Penn State Startup Week set for April 1-5

Jordan Ford
March 25, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — From brain training to beverages, and financial services to fashion magazines, numerous innovative thought-leaders will share their entrepreneurial experiences with students during Penn State Startup Week from April 1-5.

Now in its third year as a University-wide initiative, Penn State Startup Week is a weeklong celebration of entrepreneurship that connects participants with Penn State’s vast network of resources aimed at driving innovation in all fields. Events include presentations from startup founders and corporate innovators, idea development workshops and mentoring sessions, an entrepreneurial resource fair, and pitch competitions where teams can compete for project support and experiential prizes.

“Startup Week brings together Penn State’s best and brightest — undergraduates, graduates, alumni entrepreneurs and corporate innovators, and highly engaged faculty and staff,” said James Delattre, assistant vice president for research and director of the Office of Entrepreneurship and Commercialization. “Our broad-based committee has demonstrated the belief that everyone owns innovation at Penn State. We are fortunate to sit at the nexus of so many change makers. Each Startup Week tops the last, and this year will not disappoint.”

A complete listing of the week’s events can be found on the Startup Week website. Most events are open to the public and many events will be livestreamed online.

Plenary Sessions

Highlighting the week are a series of keynote panels that will showcase innovators who are making an impact at different stages in their careers. Each panel will be held from 6-7:30 p.m. in 110 Business Building on the University Park campus and will be followed by a reception sponsored by Corning for guests to network with panelists and campus leaders. The keynote events include:

“Someday is Today: Getting Started in Entrepreneurship” — Monday, April 1

Innovators who are at the beginning of their entrepreneurial journey will share tips and lessons learned from their experiences in getting started during this keynote panel, presented by IBM. Panelists include:

  • Matt Roda, Penn State Class of 2020 — chief marketing officer, Reflexion Interactive Technologies
  • Aniyia Williams, Penn State class of 2007 — founder, TINSEL, and co-founder, Black and Brown Founders
  • Matt Woods, Penn State class of 2015 — chief technology officer, Xact Metal, Inc.

"The Entrepreneur’s Journey: Learning from Successes and Setbacks” — Tuesday, April 2

Individuals who have sustained success in innovation will share wisdom, advice and pitfalls to avoid with those pursuing their own entrepreneurial goals during this keynote panel, presented by M&T Bank Technology. Panelists include:

  • Hillary Murray, Penn State class of 2008 — founder and CEO, Lumi Organics
  • Nova Lorraine — founder and editor-in-chief, Raine Magazine
  • Rich Thompson — managing partner, Factory LLC

"Innovation Happens Everywhere: Intrapreneurship in Established Organizations” — Wednesday, April 3

 Intrapreneurs and corporate innovators will share how individuals can innovate within their roles within large, established organizations during this keynote panel, presented by EY. Panelists include:

  • Francine Grant, Penn State class of 1987 — head of Global Innovation Activations, VISA
  • Elizabeth King, Penn State class of 1979 — former vice president, Global Human Resources Solutions and Services, Starbucks
  • Nicki Palmer, Penn State class of 1990 — senior vice president/chief network engineering officer and head of wireless networks, Verizon

“We are honored to host so many of Penn State’s inspired doers, both the panelists and the sponsors,” said Delattre. “These busy founders and corporate partners are so generous with their time, and students benefit immeasurably from the time they spend with them.”

Additional sponsorship support has been provided by Ford Motor Company and Leidos.

Pitch Competitions and 3-Day Sustainability Mini Challenge

The week also will feature several competitions that challenge students to find innovative solutions to common problems or present new startup ideas to panels of expert judges, including a 3-Day Mini-Challenge that will task participants with prototyping and presenting a solution for a common campus sustainability issue. Many of the competitions include awards such as seed funding, access to resources, and experiential prizes, including trips to entrepreneurial conferences.

On Thursday evening, April 4, the top teams from each competition will gather at Pegula Ice Arena at University Park for an invitation-only reception with Startup Week speakers, Penn State President Eric Barron and other University administrators. During the event, which is presented by Lockheed Martin, student teams will have the opportunity to showcase their work and gain additional feedback.

Startup Market

On Monday, April 1, a student-organized resource fair will showcase the abundant University resources available to support individuals interested in entrepreneurship and innovation. “Startup Market: A One-Stop Shop for All Things Entrepreneurial” will be held from 4-6 p.m. in 110 Business Building. The free event will feature information about academic opportunities, entrepreneurial resources, startups, and student-led initiatives from nearly two dozen organizations.

About Penn State Startup Week

Startup Week events teach, motivate and inspire attendees to make innovation a part of their careers, whether it’s by starting their own companies or bringing an entrepreneurial mindset to established organizations. Through close collaboration with existing University programs, community partners and Invent Penn State, events also expose guests to the larger innovation ecosystem that exists throughout Penn State and in the surrounding communities.

The weeklong event first was held in 2012 as IST Startup Week, which the College of Information Sciences and Technology designed to expose its students to unique career paths in the tech industry. IST’s original event was launched to celebrate a $400,000 gift to support student entrepreneurs from David Rusenko, a 2007 Penn State graduate, who founded the website creation platform Weebly with two classmates while a Penn State student. The gift — the largest from an IST graduate in the college's history — created two scholarships that help IST students launch their own companies while they are still in school.

For detailed information on Penn State Startup Week, including the full week’s schedule, visit Participants can engage with speakers and ask questions by following @PSUStartupWeek on Twitter and using #PennStateStartup or #BeGreater on social media.

Last Updated March 26, 2019