UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - On Monday, April 17, Penn State Startup Week will kick off a weeklong showcase of entrepreneurs and innovators on the University Park campus. Entering its first year as a campus-wide event, the initiative is an expansion of the College of Information Sciences and Technology’s “IST Startup Week,” which the college created in 2012.
Throughout the week, students, faculty, staff and community members can participate in more than 85 unique events focused on teaching, motivating, and inspiring attendees on how to get started with their entrepreneurial ideas. The inaugural week’s events will encapsulate the theme of overcoming perceived barriers to startup success — such as not knowing how to run a company or believing that an idea already exists — and offer encouragement on how to simply get started.
“Penn State Startup Week will build on the University’s continuing efforts to foster innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Penn State president Eric J. Barron. “Our goal is to inspire students to pursue entrepreneurial careers and to equip them with the resources and tools they need to succeed.”
Nine academic colleges and two administrative units have planned events that will connect entrepreneurship across a broad collection of disciplines and industries. Events are organized into six thematic tracks, five of which represent priorities in Penn State’s Strategic Plan for 2016 to 2020: Advancing the Arts and Humanities, Driving Digital Innovation, Enhancing Health, Stewarding Our Planet’s Resources, and Transforming Education. The sixth track — Impacting the World — explores innovation as it relates to the University’s growing global engagement and influence.
Within each track, attendees can participate in workshops, mentoring sessions, and student pitch competitions; connect with entrepreneurs at networking events; sit in on presentations given by leading industry innovators, including nearly 30 Penn State alumni; and much more.
“Startup Week demonstrates Penn State’s commitment to exploring innovation and providing opportunities for students across the University to gain knowledge from industry leaders that can help support and advance their entrepreneurial passions,” said Andrew Sears, dean of the College of Information Sciences and Technology. “We are excited to see Startup Week expand to engage a broader audience and strengthen the University’s Invent Penn State initiative.”
Several tracks will be hosting pitch competitions throughout the week to help students fine-tune their startup idea by presenting to a panel of expert judges. Many of the competitions include awards such as seed funding, access to resources, and experiential prizes including trips to entrepreneurial conferences.
“Penn State Startup Week provides the ideal setting for students to test and refine their ideas, and to take them to the next level. Plus, the interaction with industry leaders and cross-disciplinary teams is a unique, educational and enjoyable experience for all,“ Barron added.
Monday through Thursday will see a variety of track-specific events across the University Park campus that explore entrepreneurship related to each track’s theme. Speakers include thought leaders from Weebly, Dell, General Motors, Verizon Wireless, General Electirc, The Players’ Tribune, MoneyThink, Beck Ag, Keen Home, and experts from a variety of Penn State initiatives including Happy Valley Launchbox and Lion LaunchPad.
On Thursday evening, the top teams from each track’s student pitch competitions will gather at Pegula Ice Arena for a special reception with Startup Week speakers, President Barron, and other University administrators. Student teams will have the opportunity to showcase their work and receive additional feedback.
The final day of Penn State Startup Week concludes on Friday, April 21, with a series of keynote addresses from entrepreneurial leaders in retail, digital marketing, education, web and software development, and social media. Featured speakers will discuss how they addressed their own fears and obstacles in order to achieve startup success, and provide insight on how others can pursue their entrepreneurial goals.
Beginning at 11:30 a.m. on Friday in the HUB-Robeson Center’s Alumni Hall, guests can engage with featured speakers before the day’s presentations begin. Friday’s schedule includes sessions with these Penn State graduates and business leaders:
- 11:30 a.m. – Speaker meet and greet
- Noon -- Jerome Griffith, 1979, CEO and president of Lands’ End
- 12:45 p.m. - Eric Franchi, 1998, co-founder of Undertone, on his “Lessons Learned Building a $100 Million Startup”
- 1:30 p.m. - An entrepreneurial panel focused on what entrepreneurs wish they knew before getting started, including:
- Jake Poliskin, 2015, associate, Mark Cuban Companies
- Jake Stein, CEO and co-founder, Stitch
- Richard White, founder and CEO, UserVoice
- Anne Zummo Malone, 2001, chief of schools, AppleTree Early Learning Public Charter School
- 2:15 p.m. – David Rusenko, 2007, co-founder and CEO of Weebly
- 2:45 p.m. - Steve Huffman, CEO of Reddit, and co-founder of Hipmunk
All events during Penn State Startup Week are open to the public and many events, including Friday’s keynote presentations, will be livestreamed on the Startup Week website.
Penn State Startup Week is an evolution of IST’s original event, which was created to celebrate a $400,000 gift to support student entrepreneurs from David Rusenko, 2007. The gift — the largest from a graduate in the college's history — created the "David Rusenko Emerging Entrepreneur Scholarship" and the "David Rusenko Entrepreneur-in-Residence Scholarship," both of which continue to 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 StartupWeek.psu.edu. Participants can engage with speakers and ask questions by following @PSUStartupWeek on Twitter and using #PennStateStartup on social media.