When Penn State students Michael Miller and Jack Quinn applied for the Summer Founders Program in February, they thought they would spend the summer working on their idea LineHopper—a way for patrons to skip long fast food lines. However, when they went through Happy Valley LaunchBox Idea TestLab in the spring to prepare, they realized LineHopper wasn’t a viable business.
“Idea TestLab taught us to talk to customers and find out what they want. We learned there wasn’t enough demand for LineHopper,” says Jack Quinn. “If we hadn’t realized we need to look at where we are, where we fit in the market, and if customers would actually use it—if we hadn’t had that mentorship—I don’t think it ever would have worked out for us. They saved a lot of time and resources.”
They had to pivot and have a new idea for the Summer Founders’ Program. Jack and Michael locked themselves in a room and wrote every idea they could think of on a white board. As they reviewed their ideas and crossed items off, they realized they both liked finance and believed poor financial literacy among college students was a problem. This inspired them to build LoanCrunch, an app to help simplify the student loan process, help students pay off their debts and teach them financial literacy.
“When we went into the Summer Founders Program, the resources and advisory board that Happy Valley LaunchBox provided really shaped our new concept, which is financial literacy,” Miller explains. “The $10,000 was also huge. It helped us attend a financial technology conference and speak to people in the industry which was really big for us.”
Asked what advice they’d give to other Penn State students considering entrepreneurship, Miller quickly says, “Just go for it. People don’t realize how robust the entrepreneurial ecosystem at Penn State is. Invent Penn State and LaunchBox are here to help students and give advice.”
“Any student can have a great idea, but not every student has the opportunity to see if that idea will work and execute on that idea, and that’s where LaunchBox and Invent Penn State can really help,” says Quinn.
Nearly 40 startup teams applied for this year’s Summer Founders Program. The five that were selected came from a variety of fields, and included the following:
Argolytics™ Founded by Penn State Eberly College of Science graduate student Tammy Serenstis, Argolytics™ is a web-based software that helps manufacturers assess the quality of their products. Argolytics™ first product, Trendable™, is an affordable, accurate quality control reporting software to help Quality Managers expected to launch Fall 2019.
Maverick Systems Founded by Penn State College of Health and Human Development undergraduate student Devanshi Agnihotri and Penn State Information Sciences and Technology (IST) undergraduate student Joel Seidel, Maverick is developing a software program that aims to improve the health care industry by helping hospitals gather data to assign quantitative values to the effectiveness of medical treatments and devices.
Wavlength Founded by Penn State Engineering undergraduate student Victor Ariyo and East Stroudsburg University undergraduate student Nasir Cooper, Wavelength is an online marketplace that allows independent musicians to generate income through access to tools, business education, and direct connections to consumers while also maintaining control of their music.
WithU is a personal safety mobile application that provides a direct connection to campus emergency personnel from your mobile phone, reducing, by half, the time it takes for university emergency personnel to respond to an incident on campus.
LoanCrunch Founded by Penn State Smeal College of Businesses undergraduate student Michael Miller and Penn State Engineering student Jack Quinn, LoanCrunch simplifies the student loan process by building a custom, goal-oriented plan to pay off debt. With a platform to navigate, understand, and repay student loans in one place, students can avoid costly mistakes and earn loyalty rewards from popular brands.
“These five teams all faced different challenges coming into the program and it’s been wonderful seeing them tackle those problems and adjust their ideas to the feedback,” says Lee Erickson, SFP2019 Team Coach and Chief Amplifier and Director of Happy Valley LaunchBox.
A signature program of Invent Penn State, the Summer Founders Program is a 13-week accelerator that provides teams $10,000 in funding, resources and mentorship to accelerate their ideas over the summer. Teams work full-time on their startup, attend weekly dinners and meet regularly with advisers throughout the summer. The program does not take ownership or equity in participants’ businesses or nonprofits. All that’s asked is participants commit to working hard on their project for the summer and making an impact in their community.
The 2019 Summer Founders Program was provided in partnership with Happy Valley LaunchBox. Funding for the student startups is made possible through the donations of successful alumni entrepreneurs interested in supporting new student ventures.
For more information about the program, visit invent.psu.edu/program/summer-founders.
For more information about LaunchBox visit LaunchBox.psu.edu.