Penn State Berks students receive Student Enterprise Award for startups
The Student Enterprise Award Contest is the Penn State Berks Flemming Creativity, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Development (CEED) Center’s version of "Shark Tank." During the contest, students presented their ideas for a business startup, followed by a question-and-answer session with the committee. The winning teams receive up to $3,000 for their business startup.
“The purpose of this award shall be to provide seed money to support an enterprising and innovative student at Penn State Berks. Our primary objective with this competition is to allow students to utilize their Penn State Berks education to become entrepreneurs and start businesses which can create jobs in our local community,” explained Sadan Kulturel-Konak, professor of management information systems, director of the Flemming CEED Center, and program chair of the entrepreneurship and innovation (ENTI) minor.
Gordon Guoyin Shaw, a junior cybersecurity analytics and operations major, was one of the award recipients for the app he designed to help alert users of recall information. Shaw explained “The safety of consumer products is always one of the focuses of social concern, especially for the food and drugs closely related to our daily lives. However, it's challenging for ordinary households to know the recall information timely and accurately. The app will have functions for inputting product information, scanning the receipt, searching, and alerting customers.”
Shaw goes on to state that he was encouraged by his faculty mentor, Abdullah Konak. “I started to turn my idea into a real product and decided to compete in the STEM Business Idea Challenge as my first step. During the competition, I acquired a great deal of help from the professors of the Flemming CEED Center. I also applied for the Student Enterprise Award, and during the final pitch, the competition committee gave me constructive advice through the question-and-answer session. By joining this competition, I have a deeper comprehension of my idea and strong confidence to commercialize my product.”
A team of four senior mechanical engineering students also received the award for the product they are developing: a microfluidic bandage that is used to heal wounds such as third-degree lesions. Gregory Ammon, Maxime Boudeau, Elias Brower and Ryan Marsden stated, “We are excited and grateful to receive the Penn State Berks Student Enterprise Award. We anticipate that this award will help further our knowledge and development of the product. We would like to thank Rungun Nathan, professor of engineering and program chair for mechanical engineering, for helping guide us to our current success. We hope this award can open opportunities in our future endeavors.”
John Weber, associate teaching professor in business, is the Student Enterprise Award competition coordinator. He explains that students chosen for a Student Enterprise Award will receive funding in two installments: The first installment will be disbursed shortly after being granted. To receive the second installment, winners must either provide proof of monetary expenditures related to their project at least equal to the first installment amount or participate in the Customer Discovery Lab workshops, which help early-stage entrepreneurs validate the utility and viability of their project.
Flemming CEED Center announces Customer Discovery Lab workshops
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Budding entrepreneurs are invited to apply for the Penn State Berks Flemming Creativity, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (CEED) Center’s Customer Discovery Lab, a six-week series of workshops that will provide commercialization training and mentorship, as well as the opportunity to apply for micro-grants, for up to 30 startup teams per year. The deadline for applications is Feb. 9, and applications can be found at https://sites.psu.edu/ceed/. This opportunity is open to Penn State faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students, recent alumni and community members interested in exploring the commercial viability of their idea or innovation.
The Penn State Berks Flemming CEED Center’s Customer Discovery Lab and spring 2022 weekly workshops will begin on Feb. 16. These “boot camp” style trainings will help entrepreneurs to begin customer discovery, learn about the commercialization process, network with experienced entrepreneurs, and determine if a market exists for their innovation.
Participants will learn how to develop a business model, validate their business model through a scientific process, get feedback from faculty experts and other entrepreneurs, and work one-on-one with experienced entrepreneurs who serve as mentors.
Participants will also be eligible to apply for a micro-grant of up to $3,000, which can be used to attend industry trade shows, visit potential customers, develop prototypes, and cover customer discovery expenses, and they can apply for an I-Corps National Teams $50,000 grant award after completing the program.
The Iab’s lead faculty includes Sadan Kulturel-Konak, professor of management information systems, and Abdullah Konak, professor of information sciences and technology. Kulturel-Konak is also the director of the Flemming CEED Center and the coordinator for the entrepreneurship and innovation (ENTI) minor.
Kulturel-Konak summarized, “You can’t test your business idea inside the building. You can’t build your business in a laboratory. Together we can easily see whether a business model can succeed, or what it needs to do so. I feel really good about how much we have been able to help our teams in our Customer Discovery Lab sessions.”
