Success Story

Penn State Startup Week powered by PNC to celebrate student entrepreneurs

Penn State Startup Week powered by PNC returns in an all-virtual format, March 22-26. Startup Week provides Penn State students from all campuses diverse opportunities to explore and fully immerse themselves in entrepreneurship. 

Now in its fifth year as a university-wide event, the week will include keynote speakers Natalie Nixon (president of Figure 8 Thinking, LLC) as well as successful Penn State entrepreneurial alumni J.T. Marino (co-founder of Tuft & Needle), Matt Brezina (founder & general partner of Ford Street Ventures), and Hunter Swisher (founder and CEO of Phospholutions). In addition, Startup Week will feature expert panel sessions that highlight successful female founders, the value of the Penn State degree and avenues for obtaining startup funding. 

“Startup Week provides incredible resources for all students to connect with successful alumni and friends,” says James Delattre, associate vice president for research and director of the Office of Entrepreneurship and Commercialization. “We have an exciting lineup of events and speakers, which will allow students to explore numerous aspects of entrepreneurship, innovation, investing and emerging technology while learning from many successful pioneers across a wide range of industries and disciplines. After attending Startup Week, we hope students will leave inspired to expand their minds and thinking about their career paths.” 

Other virtual activities include student pitch competitions, networking events, entrepreneurial workshops, a startup career fair and presentations from corporate founders and innovators, which include a number of Penn State alumni. 

PNC enthusiastically supports the Invent Penn State initiative and Penn State Startup Week, which have both positively impacted our region and state,” says Jim Hoehn, PNC regional president in Central Pa. “Education, innovation and entrepreneurship, which are at the center of Startup Week, play an important role in driving economic development within our communities. We look forward to taking part in Startup Week this year.” 

Startup Week events are open to all Penn State students. Attendees are encouraged to check the Startup Week schedule to confirm each event’s details and whether registration is required. 

Featured Keynote Speakers and Panels 

Throughout Startup Week, students can engage and connect with keynote speakers and panelists who are among leading minds in entrepreneurship and innovation. Each keynote speaker session will contain a Q&A with students. This year’s virtual topics and speakers will include: 

Keynote Speaker Natalie Nixon: Get Comfortable with Ambiguity” – 6-7 p.m., Monday, March 22  

Ambiguity and uncertainty have become a constant in people’s daily lives due to the pandemic. For leaders and organizations to emerge out of this new normal stronger and more inspired, they must utilize creativity to enable future-friendly transformation in navigating ambiguous terrain. Join Natalie Nixon, president of Figure 8 Thinking, LLC, as she explains how practical creativity techniques can shift mindset and stretch thinking. 

Panel Discussion: “The Future is Female” – 7:15-8:15 p.m., Monday, March 22 

Today, the United States has 12.3 million women-owned businesses that account for 40% of businesses nationwide, with women of color starting the majority of new businesses daily. However, those feel-good numbers do little to tell the larger story of the hurdles faced by women who have embraced entrepreneurship, especially in comparison to their male counterparts. Join this panel discussion featuring successful female entrepreneurs with differing backgrounds and varied expertise. Panelists are listed below: 

  • Melissa Schipke Marzano, Penn State ‘09 (Tassl) 

Co-Keynote Speakers J.T. Marino and Hunter Swisher: “Six Degrees of Penn State” – 6-7 p.m., Tuesday, March 23 

With more than 700,000 Penn State alumni alive today, the Penn State degree is a calling card for people around the world. Join two successful Penn State alumni entrepreneurs, Hunter Swisher (16) and J.T. Marino (09), who both leveraged their Penn State connections and identified a need within their respective fields to disrupt the status quo. 

Keynote Speaker Matt Brezina: “Flipping the Script – Funding Alternatives for your Startup” – 6-7 p.m., Wednesday, March 24 

One of Penn State’s most successful tech alumni entrepreneurs, Matt Brezina took advantage of the college experience. A Schreyer Honors College and College of Engineering graduate, he went on to Silicon Valley where his entrepreneurial interests turned into multi-million-dollar companies, including Xobni and Sincerely. During this keynote event, learn more about how he has gone from seeking funding to investing as he talks about non-traditional funding alternatives for startups. 

Panel Discussion: “Find the Right Egg for Your Basket” – 7:15-8:15 p.m., Wednesday, March 24 

The panel will review non-traditional funding options and showcase their advantages. One example that will be highlighted is numo, PNC Bank’s fintech incubator, which identifies opportunities and builds fintech products from the ground up, leveraging in-house capabilities that span research, product design, software development, sales and marketing, with the intent of spinning out viable, standalone companies. Participants will leave the event with a robust understanding of investment opportunities for their next venture. Panelists are listed below: 

  • David Passavant (numo) 

Startup Market & Small Business and Startup Career Fair 

Startup Market will take place 4-5 p.m., Tuesday, March 23 and is held in conjunction with the Startup Career Fair, occurring 5-7 p.m.  

Hosted and organized by Lion LaunchPad, Startup Market is a university-wide resource fair for students seeking involvement with entrepreneurial and innovative organizations, academic pathways and community resources at Penn State. 

The Small Business and Startup Career Fair is hosted by Penn State Career Services and is a university-wide career fair for students looking for opportunities to work in a startup or small business environment. 

Student Pitch Competitions 

Startup Week features a number of student pitch competitions from across the Commonwealth, many of which include rewards such as funding, networking resources and mentoring. Attendees will have the opportunity to virtually watch finalists compete live, including those in the Ag Springboard Competition vying for a chance at up to $7,500. 

From 6-7 pm, Thursday, March 25, the top teams from each competition will be honored at a virtual Student Recognition Reception open to the public, featuring Penn State President Eric Barron and PNC Bank Regional President Jim Hoehn. 

About Penn State Startup Week powered by PNC 

An integral part of the broader Invent Penn State initiative, Startup Week 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 at @PSUStartupWeek and #PennStateStartup.