Six Penn State student startups with representation across three different campuses plus the Graduate School at Penn State have been selected into the 2022 Invent Penn State Summer Founders program. Each student team will receive a $15,000 grant to work full-time on its startup, social good or nonprofit over the summer at Happy Valley LaunchBox powered by PNC Bank.
"We are so excited for this year's Summer Founders teams,” said Benjamin Nason, Idea Catalyst at Happy Valley LaunchBox. “We have an incredible group with a wide base of businesses; from sustainable handmade candles to fashion designed by AI, to a marketplace for ballet performers and companies. There is really something special about the Summer Founders program in that it draws some of the most talented and driven students who end up making an impact.”
During the 13-week entrepreneurial bootcamp, Summer Founders teams will work at Happy Valley LaunchBox, which will provide programming as well as 24x7 access to its space. Teams will also receive mentorship and have access to a network of more than 60 advisors plus up to $3,000 for customer discovery through the Invent Penn State NSF I-Corps program, among other benefits.
Below are teams selected into the program, which will run from mid-May through mid-August:
- AIMADETHIS aims to utilize the power of artificial intelligence to inform current fashion trends in terms of color and pattern to create patterns that are then dyed in small-batch manufacturing and cut and sewn into high-quality garments. The startup founders are Nisarga Kadam, a fourth-year student studying social data analytics, and Yasmeen Collins, a graduate student studying computer science and machine learning at Columbia University.
- The Ballet Scout is 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.
- 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.
- Clove and Sprig produces hand-crafted, small-batch, seasonal candles equipped with wooden wicks that allow for a longer burn time, cleaner burn, and more powerful scent than that of traditional retail candles. The startup founder is Kelsey Lauer, a junior studying public relations.
- Hey! is the first-of-its-kind, voice-only dating platform targeted at individuals who are at least 18 years old. It introduces a simplified and innovative matchmaking process using search criteria and interests to instantly find a nearby partner to talk to through a live 1-on-1 voice conversation. The startup founders are Kevin Lord Josue, a student at the Graduate School at Penn State studying engineering management, and Vaillant Domingue III, an undergraduate at the University of Connecticut.
- ImaniK Travels, LLC is a consultation-based service that educates, de-risks, plans, and executes guided international trips to make travel more accessible for young students of color. The startup founder is Imani Murray, a fifth-year student studying materials science engineering and Chinese language.
About Summer Founders
Summer Founders is a signature program of the Invent Penn State initiative and is provided in partnership with Happy Valley LaunchBox. 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 [email protected].