Eligible projects must be in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM), and teams should be composed of three individuals: an academic lead who will serve as principal investigator, typically a Penn State faculty or staff member; an entrepreneurial lead, typically a student, faculty/staff member, recent alumnus or community member; and a business mentor who will provide experienced perspectives to the team. Faculty and business mentors may be assigned later during the program if necessary. Teams must commit to attending the required workshops and cohort meetings and must perform a minimum of 30 customer interviews by the end of the program.
For more information and to apply, visit https://sites.psu.edu/ceed/.
Student competes in international startup competition
Penn State Berks student Matthew Finger recently had an opportunity to pitch his startup idea in front of an international community of like-minded entrepreneurs in STup! 2021, a competition for college startups. The competition was held in a hybrid format from June 18-19, and it was hosted by the University of Split in Croatia.
Finger, a senior information sciences and technology major with a minor in entrepreneurship and innovation, stated that his startup idea was inspired by his time working for a family-owned and operated retirement home. He explained, “In the world of retirement homes, caregivers lack access to senior’s digital health information systems. Caregivers cannot contribute digital care notes or directly access health records like treatment plans. Seniors often do not get the care they deserve because of this. My solution is essentially a visual app that is built on top of retirement home software to empower caregivers with personalized senior information, unified care notes, and coordinated care.”
“Coming from a tech background I saw a huge void in caregiver’s access to digital health systems. There is so much potential to improve these systems and provide so much better care for these seniors. I knew I had to do something about it,” added Finger.
Each of the 34 competing teams made a five-minute pitch to a panel of judges in front of a live audience. Judges then asked each team questions about their startup.
Sadan Kulturel-Konak, professor of management information systems and the director of the Flemming Creativity, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Development (CEED) Center at Penn State Berks, stated, “I was very fortunate to mentor Matt in his startup idea. It was a delight to work very closely with Matt and vet his final pitch.”
“I strongly believe that students’ participation in external competitions helps them cultivate an innovation mindset, gain greater self-awareness about their capabilities in innovation, and become more open-minded. Moreover, these kinds of co-curricular activities expand the University’s strong emphasis on entrepreneurship programs” Kulturel-Konak added.
Finger first got involved in Penn State Berks’ entrepreneurship competitions when he participated in the STEM Business Idea Challenge in fall of 2020. He went on to compete in the Student Enterprise Award competition and the CEED Center’s Customer Discovery Lab in the spring of 2021. Then, he was awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) microgrant for further customer discovery. Finally, this summer, he qualified to participate in STup! 2021.
“I’m so grateful for the professional and even personal development I’ve made in competing on an international startup stage,” commented Finger. “My business is still in the early phases but competing has inspired me to push even harder.”
“This last spring, I worked closely with professors Abdullah Konak and Sadan Kulturel-Konak in the Customer Discovery Lab at the Flemming CEED Center, where I learned to challenge and grow my business idea through interviewing customers, understanding my market segment, and perfecting my value proposition. Dr. Kulturel-Konak encouraged me to challenge myself and participate in this incredible event, and I am so grateful. I’m also taking advantage of Penn State’s Undergraduate Research and Fellowship Mentoring’s Bootcamp to prepare to apply for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program. I’m excited to keep pushing forward at Penn State and with my mentors to bring this powerful solution to the millions of seniors in retirement home across the U.S. and beyond.”
STup! 2021 was organized by the University of Split in Croatia. Penn State Berks has a collaborative relationship with the University of Split in which Berks faculty helped Split to develop its service-learning program in 2018. Stup! 2021 was another way of expanding this collaboration.
About STup! 2021
STup! provides support to student startups and gives young entrepreneurs the opportunity to present their projects on the global startup scene in Split. STup! brings together local and international startups, entrepreneurs, businesses, accelerator and incubator representatives and investors from the region and beyond. It is organized by the University of Split; the University of Split Faculty of Economics, Business and Tourism; Studentski Poduzetnički Inkubator; and the European University of the Seas.
About the Flemming Creativity, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Center
The Flemming Creativity, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (CEED) Center’s
mission is to inspire an entrepreneurial spirit and innovative mindset in the Penn State Berks community and to foster economic growth and development in the Greater Reading area. The CEED Center provides student entrepreneurs with an incubator in which to develop their startup ideas. The Center provides mentoring from faculty, as well as volunteers from the local business community. CEED Center programing includes Creativity Training Workshops, the Customer Discovery Lab, the STEM Business Idea Challenge, and the Student Enterprise Award. For more information, visit berks.psu.edu/flemming-ceed-center.
