Happy Valley LaunchBox graduates first cohort of five startups

Happy Valley Launchbox building
Author: 
Brad Groznik

Business accelerator announces next group of 10 startups for summer

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Invent Penn State hosted a graduation ceremony for the first five startups to complete the University’s free 10-week business idea accelerator on April 28 at Happy Valley LaunchBox in downtown State College.

“I’m continually inspired to see the groundbreaking research discoveries and disruptive technologies coming from Penn State and Happy Valley,” said Vice President for Research Neil Sharkey. “The quality of these startups in Happy Valley LaunchBox and the people who are leading them validates the work we are doing through Invent Penn State — both to enhance the entrepreneurship ecosystem and to let the rest of the world know that this is a hub for innovation.”

The inaugural LaunchTeams include:

  • Lockeroom, a platform for managing youth sports teams and leagues that automates and expedites registration, scheduling and communications for team and league management.
  • Project Vive, a speech assistance technology that aims to give a voice to individuals who cannot talk by providing a low-cost, effective device.
  • ReDi Index, guidance and methods to measure an organization’s recycling efforts with a two-number system to measure your improvement and progress toward zero waste.
  • Scenomi, a software-as-service concept that helps health care organizations identify and quantify the value of their technology investments.
  • Somnus, a medical device that more accurately diagnoses sleep apnea.

Startup founders praised the experience and look forward to taking their businesses to the next level.

Kurt Collins, co-founder of Lockeroom, said, “The most beneficial thing that LaunchBox gave us was access to a network of smart and successful people. We met with a lot of people within the community and it’s helped us discover a lot of different ideas that foster growth. Moving forward, we intend to use the tools that LaunchBox gave us and continue building something valuable for our potential customers that keeps them happy and engaged.”

Mary Elizabeth McCulloch, co-founder of Project Vive, said, "We love Happy Valley LaunchBox. We received great mentorship and support here and have grown tremendously. We are hiring five full-time interns this summer and that wouldn’t have been possible without this space."

Brendan Bagley, co-founder of ReDi Index, said, “The LaunchBox has provided detailed insight on how to start a business. It has provided basic business insight into things like the business model canvas, understanding what a pitch is and when to use it, insight into minimum viable product and its importance to the process, how to conduct lean start up tests, what angel investors are and what they deem important — to name just a few things. It’s a wonderfully collaborative approach and the cohort members feel and understand that they are not ‘going it alone’ with the help of other startups and Liz Kisenwether (she’s truly amazing). Apparently, there’s a process to starting up an effective company and LaunchBox provides the insight needed. Through the LaunchBox effort we learned that in the next year we must establish our ‘brand’ and how we can help companies, through education, on their journey to zero waste. This will assist them in being better stewards of their resources. And over the next five years we want to continue to expand this educational effort and improve our Web-based application to apply to more aspects of the waste manager’s duties.”

Steven Haynes, co-founder of Scenomi, said,​ “I especially enjoyed how a startup is treated as a voyage of learning and discovery.”

Nicholas Labarbera, co-founder of Somnus, said, “Team Somnus is so grateful to have been a part of the first LaunchBox cohort. We learned a lot from the workshops and training. Maybe the most important part has been talking to fellow entrepreneurs and learning from their experiences. We are already using the knowledge we gained to move our concept forward.”

Invent Penn State also announced the next cohort of 10 startups that will participate in LaunchBox’s summer session, beginning the week of May 23.

Moving forward, LaunchBox will select three cohorts per year, for an ultimate capacity of 30 business startups. The free program is available to all local community members and residents — not just those affiliated with the University. Summer LaunchTeams include:

  • Aeolus, a breathing-based video game for monitoring and improving lung health through engaging physiotherapy.
  • Bright Box, hands-on learning kits for Syrian refugee students in Germany that advance their science, technology, engineering and math knowledge, German language and social and emotional skills.
  • First Pick, a mobile application which helps users organize and search for pickup sports games and tournaments going on around them.
  • Maake Magazine, an online gallery and print magazine showcasing the work of emerging artists.
  • Omega Notes, a college notes marketplace where students can buy and sell student-generated content including study guides, review sheets, flashcards and class notes.
  • Parking Bee, a platform to find affordable and convenient parking space rentals.
  • Phospholutions, a buffering agent used to reduce nutrient run-off and leaching in agricultural, horticultural and turf grass production systems.
  • Simulation Building Blocks, a platform that bridges industry and academia where experts can add new models (building blocks) into the pre-developed simulation framework for oil and gas wells.
  • Stellartisan, a digital marketplace for products, services and ideas.
  • Sunset WX, a daily forecast of the quality of the sunrise and sunset.

During the 10-week LaunchBox program, LaunchTeams commit three hours per week to in-class time and five hours per week to out-of-class time. After the training, the teams are eligible to retain their seats for an additional nine months to continue to develop their business concepts. Additionally, staff will connect teams who need capital with potential investors.