UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Five new startups launched by community and student entrepreneurs graduated from Happy Valley LaunchBox powered by PNC Bank’s FastTrack Accelerator. The startup ideas spanned concepts including a battery-charging laptop case, a better way to prevent tick bites, and an application called Scratchwork that allows users to turn paper drawings into digital workspaces.
Startup teams met weekly starting in November 2019, but switched to a virtual cohort during spring 2020 due to COVID-19.
As part of the program, each team received no-cost workspace at Happy Valley LaunchBox, 1-on-1 mentoring, no-cost legal and intellectual property advice, and access to additional funding for interns, prototyping and market testing. The program helped the teams test both their assumptions and the market while avoiding common and costly startup mistakes.
Happy Valley LaunchBox Chief Amplifier Lee Erickson said it was great to see so many community members taking advantage of the program this year.
The 2019-20 FastTrack Accelerator Teams include:
- First Defense Athletics designs athletic gear made to help protect kids from the effects of Lyme’s disease by preventing bites from ticks and insects that carry Lyme, with built-in, proven, Insect Shield protection from biting insects.
- Market Jumpstart helps first-time entrepreneurs, who are struggling to get their business off the ground, test their product ideas on real customers within 48 hours. Their online step-by-step guide and instructional videos break down complex market tests into digestible and actionable steps.
- Scratchwork is an app enabling users to take a picture of their handwritten notes or drawings on a smartphone or laptop camera, and have it immediately recreated digitally. In addition to digitizing the notes or drawings, Scratchwork makes each individual shape and scribble interactive, allowing the user to move and resize elements of the drawing as if they were originally drawn on a tablet.
- XtraLyfe, meant for middle managers who supervise traveling workforces spending more than 20% of their time on the road, helps reduce lost and delayed work products due to limited laptop battery life. The custom fit case provides four times normal battery life.
- Office Yum is a virtual cafeteria for companies located in rural areas without on-site food service or affordable local delivery options. The partnership with local restaurants helps keep costs down for employees ordering food, and is, on average, 88% less costly for employers than building and resourcing a cafeteria.
Scratchwork founder and State College community member John Stogin said the program helped him complete vital customer discovery for his product and walk away with a better understanding of his target market. He learned about the complex decision-making process academic institutions must go through before they adopt a new educational software like Scratchwork.
“I really appreciate the fact that these resources are available to community members,” Stogin said. “The stuff that I’ve been doing through FastTrack would be so much harder if I didn’t have these resources. I think it makes State College a much more interesting place.”
Erickson said the FastTrack Accelerator is ideal for entrepreneurs who have a clear idea of the problem they’re trying to solve, think they know who their customers are, and are ready to build a solution to test the market.
“Our program helps you understand the milestones, or the steps, needed to validate your business idea. They’re applicable across any industry,” Erickson said. “Once you start to learn that process, you can keep applying it to any entrepreneurial project.”
FastTrack Accelerator 2020-21 applications are due Oct. 11. Happy Valley LaunchBox will have two information sessions, one on Sept. 16 and one on Oct. 6, for people who want to learn more about the program and ask questions. More information is available on the Happy Valley LaunchBox website.