Pandemic does not stop Penn State Berks Flemming CEED Center Customer Discovery Lab
Part of the Penn State Berks Flemming CEED Center Customer Discovery Lab further expands the University’s strong emphasis on entrepreneurship programs and other campus activities. During the pandemic, Customer Discovery Lab has been offered virtually through zoom. Right now, Spring 2021 cohort is in session on Wednesday evenings for six weeks. Participants include four Penn State Berks start-up teams who are excited to turn their ideas into action.
The Customer Discovery Lab’s lead faculty includes Dr. Sadan Kulturel-Konak, professor of Management Information Systems, and Dr. Abdullah Konak, professor of Information Sciences and Technology. Kulturel-Konak is also the director of the Flemming CEED Center and the coordinator for the Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ENTI) minor.
The Customer Discovery Lab has been developed as part of the National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corps initiative at Penn State (The Invent Penn State NSF I-Corps Site is funded by the National Science Foundation NSF Grant No. 1735627). NSF established the program based on the Lean LaunchPad, an entrepreneurship methodology to test and develop business models based on querying and learning from customers. Kulturel-Konak summarized, “You can’t test your business idea inside the building. You can’t build your business in a laboratory. Together we can easily see whether a business model can succeed, or what it needs to do so. I feel really good about how much we have been able to help our teams.”
The team-based approach works well, said Konak. “In essence, we are making matches. At the end of the program completion, participants will have a business mentor and a faculty mentor.” Kulturel-Konak added, “We practice being an entrepreneur by teaching them how to first test their ideas, then how to turn good ideas to a successful business initiative. In the Customer Discovery Lab, we are in the game and sometimes ahead of it, improving the entrepreneurial mindset, exposing participants to working one-on-one with role models and giving them feedback.” For Konak, the benefits of a mixed group to encourage student entrepreneurs are already evident. “We show our teams the methodology. We expose them to people and ideas. This is good for our region because the scientific techniques we are using are well-tested. I know the teams want to be here.” Konak stressed that “Most students do not start a business right after they graduate. However, we hope that this experience will help them be able to come up with a solution for any problem, as well as give them a foundation for starting a business beyond graduation.”
The next step for the participants of the Customer Discovery Lab will be compiling interviews (virtually due to the pandemic) with at least 30 potential customers. They—and future teams—will be eligible to compete for an NSF micro-grant of up to $3,000 and then they become eligible to apply for an I-Corps National Teams $50,000 grant to develop their business models.
Flemming CEED Center Hosts Entrepreneurship Speaker Series
Innovators will share their experiences and challenges in a webinar titled “Innovation and Intrapreneurship (I2) in the 21st Century” from 7 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 23, via Zoom. This event is free and open to the public. All participants must pre-register and meeting information will be sent to them via email. Panelists include Darrell Alston, Owner and CEO of Bungee Brand and Daniel E. Goldberg, Ed.D. Founder of the For Eyes and Academic Director of the Business Management BBA Program, Fox School of Business, Temple University. The panel discussion is hosted by the Flemming Creativity, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (CEED) Center, located within the Penn State Berks Gaige Technology and Business Innovation Building, and it is part of the 2021 Spring Entrepreneurship Speaker Series.
Design Thinking Workshop
Customer Discovery Lab 2021
The Penn State Berks Flemming CEED Center is hosting the six-week Customer Discovery Lab, and Spring 2021 weekly workshops begin on February 17. These “boot camp” style training will help entrepreneurs to begin customer discovery, learn about the commercialization process, network with experienced entrepreneurs, and determine if a market exists for their innovation.
Entrepreneurship Speaker Series: Customer Discovery - Challenges During the Pandemic
Entrepreneurship Webinar: Intellectual Property
Join Sarah Hartman-Caverly, PSU Librarian, for a webinar on Wednesday October 28 from 6-7 p.m. Zoom ID: 931 0078 5393
STEM Idea Contest
Penn State Berks Flemming CEED Center invites all Penn State students, faculty, recent alumni, and community teams to submit their innovative ideas in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) fields to the STEM Idea Contest.