Success Story

Student startups: Apply for 2024 Summer Founders Program by March 8

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State student startup teams from all Penn State campuses, including World Campus, are invited to apply to the 2024 Invent Penn State Summer Founders Program to receive a $15,000 grant to work on their startup, social good venture, or nonprofit over the summer.  

Applications are open from now until March 8. 

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 program’s duration.    

Key program dates: 

  • 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 

“There is a lot of value in collaborating closely with some of the university’s most innovative student startups,” said Jack White Family Director of Happy Valley LaunchBox powered by PNC Bank Elizabeth Hay. “Participants also gain firsthand insights from seasoned entrepreneurs who have effectively scaled their ventures, and beyond providing pivotal resources, the program offers networking dinners and access to an extensive advisory network of over 100 experts. Additionally, we take field trips to offer direct interactions with successful business owners, all designed to create an environment for emerging innovators to thrive.” 

Last year, 8 student startups participated in the Summer Founders Program. Justin Leusner, a senior at Penn State studying Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship through the Smeal College of Business, was a participant in the 2023 Summer Founders Program cohort. He is the founder of TDAY Sports, a sports media startup aiming to be Gen Z’s ESPN. 

“Our advisors, Bill Zimmerman and Elizabeth Hay, have been monumental in our success,” said Leusner. “Elizabeth has really pushed me to look at our bottom line and make sure that we’re able to pay our staff and fulfill our partnership promises. She’s been pushing us to think bigger.”   

TDAY Sports has a following of over 1.2 million across different platforms, including YouTube and TikTok. Additionally, in September of 2023, TDAY Sports signed a deal with Paragon Marketing Group to promote Fast Twitch, Gatorade’s newest energy drink.   


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.