Two Penn State student startups win $15,000 each in Inc.U Competition
CarToCamp and MarRosa’s Old World Cuisine each won $15,000 in funding, splitting the $30,000 overall prize, in the 2022 Invent Penn State Inc.U Competition. Both Penn State student startups were among six finalist student teams that competed in “The Investment,” a Shark Tank-like WPSU production and culminating event of the competition that livestreamed on April 9 as part of Penn State Startup Week powered by PNC.
During “The Investment,” each team pitched their startup to a panel of four judges, who awarded funding at the completion of all team presentations. “The Investment” will air on WPSU broadcast channels on May 16 at 9 p.m. and May 21 at 6 p.m. It will also be available on the WPSU website beginning May 16.
CarToCamp designs, manufactures, and sells a universally fitting sleeping platform for car camping, which ships to the customer’s door and can be assembled and installed with no tools required. The startup founders are Nathan Bonslaver, a senior at Penn State Berks, Robert Miller, a 2019 Penn State Berks alumnus, and Kevin Gulick, a 2020 Penn State Berks alumnus. All three founders are studying or studied mechanical engineering.
“With more funding, we’re able to improve our manufacturing process,” Miller said. “Newer tools will allow us to decrease manufacturing time and have more consistent reliability and quality in our products. Additionally, the funding will allow us to have a larger inventory of parts and equipment so that we have a quicker turnaround to our customers.”
Meanwhile, MarRosa’s Old World Cuisine offers marinara sauce, vodka sauce, and tomato basil sauce all made with imported Italian tomatoes. The startup founder is Marcella Marino, a Smeal College of Business fourth-year student studying corporate innovation and entrepreneurship and international business.
“This funding will allow me to expand my brand by creating marketing materials, such as merchandise, and branching out into more products,” Marino said. “Eventually, I’d like to have pastas and olive oils to add to my brand. The funding will also allow me to participate in the Fancy Food Show in New York City, where my brand can be seen by thousands of people.”
Other Inc.U Competition finalists included:
- The Ballet Scout, a subscription database for dancers to find auditions, training programs, and jobs based on their budget, housing needs, location, style, and dates available. The startup founders are Robert Fulton, a Penn State World Campus student studying business, management, marketing, and related support services, Sasha Ahrestani, a fourth-year student studying computer science, and Eugene Ryoo, a fourth-year student studying cybersecurity analytics and operations.
- Ithaka, which aims to reinvent the future of the landscaping industry by using artificial intelligence to increase the accuracy of estimates and timelines and virtual reality to speed along the design process and increase customer satisfaction. The startup founders are Joseph Duncan, a fourth-year student studying industrial engineering, and Zion Taber, a business administration student at Drexel University.
- ShambaTek, which provides electricity to Kenyan farmers to enable them to increase their business potential. The startup founders are Monem Rizvi, a second-year student studying finance, and Aidan Olszewski, a third-year student studying biomedical engineering.
- Table Rock Markets, an automated e-commerce platform designed for farmers, helping keep small farms in business by increasing their sales and profitability by leveraging resources in the digital world while helping families eat healthy, locally grown food. The founders are Jake Grim, a senior studying business management and marketing at Penn State Mont Alto, and Aidan Rauscher, a junior studying computer science.
“We had a terrific group of student startups this year, spanning the agriculture industry to e-commerce platforms, among other business types,” Inc.U Competition Program Coordinator Derek Gross said. “Congratulations to both CarToCamp and MarRosa’s Old World Cuisine for winning funding which will help further each of their startups.”
In preparation for “The Investment,” finalists worked with and received pitch coaching from experienced coaches and mentors from the Invent Penn State entrepreneurial ecosystem. Finalists also connected with the Entrepreneur Assistance Law Clinic to help them establish LLCs and the Intellectual Property Law Clinic for patent and intellectual property assistance.
About Inc.U Competition
Inc.U began in 2015 as a pilot program funded by a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. It was originally a collaborative effort between the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, Bucknell University, and Penn State to foster undergraduate entrepreneurship. From 2016-2020, the Inc.U Competition was managed by PennTAP and evolved to become a Penn State program offered in partnership with Invent Penn State and the LaunchBox & Innovation Network. Since spring 2022, the Inc.U Competition has been a featured competition as part of Penn State Startup Week powered by PNC.