2020 Summer Founders


The Summer Founders program gives startups with at least one Penn State student founder $15,000 to work on their startup, social good, or non-profit idea over the summer.

Important Dates - 2020

  • Applications Open Jan 6th
  • Applications Close 11:59PM Feb 16th
  • Finalist Interviews February 27th-28th
  • Teams Selected March 4th
  • Team Kickoff Dinner March 24th
  • Summer Program May 20th-August 12th
  • Startup Showcase August 12th

About the Program

  • The 2020 Summer Founders program is a signature program of Invent Penn State provided in partnership with Happy Valley LaunchBox.
  • The program provides the funding startups need to allow them to work full time on their ventures over the summer.
  • In addition to funding, the program provides the mentorship and resources early-stage startups need to advance their ventures.
  • Founders must commit to work full-time on their ventures for the duration of the program from May 20th and ending August 12th.
  • Ideally, teams are encouraged to cowork at Happy Valley LaunchBox in State College for the summer, however, depending on the circumstances, remote teams may be eligible to receive funding. We encourage all teams to apply.

Benefits of Participation

  • Teams participate in weekly dinners and 1-on-1 coaching sessions with entrepreneurs and industry experts to discuss current challenges, share successes, and learn from each other.
  • Teams meet regularly with mentors and other entrepreneurs to grow their network and accelerate their ventures.
  • Teams have 24×7 access to the Happy Valley LaunchBox facility and space in one of our team rooms, with free Wi-Fi, coffee, and printing.
  • Teams may be eligible to receive an additional $3,000 to support customer discovery and travel expenses through the Invent Penn State NSF I-Corps Site program.
  • Teams have access to free server credits, SolidWorks, and a 1-year POWr subscription.

About the Funding

  • Funding is made possible through the donations of successful entrepreneurs interested in supporting new student ventures.
  • We do not take ownership or equity in your business or non-profit. All we ask is that you commit to working hard on your project for the summer, making an impact in your community and beyond.
  • Funding is granted through the Penn State Development Office.


The Penn State Summer Founders Program is made possible by the following donors:
  • Ballantyne & Leonard Foundation
  • Brad Bogolea, Penn State Bischoff Entrepreneur in Residence
  • Chris Fanini, Co-Founder of Weebly
  • David Rusenko, Co-Founder of Weebly
  • Edward Hintz, President, Hintz Capital Management, Penn State Trustee
  • Invent Penn State Fund, Established by Penn State President Eric Barron
  • Ira Lubert, Chairman and Co-Founder of Lubert-Adler, Penn State Trustee
  • Matt Brezina, Founder of Xobni, Sincerely
  • Michael Seibel, Partner in Y Combinator, Co-Founder Socialcam and Justin.tv
  • Ryan L. and Meredith A. Newman Family Endowment
  • Are you interested in supporting this program through a tax deductible donation? We’d love to have you involved. Please contact Heather Winfield: hbw11@psu.edu

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible to apply?

Startups must have at least one founder that is a Penn State or World Campus student in good standing during spring 2020 who is working on a US-based business. This includes students from all Penn State campuses, as well as those scheduled to graduate in May 2020.

Founders must commit to working full-time on their venture for the duration of the program – May 20th through August 12th. We will fund solo founders, but prefer teams of two or three.

Ideally, teams will spend their summer working at the Happy Valley LaunchBox in State College, however, depending on the circumstances, remote teams may be eligible to receive funding. We encourage all teams to apply.

I am a senior this year and will not be a student during the summer. Can I still apply for the grant?

The money will be released towards the end of the school year, while you are still considered a student. Though you may no longer be a student after graduation, the grant was given to you with the understanding that you are a student entrepreneur looking for assistance in growing your idea. If that so happens to mean that you are a senior and ending your career at Penn State, we are certainly still glad to have you as a team involved with the program.

I am a graduate student. Can I still apply to this program?

Yes. The program is open to help any current student with an entrepreneurial endeavor.

I am trying to limit my expenses for the summer and live a few hours away from State College. Can I live and work on my project from my hometown?

A key part of the program is having the teams and individuals live around the State College area. If you are concerned about the costs of housing, you can use your grant to pay for rent and food. If you need help finding housing, the program may be able to provide some suggestions on some inexpensive locations to rent or sublet.

In the case where a qualified team is unable to relocate to State College for the duration of the program, teams may still be able to participate depending on the circumstances.

Whether in State College or remote, we will work with teams to design a program that ensures they are able to take advantage of the mentor network, coaching, and other resources available.

What is the time commitment for the program?

Teams are expected to work full time on their business over the duration of the program.

Is there any additional money available for extra funding if we expect our teams living costs to exceed the $15,000 grant?

Certain teams may be eligible for an additional $3000 to support customer discovery through the Invent Penn State I-Corps Site.

Go to the I-Corps Site

I have four members on my team, do we split the funding?

Since this grant’s purpose is to not only help fund your living expense, but also expenses associated with the project, we recommend you decide, as a team, how funds should be allocated. It is your decision on how you distribute and spend the funding, but we will assist you with coming up with a budget if you are granted the award.

Do we have to pay taxes on our $15,000 award?

Funding will be granted to the company and not individual founders.  Depending on how the grant is used, a portion, or all, of the $15,000 may be taxable income to the owners in proportion to their share of profits.

Experts available through the Happy Valley LaunchBox and Penn State Small Business Development Center will assist your team in determining tax liabilities at the outset of the summer to allow you to set aside appropriate funds to meet any tax liabilities.

Do you take equity in my company?

No. We take zero equity and charge no fees.

What happens if I receive the grant and later receive an offer from an internship that I would rather accept?

This program offers a great opportunity and alternative to internships and other experiences. We expect that all grant recipients understand the commitment they are making to the program throughout the application process and in accepting the offer to the program and will not back out after accepting the offer to participate in the program.

$15,000 Grants
13 Weeks
6 Teams
1 Startup Showcase