IPhone blood tests to pet-proof trashcans: 2018 Summer Founders launch startups

Startup teams from Penn State’s Summer Founders Program pose with Lee Erickson, Chief Amplifier at Happy Valley LaunchBox (far right) during its demo day on Aug. 8. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Innovation flourished during the demo day for Penn State’s Summer Founders Program on Aug. 8 at Happy Valley LaunchBox powered by PNC Bank in State College.

“It’s been great watching the five teams work through the different challenges of starting and growing a business this summer,” said Lee Erickson, chief amplifier at Happy Valley LaunchBox.

A signature program of Invent Penn State, Summer Founders is a 13-week accelerator that provides teams $10,000 in funding, resources and mentorship to accelerate their ideas over the summer. Teams worked full time on their startup, attended weekly dinners and met regularly with advisers throughout the summer.

In order to accelerate the teams, Invent Penn State put together an advisory board made up of individuals with diverse industry and technical backgrounds and years of entrepreneurial experience. Their support, combined with the local entrepreneurs who were guests at weekly dinners, helped the teams move forward and tackle challenges.

Nearly 40 startup teams applied for this year’s Summer Founders Program. The five that were selected came from a variety of fields, and included the following:

  • CastPak is a turnkey solution for high-quality live streaming with the portability of a backpack. Using a Videon Sonora video encoder and mobile broadband router, the company is able to create a live interactive experience for niche communities.
  • EPN Global is building a comprehensive management system for owners of commercial horse farms.
  • Moichor is creating a mobile blood testing application and proprietary test strip that reduces the need for individuals to travel to a lab for routine blood tests.
  • The LiveFirst Company is creating a pet-proof trash can that reduces the occurrences of pet poisonings and prevents pets from tipping over the can.
  • Tutoration is an on-demand tutoring service that connects students to qualified and vetted tutors who have taken the class at the same university. 

Watch the 2018 Invent Penn State Summer Founders Program demo day at Happy Valley LaunchBox. This live stream was produced by the Summer Founders Program team and Penn State startup CastPak. Credit: Invent Penn State

Below, several Summer Founders talk about their experiences.

Derek Barnett (class of 2018, biology), cofounder of Tutoration

“It has been an incredible opportunity to work side-by-side with the other summer founders and the LaunchBox team," said Barnett. "With the help of Summer Founders, Tutoration has developed from a fun hobby into a functioning and growing business. I cannot be happier with the skills, knowledge, and people I have met throughout this program."

Jack Mentch (junior, electrical engineering), cofounder of CastPak

“The Summer Founders Program is an unparalleled opportunity," said Mentch. "From the connections to mentors, to the advice from business leaders. Applying to SFP was the single most rewarding decision I have ever made — I am forever grateful to have been a part of it.”

Ben Cutler (junior, industrial engineering), cofounder of CastPak

“You don’t often get handed $10,000 and the opportunity to pursue your idea," said Cutler. "Invent Penn State and the Happy Valley LaunchBox have provided the resources for us to mature both as a company and as young entrepreneurs.”

Shevy Karbasi (­senior, biology), founder of Moichor

“Being in the Summer Founders program gave us a novel opportunity to work on Moichor full time, allowing us to grow our network, further develop our product and learn essential things along the way," said Karbasi.

Jobe Matula (sophomore, marketing, World Campus), founder of the LiveFirst Company

“Through the Summer Founders Program, we have been able to establish a definite path to market, attract a network of advisers and add valuable members to the team," said Matula. "This experience has been invaluable and our successes would not have been possible without it.”

The 2018 Summer Founders Program is provided in partnership with Happy Valley LaunchBox. Funding is made possible through the donations of successful alumni entrepreneurs interested in supporting new student ventures.

The program does not take ownership or equity in participants’ businesses or nonprofits. All that’s asked is participants commit to working hard on their project for the summer and making an impact in their community.

The Summer Founders Program is open to any Penn State undergraduate or graduate student with an entrepreneurial endeavor. Solo founders are eligible, but teams of two or three people are preferred. Every team must have at least one member that is a Penn State student in good standing in order to be eligible. For more information about the program, visit

For more information about LaunchBox visit

Last Updated September 04, 2020