State-backed Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania, which lends to start-ups, has pledged $5 million and raised another $5 million for the new GO Philly Fund that seeks to raise foreign capital for the kind of small Philly-area firms that Ben Franklin backs.
Joining Ben Franklin with new funding is EPAM, Arkadiy Dobkin’s publicly traded, outsourcing and contract software engineering firm in Bucks County.
Franklin wants to raise a total of $50 million, and says it already has a total of $15 million in hand, some from investors it hasn’t identified. The fund will invest at least $50,000 in each target firm, and promises follow-up investments of as much as $3 million.
RoseAnn B. Rosenthal, who runs Ben Franklin (and also picks start-ups for an investment club at Philadelphia’s Union League), says she sees a “surge” of interest. “Last year, we reviewed nearly 1,000 promising young companies” and ended up backing 50.
Franklin says KPMG, White and Williams LLP, and Bridge Bank have agreed to “support the fund’s operations,” while Securitize has agreed to set up a blockchain-based system -- it will also accept cryptocurrencies -- to make it easier for foreign investors to tap into the fund.
The group hopes to issue "GO Philly Fund tokens, which represent the GO Philly Fund’s limited partnership interests, on the ethereum blockchain,” Franklin CFO Scott Nissenbaum said in a statement.
Philadelphia lacks early-stage capital, so "bolstering Ben Franklin’s good efforts with new funding is critical,” investment banker and Franklin board chairman Charles Robins, managing director of Fairmount Partners, said in a statement.