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Lancaster startups receive funding

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From left, Michael Bridgman, MajorMega cofounder, Sean Hennessey, MajorMega cofounder, Colin Schultz, MajorMega developer, and Jay Miller, MajorMega partner, pose for a portrait with their
From left, Michael Bridgman, MajorMega cofounder, Sean Hennessey, MajorMega cofounder, Colin Schultz, MajorMega developer, and Jay Miller, MajorMega partner, pose for a portrait with their "Hyperdeck" virtual reality attraction in their office, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018, in Lititz - (Photo / )

Two Lancaster County technology startups making waves in their respective industries were chosen to receive funding from Ben Franklin Technology Partners for next year.

MajorMega, a virtual reality entertainment company, and BeneFix, an insurance benefits technology firm, have both worked with the Ben Franklin investment service on prior projects.

BeneFix and MajorMega were two of 10 startups chosen for funding from the Ben Franklin of Central and Northern Pennsylvania. Ben Franklin, an initiative of the state Department of Community and Economic Development, invests in innovative businesses with a footprint in Pennsylvania and that are expected to bring economic growth to the state.

Steve Fafel, a portfolio manager with Ben Franklin, said both companies continue to innovate and show signs they will grow and hire within the state.

“The key question we ask them is: 'Is there a market for their product or service?' So many people have an idea but is there a market for it?” Fafel said. “These two startups, particularly, are great examples of what Lancaster is producing.”

BeneFix's Lancaster city office.
BeneFix's Lancaster city office. - ()

Last year Ben Franklin invested $100,000 in Lancaster-based BeneFix, which makes insurance-benefit quoting software. For 2019, Ben Franklin has pledged to invest another $29,000.

“Health benefits is a complicated industry with a lot of moving parts in it and BeneFix is using technology to make it more transparent, easier and quicker,” Fafel said.

BeneFix’s founder and CEO, Matthew Ranauro, said the company plans to use the investment to continue development of its software and focus on streamlining its product.

“We will be using those funds to make sure it is a seamless process from start to finish," he said.

BeneFix is on track to be the benefit software used by 50 percent of small-business owners in the state to provide medical benefits to their employees, according to Ranauro.

“This investment is a vote of confidence in what we are doing and will help us really accelerate into the new year and accomplish those big goals that are in front of us,” he said.

Lititz-based MajorMega’s co-founder, Michael Bridgman, also worked with Ben Franklin before the organization announced this week it would invest $100,000 in the company. Bridgman went through Ben Franklin’s TechCelerator program, which provides mentorship and guidance to startups.

“The program was a huge eye-opener for me, a crash course in startup 101,” Bridgman said. “We had a pretty big idea that required a big amount of capital and learned that maybe we should focus on one thing.”

MajorMega has developed an immersive virtual reality experience that combines video games with surrounding hardware. Fans and a moving floor simulate the movement a player experiences in game.

The company moved from its prototype phase to preparing to bring its first product to market in 2018. As MajorMega continues its partnership with Ben Franklin, Bridgman said that even more opportunities and resources will open up, such as access to engineers and legal assistants from Penn State as well as continued business advice.

Fafel said that he's been impressed with how the company created a solution to solve a common problem in virtual-reality gaming. 

"40 percent of people who use virtual reality get sick from motion sickness because you are seeing a virtual world but your body isn't feeling it," Fafel said. "They have paired virtual reality with motion."

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Ioannis Pashakis

Ioannis Pashakis

Ioannis Pashakis covers health care and Lancaster County. Email him at ipashakis@cpbj.com.

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