Aspiring entrepreneurs to pitch ideas in cross-college competition

As Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) prepares for its third annual Start-up Week on April 4-11, students across the University will once again have the opportunity to hear the stories of successful young entrepreneurs and innovators in the technology field. As part of Start-up Week, aspiring entrepreneurs at Penn State will have a chance to pitch their ideas for cutting-edge technology solutions in a cross-college competition.

“The objective of the competition is to encourage and facilitate the building of cross-college teams that work together to tackle a ‘big’ problem that leverages information technology as part of the solution, said Lee Erickson, a lecturer at the College of IST who is organizing the contest. “The teams will take that idea from concept to viable business model.”

The first IdeaMaker Challenge, hosted by the College of IST, will be held in conjunction with Start-up Week. The IST IdeaMaker Challenge is designed to facilitate cross-college collaboration among innovation-minded students at Penn State. The challenge is open to all undergraduate students, regardless of major, who are currently enrolled in Penn State and are in good standing.

The IdeaMaker Challenge is open to teams of two to five members, representing at least two different colleges at Penn State. Teams must identify a problem, conceptualize a solution that leverages information technology, and build a viable business model for launching a start-up business. IdeaMaker teams will work with Penn State alumni mentors who have entrepreneurial backgrounds and expertise to develop and advance their ideas. During Startup Week, select teams will have the opportunity to pitch their ideas and proposed solutions to a panel of judges. The top three teams will be recognized and prizes will be awarded. Teams making it through the semi-final round will have five minutes to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges beginning at 5:30 p.m. April 9, in 113 IST Building (Cybertorium).

Teams participating in the IdeaMaker Challenge must devise technological solutions to tackle a problem in one of three categories: the mobile enterprise (anything that could help an organization increase productivity, connect workers to critical data regardless of their location, enable faster decision-making, and facilitate real-time collaboration across the enterprise); green technology (technology that is intended to mitigate or reverse the effects of human activity on the environment); or social entrepreneurship, which focuses on creating and sustaining social value as a key component of a business model.

“Start-up Week is a celebration of entrepreneurs at all stages of their journey,” Erickson said. “The IdeaMaker Challenge is a great showcase for entrepreneurial-minded students who want to start exploring new opportunities and who want to get some hands-on experiences with what entrepreneurship is all about.”

A kick-off session, which will include help building teams, will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 18, in room 101 Thomas Building. The application deadline to compete in the IST IdeaMaker Challenge is midnight March 22. For more information, visit or email

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Last Updated March 19, 2014