Inc.U Competition

Kickstart Your Business

Six undergraduate teams from across the commonwealth will compete for a $30,000 cash investment pool and be provided support specially designed to help their startups gain traction including business mentors, professionally designed marketing videos, and showcase opportunities. The winners will be announced during Penn State Startup Week powered by PNC in March.

Applications for the 2023 Inc.U Competition are closed. Check back in fall 2023 for more information.


About the Competition

Inc.U is a signature program of Invent Penn State and an annual showcase of student innovation across the Commonwealth. Every spring, the Inc.U Competition awards up to $30,000 in funding to the top six student startup teams at the culminating pitch event that takes place during Penn State Startup Week powered by PNC. This funding coupled with ongoing pitch training and startup support services enables student entrepreneurs to take the next step in turning their daydream into a reality.


6 Student Startups
4 Judges
$30,000 in Funding
1 Epic Pitch Competition

Key Dates

Virtual Information Session: January 19, 2023

Video Submissions Due: February 5, 2023

Finalists Announced: February 13, 2023

Live Finalist Presentations: March 18, 2023

Recognition Reception: March, 23, 2023

Learn more about the program. Applications for 2023 are closed.

Application Process

Each team should submit one video about their idea. The video should cover the following. Creativity is encouraged!

  • The problem you want to solve and why it is important.
  •  How you plan to solve the problem.
  • Why you are passionate about this topic, and
  • Provide some information about your team.

From these video submissions, a select number of teams will be chosen for an in-person interview. From this interview pool, six teams will be selected to compete in the finalist event. The finalist event will be a live event in March, held on Saturday, March 18, 2023, and will kick-off Startup Week powered by PNC. These six teams compete for a $30,000 cash investment pool. Finalist teams will also be provided other services specifically designed to help their start-ups gain traction, such as business mentors, a professionally designed marketing video, access to prior winners and plenty of opportunities to showcase their teams and their idea.

All finalist teams must have a legal entity and EIN number. If a team does not already have a legal entity established at the time of application, they MUST start the process immediately following their notification as a finalist team. These teams will be provided legal support to assist in the process through the Penn State Law Entrepreneur Assistance Clinic.

There is no entry fee to participate. Submitting an application includes agreeing to the competition’s rules and procedures, as well as allowing Inc.U and its organizers to use photographs, video and materials presented during the pitch as promotional materials.


Eligible Penn State students are those that have full-time, undergraduate status at the time of application, and attend one of the campuses located within the state of Pennsylvania or have a PA based company. Full-time status is considered a minimum of 12 credits per semester. Students must also be in good standing at the time of the application and remain so throughout the competition.

Eligible companies are that that are owned 51% or more by one or more Eligible PSU students and must be registered to do business in PA. All entries must have a legal entity to be given cash investment. If your team does not already have a legal entity, you MUST begin this process immediately following your notification that you have been selected as a finalist team.

Excluded companies are companies that been selected for prior Inc.U awards or have raised more than $100,000 from institutional investors. Teams that have participated in Inc.U in the past, but did not win a cash award, are still eligible to compete.

Application Form & Deadline

Teams are required to submit an online Application Form. The Application Form, in addition to team contact information and agreement with the competition’s rules and procedures, also includes a release allowing Inc.U and its organizers to use photographs, videos, and materials presented during the pitch as promotional materials.

Applications for the 2023 Inc.U Competition are closed. Entry is deemed to be made by submitting a completed Entry Form together with a working link to an accessible pitch video.

All declarations made on the application are subject to review.

Presentation and Judging Criteria

Finalist presentations are to be held live at University Park on a Saturday, March 18, 2023. Teams are expected to be present during the day the Friday prior for practice pitches and competition briefings. Those teams needing to travel from other campuses, lodging and travel costs will be covered for your participation.

Team size, for the purpose of participation in Inc.U, is limited to TWO individuals, who must also both be Eligible PSU students. Presentation to the judges is limited to ONE presenter, although both team members can be available to answer judges questions.

Presentation time will be limited to 2.5 minutes with a limited amount of slides. No prototypes and props may be used during the presentation.

Judging criteria will evaluate student presentations based on the overall goal of the Inc.U Competition and in alignment with the Invent Penn State initiative to promote economic development, job creation and student success.

Criteria will include, but may not be limited to:

  • Clarity of problem definition
  • Uniqueness and viability of the solution
  • Market attributes and scalability
  • Team progress and credibility
  • Explanation and justification for use of funds
  • Quality of presentation and Q&A

Judges will independently score and then collaborate on all decisions. Judges decisions are final. Judges have complete discretion on how the investment pool is distributed to the finalist teams.

Payment of Cash Awards

All cash awards will be made out to the company, therefore award requests can only be submitted one a legal entity is established and one the company has been approved for payment through the PSU procurement process. Cash awards must be specifically requested by the company selected for an award. These requests should be made as soon as possible following the competition, and no payment is guaranteed for any team making their award requests after June 1 of that year. For teams who also need to establish their legal entity and EIN number, they should do so immediately after they are announced as a finalist to ensure payment is able to be made in a timely manner.

No equity position is taken as a result of these cash awards.

Intellectual Property

Students retain all rights to the materials created and ideas presented at Inc.U. Student teams should carefully assess the applicability of all IP rights and laws to any and all presentations and disclosures made during the Inc.U competition.