IST to host second annual Start-up Week March 18 to 23

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) at Penn State is pleased to announce it will host its second annual Start-up Week from March 18 to 23.

To generate excitement around the event, the Start-up Week student committee is holding a Countdown to Start-up Week today (Feb. 19) in the IST Building, second floor east hallway from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be games and activities to encourage participants to learn about Start-up Week and its special guests. The public is welcome to attend the festivities, and enjoy treats and fun giveaways.

Visionary entrepreneurs from around the country, including alumni from the College of IST, will be visiting Penn State to share their strategies for success during Start-up Week. This year’s event will feature more than 25 speakers and visitors from trailblazing companies such as Weebly, Reddit, Sincerely, Dropbox, Scribd, Social Cam and SongSplits.

Start-up Week was conceived by the College of IST in 2012 to be a celebration to highlight the success of young entrepreneurs and innovators in technology and security, and to showcase the possibilities that exist for enterprising students in the College of IST to pursue their business ideas.

The inaugural Start-up Week drew a dozen speakers representing high-profile companies like Reddit, CareerBliss, Sincerely and Weebly. They shared their career success stories with the Penn State community, and engaged with students through networking events and workshops.

“Because of the original Start-up Week’s success and the high level of interest generated throughout the University, we elected to conduct a sequel  that is even bigger and better than the original,” said David Hall, dean of the College of IST.   

The speakers for this year’s Start-up Week will provide lectures in IST classes; conduct workshops and hacking sessions; interact with students, faculty and staff; and hold town hall meetings. All presentations and discussions will be video streamed live and recorded for access through Justin.tv. The event will involve collaboration with other colleges, including the College of Engineering, the Smeal College of Business and the College of Agricultural Sciences.

“The owners and founders of these companies are literally changing the way we work, collaborate, share data and information, and interact socially,” Hall said.

In addition to highlighting and celebrating the success of Penn State alumni and friends, Start-up Week provides an opportunity to showcase a number of entrepreneurship initiatives at Penn State. Ongoing activities and plans at Penn State include a new inter-college minor in entrepreneurship; the Lion Launch Pad, which provides funding, facilities and mentoring for entrepreneurial student teams; Innoblue, a Penn State student organization that seeks to connect people with resources to accelerate development and commercialization of ideas; the College of Engineering Learning Factory, which provides students with practical hands-on experience through industry sponsored and client-based design project; and the Smeal College of Business Farrell Center for Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship.     

The original Start-up Week was motivated in part by the celebration surrounding a $400,000 scholarship gift provided to IST by David Rusenko (a 2007 IST graduate) who started Weebly, a San Francisco-based startup that offers free, easy-to-use website building tools. The donation, which is the largest gift to the college from an IST alumnus in its 13-year history, established the David Rusenko Entrepreneur-in-Residence Scholarship and the David Rusenko Emerging Entrepreneur Scholarship.

More than 10 million people have created a website with Weebly, and 12 percent of the U.S. population visits a Weebly website every month. Weebly was named one of Time’s 50 best websites of 2007, and has been featured in Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur and Inc. magazines, as well as on NBC and the BBC. In December 2011, Rusenko was named to Forbes' "30 under 30: Social/Mobile," a list of influential under-30-year-olds in the social media and mobile industries. He received the Alumni Achievement Award from the Penn State Alumni Association in 2010, becoming the youngest recipient of that award and the first recipient from IST.

“I had an amazing time interacting with students at last year’s Start-up Week,” Rusenko said. “I’m excited to return to the College of IST and help encourage more aspiring entrepreneurs to pursue their passions.”

In addition to Rusenko, Start-up Week will feature a number of other entrepreneurs who will share their perspectives on building cutting-edge businesses and products in today’s technology market.

Making a return appearance is Steve Huffman, co-founder of reddit.com, a social news site and one of the largest communities online. Reddit, which is based in San Francisco and was co-founded by Alexis Ohanian, was initially funded by Y Combinator in 2005 and has grown to more than 3 billion page-views per month. Reddit was acquired by Condé Nast Publications in October 2006.

In 2010, Huffman co-founded Hipmunk, a travel search site that aims to take the agony out of finding plane tickets and hotels online. Hipmunk has been named to Time’s Top 50 Websites and Top 10 Smart-Phone Apps. Huffman was named to Inc. magazine's “30 under 30” in 2011 and Forbes’  “30 under 30” in 2012.

Tikhon Bernstam, co-founder of Scribd and Parse, will be making his first appearance at Start-up Week. Scribd is the world's largest document sharing site and is a Top 100 most-visited site on the Internet. Scribd is sometimes called the "YouTube for Documents" and lets users upload, share and embed documents of almost any format. Companies like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Techcrunch use Scribd to embed documents into their websites. Through several rounds of venture-capital funding, Bernstam helped raise more than $25 million for Scribd.

Another newcomer to Start-up Week is Justin Kan, CEO and founder of Exec, an on-demand, errand-running service that allows anyone to arrange from a mobile phone to have his or her errands run. Kan is also the president and co-founder of TwitchTV, an online community of 20 million monthly active users watching and broadcasting video gaming videos. TwitchTV was developed as a product of Justin.tv, a live broadcasting site that Kan cofounded in 2006. Using only a laptop, people can share an event, class or party, live, to anyone in more than 250 countries while they chat in real-time with other viewers. One new live video starts each second on Justin.tv, and users watch more than 300 million videos every month.

For more information about Start-up Week, visit http://ist.psu.edu/startup.

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Last Updated April 24, 2013