Success Story

Discover innovation, entrepreneurship at Penn State Startup Week powered by PNC

Penn State Startup Week powered by PNC will take place from March 20-24. The week will provide students an opportunity to explore Penn State’s vast entrepreneurial ecosystem, learn from successful Penn State alumni, and connect with innovative peers through fun, hands-on activities. Students can register to attend the various speaker sessions, workshops, and pitch competitions either in person or virtually. View the full schedule and register to attend events on the Startup Week website.

In its seventh year, Startup Week will now feature uniquely themed days throughout the week:

  • Monday, 3/20 – Kickoff Startup Week
  • Tuesday, 3/21 – Accelerators/Technology/Venture Capital
  • Wednesday, 3/22 – Social Impact
  • Thursday, 3/23 – Female Entrepreneurs of Color
  • Friday, 3/24 – Explore PA Entrepreneurship

There will also be after-hours events, including ice skating at Pegula Ice Arena, rock climbing and bouldering at ClimbNittany, a Happy Valley Improv show, and a concert featuring Corner Brothers and GoGo Retro. View all events on the Startup Week schedule.

Matthew McKinney, entrepreneurship program manager for the Office of Entrepreneurship and Commercialization, created a Student Executive Steering Committee this year to ensure Startup Week events and activities align with student desires and interests. The committee is comprised of twelve Penn State students representing the entrepreneurship student clubs, the Schreyer Honors College, and The Graduate School.

This has led to the incorporation of hands-on activities such as the assembly of Jared Boxes for young hospital patients, after-hours events such as the free skate at Pegula Ice Arena, and a full field trip day to the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship to learn about natural resource-based entrepreneurship.

“Working directly with Penn State students to implement their collective vision for the topics, speakers, and events that will comprise Startup Week has been effective and inspirational,” McKinney noted. “I am excited about the variety of programs and events lined up for this year. From the student job fair on Monday through the student pop-up marketplace on Friday. The week is full of opportunities for students to attend talks, panels discussions and engage in hands-on activities, including after-hours networking and social events.”

To celebrate the hard work and accomplishments of student entrepreneurs already building businesses, many of the entrepreneurial programs will have their culminating pitch competition during Startup Week. Students can register to attend the Happy Valley Venture Capital Pitch Competition and the Bardusch Family IdeaMakers Challenge Pitch Competition to see the innovative startups their peers have been developing.

“As a national main street bank headquartered in Pennsylvania, PNC’s success hinges on a vibrant local marketplace steeped in innovation,” said Jim Hoehn, PNC regional president in Central Pa. “We are proud to collaborate with Penn State to make Startup Week possible, and we look forward to participating in the events this year that are sure to foster an entrepreneurial spirit in the next generation of leaders.”

Below are just a few of the featured events throughout the week. Most events also have a virtual option. Attendees are encouraged to register for events ahead of time via the Startup Week schedule.

Monday, March 20 – Mixed Topics for the Week Ahead

  • Fourplay Social: Figuring out what you’re doing when you have no idea what you’re doing, 3:30 – 4:30 p.m.: Join Penn State alumnae and co-founders of Fourplay Social Julie Griggs (‘14) and Danielle Dietzek (‘13) as they share their unexpected journey from healthcare providers to dating app co-founders. They will shed light on what the founder journey is like when having no connections or work experience within the industry and everything from navigating a co-founder relationship and raising first funds to building a social network.

Tuesday, March 21 – Accelerators, Technology and Venture Capital

  • Technology & Venture Capital Entrepreneurs Roundtable Discussion, 4:15 – 5:30 p.m.: Join Penn State alums, entrepreneurs, and founders David Rusenko (founder and CEO of Weebly, ‘07), Eric Franchi (general partner at AperiamVentures, ‘98), Matt Brezina (co-founder of Sincerely and Xobni, ‘03), Jason Warner (managing director of Redpoint Ventures, ‘99), and Tom Ayling (CEO of Gisual, ‘14) as they share their career journeys, challenges and successes.

Wednesday, March 22 – Social Impact

  • Art Activism and Social Impact, 11 a.m. – noon: Join Aaron Maybin, an activist, former professional football player and All-American defensive end at Penn State, as he shares his decision to walk away from football to pursue a career as an artist, activist, author, educator, and community organizer. His art, photography, and writing have been exhibited in galleries and museums internationally, examining socially relevant themes and issues drawn from his own experiences as an athlete and growing up as a young Black man in America. Maybin’s art will be exhibited from noon on March 22 until 5 p.m. on April 21 at 3 Dots Downtown.
  • The Jared Box Story, 12:15 – 1 p.m.: Learn more about The Jared Box Project with Executive Director Cindy Kolarik. The nonprofit was started in 2001 by the children of Our Lady of Victory School in State College, and Jared Boxes bring the gift of play through toys in a box to young patients as they navigate through their hospital experience. After the presentation, there will be a hands-on session to make Jared Boxes.
  • Upcycle Your Wearables, 2:30 – 4:30 p.m.: Hosted by Teaching and Learning with Technology’s Maker Commons, this workshop will challenge students with a design prompt to create a new upcycled T-shirt brand that makes a statement. Sewing machines, Cricut Makers, and heat presses will be on hand to help cut and apply custom designs to your wearables.

Thursday, March 23 – Female Entrepreneurs of Color

  • Female Entrepreneurs of Color Roundtable Discussion, 4 – 5:30 p.m.: Join founders Ayeshah Abuelhiga (founder and CEO of Mason Dixie Foods), Kenya Crawford (therapist, racial equity consultant and clinical supervisor, ‘15), Prerana Dalal (director of Huge, Product Strategy & Management, ‘08), Haley McClain Hill (CEO and founder of TORCH Warriorwear, ‘18), and Rahwa Teklai (senior vice president and market leader for PNC Private Bank in Central Pennsylvania, ‘98) as they share their journeys as female entrepreneurs of color.

Friday, March 24 – Explore Pennsylvania Entrepreneurship

About Penn State Startup Week powered by PNC

An integral part of the broader Invent Penn State initiative, Startup Week powered by PNC is a University-wide event that connects students with innovative alumni and pioneers who are achieving success in a variety of industries and disciplines. Throughout the week, students discover, explore, experience and celebrate entrepreneurship.

For more information on Startup Week, including a full schedule of events, visit Participants can engage with and follow Startup Week on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.