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Eberly College of Science ‘Impacting the World’ at Startup Week

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23 April 2018


As Penn State launched its first University wide Startup Week, the College of Information Sciences and Technology and nine other colleges came together to organize more than 85 events in six thematic tracks, five of which represented priorities of the University’s Strategic Plan for 2016 to 2020. The Eberly College of Science, partnering with the Smeal College of Business, the College of the Liberal Arts, and the College of Engineering, created a sixth track—Impacting the World— exploring the relationship between innovation and Penn State’s growing global engagement and influence, with special focus on social entrepreneurship.

PSU Startup Week speaker

“We’ve heard many faculty within the college say, ‘I don’t care about making money; I just want this to get out to people,’” said Melissa Long, who coordinated the college’s contributions to Impacting the World. “But nothing runs without money. So how do you have a business with a conscience and a higher purpose? That’s exactly what social entrepreneurship is about.”

Millennial social entrepreneur Ted Gonder—cofounder and CEO of the social venture Moneythink and the youngest member of Forbes’ “30 under 30” for finance—kicked off the track’s speaking events, which included the Center for Cultural Studies & Analysis’ Director Margaret King and Senior Analyst Jamie O’Boyle, as well as Verizon Wireless’s Director of Digital Marketing Shannon Calvert and Head of Digital Partner Strategy Melissa Mackey.

PSU Startup Week auditorium

Students competed in a week-long Social Innovation Challenge—pitching their ideas for new social ventures in 60 seconds or less, then discussing briefly, voting for their favorites, and self-selecting teams of three to five members each for the seven winning pitches. With little more than two days to fully develop their pitches, the teams were given collaborative workspace at Penn State’s startup incubator Happy Valley Launchbox and free time with business mentors, including Ted Gonder, Margaret King, and Jamie O’Boyle, as well as non-profit economic development group Assets PA’s Director of Programs Jonathan Coleman, digital publishing and distribution platform Flip Learning’s founder Chris Spielvogel, and Penn State’s Harbaugh Entrepreneurship Scholar Mark Gagnon. The students then filmed their final, five-minute pitches in Penn State’s One Button Studio in the Pollock Building Media Commons and uploaded them to YouTube, where they were judged in the final pitch competition. The top three teams were invited, along with the winning teams from the other tracks, to a recognition ceremony that evening at Pegula Ice Arena, where they presented their startup ideas to the University community. Penn State President Eric Barron spoke at the event, commending the students’ efforts. “This week has shown what’s possible when Penn State alumni, students, and professionals put their innovative ideas to work,” he said.

Looking back on the event, Long applauded the participants. “These kids are superstars!” she exclaimed. “They had two days—during classes—to do this stuff, and the next week was finals week. They gave so much time and dedication, and I was blown away by how much they could do in those two days. It was incredible, phenomenal! And I think our judges—Bernice Jones, Matt Rhodes, Jim Petropaulo—were really demonstrative of how individuals are promoting the culture of entrepreneurship at Penn State. Just being willing to come here and help, I think that sends a really powerful message. And this is just the beginning! It’s only going to get bigger and better, so I think that’s a pretty awesome start.” —Seth Palmer

Startup Week 2018 is scheduled for March 26–30