Success Story

Virtual Idea TestLab, FastTrack Accelerator now accepting applications

Happy Valley LaunchBox powered by PNC Bank is accepting applications for its virtual Idea TestLab starting Aug. 31 and in-person FastTrack Accelerator beginning Aug. 23. Both programs provide university and community entrepreneurs with the resources and skills they need to turn their idea into a scalable business. The deadline for Idea Test Lab applications is Sept. 21 and the deadline for FastTrack Accelerator applications is Nov. 1. 

“All of our programs are about empowering entrepreneurs to make better informed decisions,” Happy Valley LaunchBox Chief Amplifier Lee Erickson said. “Whether you have an idea you’re not sure if you want to pursue or if you’re ready to test the market to acquire customers, our programs are designed to help you take the next step while reducing risk and accelerating your business.” 

Virtual Idea TestLab – Apply by Sept. 21 

Open to the community as well as Penn State faculty, students and staff, the four-week Idea TestLab program is designed to help teams evaluate the viability of their business ideas by coaching them through a proven method of customer discovery and problem analysis. Participants get a better handle on the problem their customer has and the value they can provide them that others cannot. Teams meet as a cohort once per week, have one-on-one consultations with the program manager, and complete other work independently. The application deadline is Sept. 21, and the first virtual Idea TestLab group meeting kicks off Oct. 19. 

As part of the virtual Idea TestLab, participants receive: 

  • Access to one-on-one mentoring 
  • Mailed copy of “The Mom Test” and program materials 
  • Up to $3,000 for customer discovery 

“All it takes to apply to the virtual Idea TestLab is an idea,” Happy Valley LaunchBox Idea Catalyst Ben Nason said. “From there, we’ll help participants connect with potential customers to define their problem worth solving and create a potential solution. We’ll help you discover the value that you can provide and clearly define the needs of your customer.” 

FastTrack Accelerator – Apply by Nov. 1 

The FastTrack Accelerator is a 15-week program that helps early-stage startups better refine their target market, test the market, and build an actionable plan to acquire customers or expand their business. The 2021-22 FastTrack Accelerator will be held in person at the new Penn State Innovation Hub. No Penn State affiliation is required to apply. Founders retain all rights to their ideas and there is no cost to participate in the program.  

As part of the FastTrack Accelerator, participants have: 

  • Weekly 1-on-1 mentoring sessions with experienced entrepreneurs 
  • Access to up to $3,000 in funding for customer discovery through the NSF I-Corps program 
  • Server credits, SOLIDWORKS suite and POWr plugins for one year 
  • Access to $1,500 Market Test Fund grant 
  • Funding for intern for one semester through the SEDTAPP ENtern program 
  • Access to 60+ advisors and experts 
  • 24×7 access to LaunchBox for one year 

“The FastTrack Accelerator is designed for startups to develop a clear business model,” Erickson said. “Acting on false assumptions can kill a startup. We help founders avoid common startup mistakes, test their assumptions to refine their target market, build solutions based on real customer feedback, and construct a viable business model.” 

At the completion of the accelerator, selected teams will have created a formal business entity, crafted a unique value proposition, defined a viable business model, and sketched out a marketing and sales plan. 

Past program graduates include startups Office Yum and Moichor. 

About Happy Valley LaunchBox powered by PNC Bank 

Happy Valley LaunchBox powered by PNC Bank provides early-stage startups with support and resources they need to build a sustainable and scalable business and a viable plan for growth. No-cost programs and services include coworking space, accelerator programs, legal and intellectual property advice, and expert mentorships from Penn State’s extensive network. LaunchBox is open to everyone – community members and those affiliated with Penn State. Happy Valley LaunchBox powered by PNC Bank is a signature program of the Invent Penn State initiative and one of 21 innovation hubs located in Penn State campus communities across Pennsylvania. Learn more at