Inc.U Competition

Inc.U Competition Logo

The Inc.U Competition is an undergraduate pitch competition that culminates in “The Investment,” a WPSU Shark Tank-like television production that will be livestreamed during Penn State Startup Week powered by PNC. Student startups will pitch for up to $30,000 in investment dollars for their companies.

Applications for the 2022 Inc.U Competition are closed.

About the Competition

Inc.U began in 2015 as a pilot program funded by a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. It was originally a collaborative effort between the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, Bucknell University, and Penn State to foster undergraduate entrepreneurship.

From 2016-2020, the Inc.U Competition was managed by PennTAP and evolved to become a Penn State program offered in partnership with Invent Penn State and the LaunchBox & Innovation Network. Beginning spring 2022, the Inc.U Competition has been a featured competition as part of Penn State Startup Week powered by PNC.


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

Learn more about the program and how you can apply today

Application Process

There are only three steps to participate in the competition:

  • Determine your eligibility by assuring that your business is based on an original idea and that the team is at least 50% owned by Penn State full-time undergraduate students.
  • Develop a 2.5-minute video and submit that link on the Application Form.
  • If selected as a top-six competitor, prepare and present your presentation.

Finally, don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions or for help.

There is no entry fee to participate. Applications for the 2022 Inc.U Competition are currently closed.


Team size is not limited, but all team members must fulfill a critical role in the company, and the top six pitch competition companies will be limited to two presenters maximum (due in part to the short pitch time).

Full-time Student Status

Inc.U is open to all full-time Penn State students, who are defined for purposes of this competition as undergraduate students enrolled and in good standing in faculty-approved courses with a minimum of 12 credits per semester during the fall 2021 and/or spring 2022 semester (2021/2022 academic year) and attend one of the Penn State campuses within the state of Pennsylvania or otherwise have their business located in Pennsylvania. Fall 2021 graduates are eligible to compete.

Minimum 50% Undergraduate Student Ownership

At all times during the competition, at least 50% of any team must be owned by full-time undergraduate students as defined for purposes of this competition.

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 2022 Inc.U Competition are currently 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.

Final Selection & "The Investment" Taping

Final Selection

The finalists of the competition will be chosen based on the attributes described in the Judging Criteria below. Up to six finalists will be given the opportunity to compete in the taping of the WPSU-TV show called “The Investment.”  These student companies will then compete for a pool of investment dollars.  No equity in the student business will be required to receive an award.

“The Investment” Filming

“The Investment” is a live, Shark Tank–like pitch competition where a maximum of two team members from each of the six finalist teams will have 2.5 minutes to deliver their pitch. Teams will not be allowed to use notes or continue after the allotted time has expired.  A limited amount of slides, props, and prototypes will be allowed. Judges will have five minutes following the pitch to question team members. The judges have complete discretion to award the total investment pool to any, all, or none of the competitors. The total award pool is $30,000. In the event of limitations due to COVID-19, we will pivot to virtual taping. “The Investment” 2021 was done via Zoom and can be watched here.

Judging Criteria

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

Judges will assess each finalist’s…

  • problem definition, market attributes, scalability, revenue model, and the uniqueness, viability, and product-customer fit of the solution
  • team progress, pace, milestones plan, and credibility based on accessible assets
  • explanation and justification for use of funds
  • presentation quality, clarity, and inspiration

Judges will independently score each team, then collaborate on all decisions. All decisions of the judges are final.

Investment Payment Procedures

Company Status: All teams requesting their awarded investment payment, at the time of the request, must be a registered company authorized to do business in the state of Pennsylvania. If you are not a registered company but chosen as an Inc.U Competition finalist, you will receive assistance with the creation of an LLC.

Procedure: All investment awards must be requested by Friday, April 29, 2022, on a form provided for such purpose that requires a general summary of the ordinary and necessary expenses the award investment will be used to finance. In addition, a company W-9 form will be required.  All award requests and payments shall be:

  • initially submitted to the Penn State Inc.U coordinator
  • made out in the business’s name and forwarded using the business’s contact details

In the case of any dispute, the decision of the Inc.U coordinator shall be deemed final.

No equity position in the student company is required for any Inc.U cash award.

Students retain all rights to the materials created and the materials and ideas presented as part of the Inc.U Competition. Student teams should, however, carefully assess the applicability of all intellectual property rights and laws to any and all presentations and disclosures made regarding their business as a result of participation in any activity related to any Inc.U Competition.