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The Summer Founders Program helps 6 student startups grow

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pennsylvania – The Inventing the Penn State Founders Summer Programa 13-week student startup accelerator, concluded with a startup showcase on August 10, where each team pitched their startup and answered questions from the audience of members of the local entrepreneurial community.

The Summer Founders Program provided selected teams with a $15,000 grant to work full-time on their startup, social good, or nonprofit idea during the summer. Teams had 24/7 access to Happy Valley LaunchBox powered by PNC Bank in the Eric J. Barron Innovation Hubmentorship from a network of over 60 advisors and $3,000 for client discovery across the Inventing the Penn State NSF I-Corps Program.

“Happy Valley LaunchBox is proud to be a part of the growth these startups have experienced throughout the program,” said Elizabeth Hay, Jack White Family Director of Happy Valley LaunchBox. “We are grateful to have helped teach valuable skills – such as identifying product market fit, branding and marketing, and creating a sustainable business model for a company – to the next generation of entrepreneurs.”

The program returned to an in-person format after going virtual last summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s cohort included students from three Penn State campuses as well as Penn State graduate school. Teams participated in a wide range of activities in and around the State College area, including field trips to learn about local businesses, a scavenger hunt around campus and downtown to learn about available start-up resources and State College history, and weekly dinners with program advisors. , mentors and entrepreneurs.

Additionally, the teams showcased their startups under the Happy Valley LaunchBox tent at this year’s Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, as well as at the 3 point stop at Pugh Street.

“I would absolutely encourage as many students as possible to get involved in the Summer Founders program,” said CarToCamp co-founder Nathan Bonslaver. “It’s a unique opportunity to work on your ideas with professional advice from people who have done it before you.”

Grants have been awarded to the following teams:

  • AIMADETHIS — A startup that aims to use the power of artificial intelligence to inform current fashion trends in color and pattern to create designs that are then dyed in small batches and cut and sewn into high-end garments quality. The startup’s founders are Nisarga Kadam, a fourth-year student studying social data analytics, and Yasmeen Collins, a graduate student studying computer science and machine learning at Columbia University.
  • The Ballet Scout — A subscription database for dancers to find auditions, training programs and jobs based on their budget, housing needs, location, style and available dates. The startup’s founders are Robert Fulton, a Penn State World Campus student studying business, management, marketing, and related support services, Sasha Ahrestani, a 2021 computer science alumnus, and Eugene Ryoo, a former 2022 student in cybersecurity analysis and operations.
  • CarToCamp — A startup that creates universally suitable sleeping platforms for car camping that ship to the customer’s door and can be assembled and installed without tools. The founders of the startup are Nathan Bonslaver, a 2022 Penn State Berks alumnus, Robert Miller, a 2019 Penn State Berks alumnus, and Kevin Gulick, a 2020 Penn State Berks alumnus. The three founders have studied mechanical engineering.
  • Clove and Sprig — A startup that creates handcrafted, seasonal, small-batch candles with wooden wicks that allow for a longer burn time, cleaner burn, and stronger scent than other retail candles. The startup’s founder is Kelsey Lauer, a third-year advertising student.
  • Hey! — A voice-only dating platform that introduces streamlined and innovative matchmaking processes using search criteria and interests to instantly find a nearby partner to talk to via one-to-one live voice chat . The startup’s founders are Kevin Lord Josue, a 2022 Penn State Graduate School engineering management alumnus, and Vaillant Domingue III, an undergraduate at the University of Connecticut studying accounting.
  • ImaniK Travels, LLC — A consultation-based service that educates, reduces risk, plans and executes guided international trips to make travel more accessible to young students of color. The founder of the startup is Imani Murray, who graduated in Materials Science Engineering and Chinese Language in 2022.

To see more startups affiliated with Penn State, visit StartupNavigator.psu.edu. To find more resources for student entrepreneurs, visit ResourceNavigator.psu.edu.

Support the Founders Summer Program

Seed funding for the Summer Founders Program is made possible through donations from successful alumni entrepreneurs interested in supporting new student ventures. If you are interested in donating to the Summer Founders Program, please contact Penn State Director of Strategic Initiatives Development Heather Winfield at [email protected]. For more information about the program, visit invent.psu.edu/programs/summer-founders-program.

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