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Summer Founders Program offering $10,000 to accelerate Penn State startups

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The 2018 Summer Founders Program will provide Penn State entrepreneurial teams with $10,000 to work on their startup, social good or nonprofit idea full time in State College over the summer. Applications open Feb. 1.

A signature program of Invent Penn State, Summer Founders is a 13-week accelerator that provides teams the funding, resources and mentorship they need to accelerate their ideas over the summer. A key part of the program for founders is living in close proximity to State College, where they have access to mentors, resources, and fellow teams and can focus solely on their business. The approach has proven to be a recipe for success, as recent Summer Founders graduate teams can attest.

Summer Founder Mary Elizabeth McCulloch developed Voz Box, a speech-assistive device to help individuals with ALS. She went on to win the $100,000 grand prize in the Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge and is operating her company, Project Vive, in State College.

Summer Founder Hunter Swisher launched Phospholutions, a soil-amendment technology that reduces fertilizer runoff, saves water and lessens the negative environmental impact of golf courses. Also located in State College, Phospholutions recently made its first commercial sale and won first place and $25,000 in the Ben Franklin Technology Partners’ Big Idea Contest. Swisher also was recently profiled by Golf Course Industry for his ability to network in the historically walled-off turf industry and nominated for Forbes’ “30 under 30.”

Summer Founder Jason Cohen co-founded his business, Analytical Flavor Systems, a smartphone application that beer and coffee brewers can use to provide early detection and correction for inconsistencies during the production process. In 2017 Analytical Flavor Systems introduced an artificial intelligence for predictive manufacturing across the food and beverage industry with investments from AB InBev and TechStars Connection.

Program Details

  • Founders meet regularly with mentors and other entrepreneurs to grow their network and accelerate their startup, social good or nonprofit idea.
  • Founders also meet with other founders, business leaders and mentors over a weekly dinner.
  • Teams have 24/7 access to co-working space, free Wi-Fi, coffee and printing at Happy Valley LaunchBox.
  • Certain teams may be eligible for an additional $3,000 to support customer discovery through the Invent Penn State I-Corps Site program. Visit the Invent Penn State I-Corps website for more information.

Important dates

  • Applications open Feb. 1
  • Applications close Feb. 21 at midnight
  • Team interviews conducted Feb. 26-27
  • Teams selected by Feb. 28
  • Kickoff team dinner March 19
  • Accelerator program starts May 16
  • Demo Day Aug. 8

The 2018 Summer Founders Program is provided in partnership with Happy Valley LaunchBox.

Funding for the Summer Founders Program is made possible through the donations of successful alumni entrepreneurs interested in supporting new student ventures. The program does not take ownership or equity in participants’ businesses or nonprofits. All that’s asked is participants commit to working hard on their project for the summer and making an impact in their community.

Matt Brezina, a 2003 Penn State electrical engineering alumnus and founder of Xobni, is one of the donors helping to make the Penn State Summer Founders Program possible. Brezina credits a $12,000 grant he received from Y Combinator, a seed accelerator for early-stage startups, for his success.

“It changed my life,” Brezina told Penn State about the grant. “Since then, I’ve gone on to sell two companies and have been on this crazy trajectory of career growth that never would have happened without that [grant]. I want to give Penn State students that same opportunity that was given to me.”

The Summer Founders Program is open to any Penn State undergraduate or graduate student with an entrepreneurial endeavor. Solo founders are eligible, but teams of two or three people are preferred. Every team must have at least one member that is a Penn State student in good standing in order to be eligible. Teams are expected to work full time on their startup, social good or nonprofit idea, attend weekly dinners, and regularly meet with advisers throughout the program.

For more information about the program, contact Lee Erickson at lerickson@psu.edu  or visit summerfounders.psu.edu.

To learn more about supporting this program through a tax-deductible donation, contact Eric Reinhard at emr124@psu.edu.

To find out if your team is eligible for participating in NSF I-Corps, contact James Delattre at jld141#@psu.edu.

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