Success Story

Invent Penn State offers students $15,000 to work on startup over the summer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Entrepreneurial teams with at least one Penn State student can apply to receive a $15,000 grant to work on their startup, social good or nonprofit over the summer through Invent Penn State’s Summer Founders Program 

The 13-week program, hosted by Happy Valley LaunchBox powered by PNC Bank, accelerates student startups by providing funding, mentorship and 1-on-1 coaching. Founders commit to work full-time, 40 hours per week, on their ventures for the duration of the program.   

Two virtual information sessions will be held for individuals considering participation to learn more about the program, the application process, and summer life in Happy Valley. Session 1 will also include real-world, entrepreneurial advice from co-founder of Xobni and Sincerely, Matt Brezina. Register here for the Jan. 17 information session.  

Key program dates for 2024: 

  • Jan. 17 – Virtual Info Session  
  • Feb. 5 – Applications Open 
  • Feb. 21 – Virtual Info Session 
  • Mar. 8 – Applications Close 
  • Mar. 15 – Team Interviews 
  • Apr. 1 – Final Teams Announced 
  • Mid-May to Mid-Aug – Program Period 

“Each summer, we witness an inspiring evolution of student founders who embrace their potential, not just as entrepreneurs, but as leaders,” said Elizabeth Hay, the Jack White Family Director of Happy Valley LaunchBox. “As the season unfolds, they refine their business models, drawing from invaluable insights through customer interactions. This immersive experience shapes their startups and creates lasting bonds with entrepreneurial advisers and industry professionals across the country. These connections will undoubtedly enrich their entrepreneurial journey for a lifetime.” 

Last year’s Summer Founders Program participants included: 

  • AgMar LLC (Zoils & Pigments), which manufactures soil-based paints using natural, non-toxic, environmentally conscious ingredients and high-grade materials for artists and children. The startup is led by soil sciences doctoral candidate Zoelie Rivera-Ocasio and community member Eric Appeldoorn. 
  • TDAY Sports (formerly Basketball Today), a new take on traditional sports media through social media channels that post NBA content that Generation Z can trust and consume as its go-to for basketball news and entertainment. The startup is led by Smeal College of Business student Justin Leusner. 
  • Bindr, an all-inclusive dating application for bisexual, bi-curious and general LGBTQ+ individuals. The startup is led by Mary Richardson, a Penn State York business student, and community member Brandon Teller. 
  • CTFGuide, a data-driven simulation platform that provides a realistic, hands-on experience helping people become cybersecurity professionals. The startup is founded by College of Engineering student Raymond Yan and College of Information Sciences and Technology student Pranav Ramesh. 
  • Eartrainer, which automatically grades assignments for music teachers. The startup is led by Cameron Dennis, a musical arts doctoral candidate in piano performance. 
  • Preventi, a treatment reminder app designed to simplify medication adherence and increase health literacy education for patients. The startup is led by Schreyer Honors College students Noah Wiggins and Nolan Pye. 
  • UniTour, which provides virtual tour experiences for students who cannot visit all universities in which they are interested. The startup is led by Smeal College of Business student Eric Olah-Reiken. 
  • Wavebreaker Technologies, which makes outdoor activities more accessible for people with physical limitations. The startup is led by graduate student Kevin Harris. 

About the Summer Founders Program 

The Summer Founders Program is a signature program of the Invent Penn State initiative and is provided in partnership with Happy Valley LaunchBox powered by PNC Bank. Startup funding is made possible through the donations of successful alumni entrepreneurs interested in supporting new student ventures. To learn more about supporting student startups at Penn State through a philanthropic gift, contact Heather Winfield, director of strategic initiatives in University Development, at 

This program was financed in part by a grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Community and Economic Development.