Success Story

Penn State Startup Week powered by PNC Empowers Student Entrepreneurs

UNIVERSITY PARK – Penn State Startup Week powered by PNC presented a diverse array of events across Penn State campuses, spotlighting student innovation and entrepreneurship from March 18 to March 22. 

The events were centered around themes of student entrepreneurs, funding your venture, social impact, and technology. 

“Startup Week bridges the gap between theory and practice by providing students with real-world experiences and opportunities to apply their academic learning in practical settings,” said Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi during the Startup Week Student Recognition and Networking Reception. “By doing this, the event serves as a platform to empower our students and equip them with the skills, knowledge, and resources they need to succeed in today’s dynamic and competitive landscape. By fostering an environment of entrepreneurship, we’re nurturing the next generation of leaders and problem solvers.”  

Event highlights include a talk with Rajesh Rangarajan, product manager at Meta, a talk with Haley Marie McClain Hill, founder of TORCH Warriorwear and recent Shark Tank deal recipient, as well as a live podcast episode recording with guest Justin Rosenberg, founder and CEO of honeygrow. 

Startup Week also provided students with several interactive, hands-on events throughout the week. There were two guided chocolate tasting experiences with former Senior Vice President of Global Research and Development at the Hershey Company, Dan Azzara. There was also a ‘Create a Koozie’ event on Wednesday and a Student Entrepreneurs Marketplace on Friday. 

The weeklong celebration culminated with the Student Recognition and Networking Reception, where President Bendapudi honored winners and finalists of competitions and challenges, listed below. 

Bardusch Family IdeaMakers Challenge ($6,000 in prizes): A challenge for early-stage ideas where student teams identify an important problem that can be solved using digital innovation. 

  • Winner ($3,000): Into-Int, which provides age-appropriate Internet safety education for elementary school students. 

Happy Valley Venture Capital Pitch Competition ($10,000 in prizes): Penn State student founders compete for $10,000 in non-equity prizes fully funded by the Penn State Farrell Center for Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship within the Smeal College of Business. 

  • Winner ($5,000): Saveware, which leverages artificial intelligence to automate the sales tax refund process for businesses and tax firms, identifying and recouping overpaid sales taxes on invoices.   

Inc.U Competition ($30,000 in prizes): Six undergraduate teams from across the commonwealth compete for a cash investment pool and are provided support designed to help their startups gain traction. 

  • Winner ($15,000): Saveware 


Read more about the Inc.U Competition results. 


Social Impact Pitch Competition ($1,500 in prizes): offers student teams from across the Commonwealth with a business solution for a social cause a chance to win funding to move their venture forward. 

  • Winner ($750): Shamba Share, an online platform designed to connect smallholder farmers in Kenya, enabling them to rent out or find agricultural equipment safely. 

Penn State Mont Alto LION Tank Pitch Competition ($4,000 in prizes): Provides top teams startup funding, access to Mont Alto LaunchBox and additional services to help them go to market. 

  • Winner ($2,000): Sneakerheadz, which is building an innovative hip-hop approach to engaging underrepresented groups in science education. 


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.