Penn State Selects Startups for LaunchBox Program

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Happy Valley LaunchBox has selected six business startups who will participate in Invent Penn State’s no-cost business pre-accelerator program. The teams will complete 10 weeks of business startup training, have access to no-cost legal and marketing consulting, and enjoy no-cost co-working space that’s available 24 hours daily.

The final six entrepreneurial teams had submitted applications in early December, along with more than 40 other companies or entrepreneurial teams, and were selected from 11 finalists in a highly competitive process. Each finalist interviewed and pitched its business idea to the LaunchBox selection committee made up of a mix of entrepreneurs and business startup service providers. The process yielded a diverse mix of Penn State students, faculty and community entrepreneurs comprising the finalist cohort of teams.

“We believed, based on research, that there was a need for LaunchBox — a dynamic and collaborative university-community entrepreneurial environment,” Penn State’s vice president for research, Neil Sharkey, said in a statement. “But we were pleasantly surprised by the high number of applications and the diverse mix of entrepreneurs and startups that applied for our first cohort. There are a lot of great ideas to be commercialized. We made tough choices.”

The inaugural six LaunchTeams are:

  • Lockeroom, a platform for managing youth sports teams and leagues that automates and expedites registration, scheduling, and communication processes for team and league management.
    Team: Brook Hart, Kurt Collins and Joe Gazza
  • Project Vive, a speech assistance technology that aims to give a voice to individuals who cannot talk by providing a low-cost, effective device.
    Team: Mary Elizabeth McCulloch and Rodney Miller
  • ReDi Index, guidance and methods to measure an organization’s recycling efforts with a two-number system to measure your improvement and progress toward zero waste.
    Team: Brendan Bagley, Al Matyasovsky and Shulin Chen
  • Scenomics, a software-as-service concept that helps health care organizations identify and quantify the value of their technology investments.
    Team: Steve Haynes and Bryan Adams
  • Somnus, a medical device that can diagnose sleep apnea at home, instead of requiring patients to check into a sleep clinic.
    Team: Nick LaBarbera and Michael McPhail
  • Squid Bioadhesives, a protein-based bioadhesive that is 10 times stronger than other natural adhesives and is capable of bonding underwater, as well as self-repairing. The material was inspired by the suction cups of squids and has potential as a surgical adhesive.
    Team: Abdon Pena-Francesch and Huihun Jung

During the 10-week LaunchBox program, teams will commit three hours per week to in-class time and five hours per week to out-of-class time. After the training, the teams will be eligible to retain their seats for an additional nine months to continue to develop their business concepts. Additionally, staff will connect teams who need capital with potential investors.

LaunchBox will expand to accept 10 teams for its next sessions, including summer and fall of this year. The program will have an ultimate annual capacity of 30 business startups.

LaunchBox is a signature program in the Invent Penn State initiative, which also provided seed-grant funding for six other entrepreneurship center programs in Penn State Commonwealth campus communities, including Abington, Behrend, New Kensington, Harrisburg, Lehigh Valley and Wilkes-Barre. Lehigh Valley LaunchBox opened in December 2015. All the centers will focus on creating startups companies, many of which will have an opportunity to pitch angel investors and venture capitalists for funding at the Invent Penn State Venture and Intellectual Property Conference in October at the Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.