“Something special is happening in Happy Valley,” Hunter Swisher, founder and CEO of Phospholutions, says. “Since the inception of Invent PSU, and thanks to the numerous members of the community that [prior to Invent PSU] were engaging and supporting startups, State College has now become a hub for innovators to imagine and pursue their ideas,”
“Something special is happening in Happy Valley”
Swisher founded Phospholutions, Inc., a sustainable fertilizer company, in 2016 when he was a senior at Penn State. The company’s signature technology, RhizoSorb®, is a soil amendment or fertilizer additive used to efficiently deliver phosphorus and other nutrients to crops. In just the past year, Phospholutions has grown from seven to 20 employees, and recently raised $10.3 million in private equity funding to support the development and growth of its RhizoSorb soil-enhancement technology across market segments and to expand to global markets.
Capitalizing on Available Resources
Swisher says he took full advantage of the resources and opportunities available to Happy Valley innovators and entrepreneurs. He participated in the Invent Penn State Summer Founder’s program, the Ben Franklin Technology Partners TechCelerator and the Happy Valley LaunchBox FastTrack Accelerator, and he competed in the 2018 Invent Penn State Venture & IP Conference Tech Tournament, where he won first place and $75,000.
“The ecosystem has changed a lot since I first started Phospholutions in 2016. You can see the number of companies growing, the number of students engaging [with] entrepreneurship increasing, and the success stories finally happening. Having peers and the resources to help de-risk a business is incredibly important. The network in Happy Valley has been integral in our success to date.”
One piece of the Happy Valley network that has been critical to Phospholutions over the past five years is Ben Franklin Technology Partners. For more than three decades, Ben Franklin has provided early-stage, technology-based firms and established manufacturers with funding, business and technical expertise, and access to a network of innovative, expert resources.
Ben Franklin couples its financial commitment with access to a wide range of mentoring, business and technology development services. Experts deliver hands-on technical and business expertise, providing both early-stage and established companies with a wide range of business and technical assistance. This includes business plan reviews, technical assessments, intellectual property counsel, marketing advice, operations and fund-raising strategies.
“Having peers and the resources to help de-risk a business is incredibly important. The network in Happy Valley has been integral in our success to date.”
“Ben Franklin Technology Partners was integral to our early success. The mentorship provided a fast track for building a business plan, establishing a go-to-market strategy, and licensing patents from PSU,” Swisher says. “The funding provided the resources to execute on that first set of milestones often deemed too risky for venture investment. Through the resources and early-stage funding provided by Ben Franklin, we were able to attract more institutional capital from outside Pennsylvania.”
“It is tough to say what was the most important part of working with Ben Franklin,” Swisher reflects. “The resources like human resources and accounting support, market research, TechCelerator, the licensing support, the funding, second stage capital networks – all of these were very important.”
Expanding and Growing Business
SInce raising $10.3 million in Series A funding in May, Phospholutions is accelerating its growth plan and going after larger market opportunities.
“After successfully validating that our product can save farmers, on average, 20-30% on phosphorus fertilizer costs, we are using the funding to grow the team, scale production [and] demo the product with early adopters at scale,”
“After successfully validating that our product can save farmers, on average, 20-30% on phosphorus fertilizer costs, we are using the funding to grow the team, scale production [and] demo the product with early adopters at scale,” Swisher adds. “We also plan to continue developing additional formulations for RhizoSorb to expand the serviceable market size in broad-acre crop production.”
For more information on Phospholutions visit www.phospholutions.com