Showcasing Start-up Success

Entrepreneurial trailblazers like alumnus Matt Brezina unite at the College of Information Sciences and Technology Start-up Week to encourage students to turn ideas into action.

After graduating from Penn State and relocating to the University of Maryland to work on his Ph.D, Matt Brezina was in the market for a new roommate. His pleading Craigslist ad was answered promptly by MIT graduate Adam Smith, and the two clicked immediately. Through a quick discovery of common entrepreneurial interests, they developed their first software startup company, Xobni, in March 2006. The name―“inbox” spelled backwards and pronounced zob-nee―and concept were created to meet the ever-growing demands of email use.

In just a few short years, the two were hailed by INC magazine as up-and-coming entrepreneurs―and their recognition was well-deserved. Fresh out of college, the dynamic duo created user-friendly software, raised an impressive $14 million to promote and sell their product, and even grabbed the attention of Bill Gates, who demonstrated their product at a Microsoft developers’ conference.

But this was just the beginning. Matt then went on to develop a mobile photo-sharing application company, Sincerely. With the help of one of his Xobni teammates, Sincerely launched in the spring of 2011 with its first product, Postagram, debuting to the public shortly thereafter. There is no doubt that he’s trailblazing an inspiring path for others to follow. 

Start-up Week 2013

Visionary entrepreneurs from around the country, including alumni like Matt Brezina, will be visiting Penn State to share their strategies for success during the College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) 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. The owners and founders of these companies are literally changing the way we work, collaborate, share data and information, and interact socially.

Entrepreneurship isn’t just about making money. It’s about using innovation to solve some of the world’s biggest problems. Penn State believes every student has a contribution to make.

These talented innovators will showcase the possibilities that exist for enterprising students to pursue their business ideas by providing lectures, conducting workshops and "Hacking" sessions, and holding town hall meetings. All presentations and discussions will be video-streamed live and recorded for access to anyone throughout the Pennsylvania. The IST event will involve collaboration with other colleges at Penn State, including the College of Engineering and the Smeal College of Business.

Stoking the Entrepreneurial Spirit

Entrepreneurship isn’t just about making money. It’s about using innovation to solve some of the world’s biggest problems. It’s about improving human welfare. At Penn State, we believe every student has a contribution to make. The trick is unlocking the talent, and one of the best ways to do that is through collaboration. Two dynamic resources for enterprising students are the Innoblue and the Lion Launch Pad. Innoblue, a community of students, advisers and corporate partners, strives to lead and encourage inventive projects that will positively impact Penn State. Student Kathleen Warner will be the Innoblue speaker at IST Start-up Week on Monday, March 18. The Lion Launch Pad provides funding, facilities, and mentoring for entrepreneurial student teams. The College of Engineering Learning Factory provides students with practical applied experience through industry-sponsored and client-based design projects, and the Smeal Penn State Entrepreneurship Network offers business students opportunities like a guest lecture series, networking events, and community partnerships.

An industry representative talks to a student about potential employment.

Spring Career Days

Print your resumes and shine your shoes, it’s Spring Career Days at University Park. On Wednesday and Thursday, March 20 and 21, 2013, thousands of students and employers will occupy the Bryce Jordan Center for Penn State’s spring career fair. Visit the Career Services web site for a list of employers attending and to get tips for a successful career fair experience.

Image: M. Scott Johnson

Other resources are designed to help students and educators. Two such centers explore best practices and how to execute them. At Smeal, the mission of the Farrell Center for Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship (FCFE) is to take the best academic research in innovation and entrepreneurship and translate it into action. And, the Center for Entrepreneurship Learning, a partnership of Smeal, and the College of Education, provides educators both at the collegiate and K–12 level with resources for educating students about entrepreneurship.

IST's Start-up Week is just one of the many events and competitions that brings the real world of innovation to students. Along with College of IST activities, some of these include the interdisciplinary design summit organized by the College of Engineering, Idea Pitch conducted by the Smeal College of Business, Global Entrepreneurship Week held each fall, and multiple Hackathons.




What's a hackathon?

A hackathon is a collaborative coding cram-session for programmers. Usually, they last a few days, and the idea is for each developer to have the freedom to work on whatever he or she wants.

HackPSU is a 24-hour IST-sponsered hackathon at Penn State held in conjunction with Start-up Week and organized by Innoblue. First-place team members will receive an all-expense-paid trip to San Francisco for the Readyforce Innovate weekend, where they will get the red carpet treatment, tour the hottest start-ups in Silicon Vally, meet the founders and venture capitalists, hear interesting talks, and, of course, attend some awesome parties and networking events along with 100 other top hackers from around the country.

Last year's IST hackathon yielded great results. The first-place winner created a RemoteIn, an Android App that allows a user to call back any phone with a voice command. The second-place winner developed aMAZEing, a four-player collaborative 3D puzzle game.