Inc.U Competition

Kickstart Your Business

Six undergraduate teams from across the commonwealth compete for a $30,000 cash investment pool. Finalist teams receive other 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 open Jan. 1, 2024.

Watch the 11/30 Info Session Recording

2023 Finalist Teams & Winners

  • Bindr is an all-inclusive dating app that provides a safe online space for bisexual individuals. The startup is founded by Mary Richardson, a business student at Penn State York. The startup was awarded $15,000.
  • TDAY Sports is a startup that gives Generation Z sports content catered to their interests and social platform usage. The startup is founded by Justin Leusner, a student in the Smeal College of Business. The startup was awarded $10,000.
  • BeyondClass is a centralized hub that provides college students easy and fair access to opportunities such as scholarships, networking, and career boosting competitions. The startup is founded by students Stella Cho, College of the Liberal Arts, Daniel Lee, Eberly College of Science and College of Information Sciences and Technology, and Charlie Kim, College of Engineering. The startup was awarded $2,500.
  • Chirp Alert is an innovative application providing reliable news in challenging African environments. The startup is founded by College of Engineering students Eric Leon, Jamie Kantorczyk and Sonika Kohli. The startup was awarded $2,500.
  • Vera uses the latest technology to prepare college students for landing a job after graduation. Members of Vera include College of Engineering students Yaj Dewan, Omer Kandemir, Stephen Leshko and Omar Rady. The startup was awarded $2,500 for the People’s Choice award, sponsored by the College of Engineering Entrepreneurship program.
  • Solis is a user-friendly cloud computing platform. The startup is founded by Nico Symer, a student in the College of Information Sciences and Technology.

Curious to know what it’s like being a student startup founder? Hear from the experiences of the 2022 Inc.U winners.

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

Key Dates

Virtual Information Session: November 30, 2023, Watch recording

Video Submissions Due: January 19, 2024

Finalists Announced: February 2, 2024

Live Finalist Presentations: March 16, 2024

Recognition Reception: March 21, 2024

Learn more about the program. Applications for the 2024 Inc.U Competition open Jan. 1, 2024.

Application Process

Each team should submit one 2–3-minute 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
  • 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 at University Park, held on Saturday, March 16, 2024, 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 startups 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 your 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. Legal support to assist in the process is available 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.

Resources for Student Startups

Not sure what to expect or how to pitch your idea? Get inspiration from last year’s finalist teams:


Eligible Penn State students are current undergraduate students working towards a degree, and either attend one of the campuses located within the state of Pennsylvania or have a PA based company. Students must also be in good standing at the time of the application and remain so throughout the competition.

Eligible companies are those that are owned 51% or more by one or more eligible Penn State 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, so that award payments can be made according to the payment deadlines.

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.

Entry is deemed to be made by submitting a completed Entry Form together with a 2-3-minute 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 16, 2024. 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 pitching in the finalist competition, is limited to TWO individuals, who must also both be eligible Penn State students. Additional team members and non-PSU team members are welcomed and encouraged to participate in other aspects of the competition, such as the mentoring, coaching, video preparation, etc.

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 once 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 30 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.