring their ideas.

Wilkes-Barre Connect, the chamber’s entrepreneurial and economic development arm, aims to align strategies, resources and connections for businesses to grow and thrive by offering services including business plan development, mentorship, financing and educational resources.

“We have a great network of partners that handle different portions of the business development process,” Mohamed said.They each offer something that helps entrepreneurs get to the next stage of development.