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Happy Valley LaunchBox Welcomes Six Innovative Startups to Program

by on January 20, 2016 4:00 PM
State College, PA

When Eric Barron stepped into office as the Penn State president, he pledged to light a fire under a rapidly growing community of entrepreneurs at the university.

His $30 million investment launched Invent Penn State, an initiative that has helped fund, develop, and provide a helping a hand to entrepreneurs throughout the Commonwealth. 

The most recent example comes in the form of Happy Valley LaunchBox, a program that will act as an incubator of sorts for student startups at 224 S. Allen St. in State College. 

Happy Valley LaunchBox announced the first six so-called LaunchTeams on Jan. 15, paving the way for the startups to complete a business training program. Each team will also have access to legal and marketing consultants as well as the downtown co-working space, all at no cost thanks to university funding.

"We believed, based on research, that there was a need for LaunchBox -- a dynamic and collaborative university-community entrepreneurial environment,” Penn State Vice President for Research Neil Sharkey said. "But we were pleasantly surprised by the high number of applications and the diverse mix of entrepreneurs and startups that applied for our first cohort. There are a lot of great ideas to be commercialized. We made tough choices."

Nearly 50 companies applied to be LaunchTeams, and the final six were selected from a pool of 11 finalists. There are some familiar names among the inaugural class of Happy Valley LaunchBox startups, like Project Vive -- a low-cost, hand-controlled device that will give the gift of speech to those without a voice. That startup, led by Penn State biomedical engineering student Mary Elizabeth McCulloch, was showcased as part of the Summer Founders Program's Demo Day in August, where student startups presented the work they accomplished with $10,000 grants over the 2015 summer.

ReDi Index is taking on sustainability with a new system to measure an organization's recycling efforts and the progress made toward zero waste. 

Scenomics is creating a software-as-service product that healthcare organizations will use to "identify and quantify the value of their technology investments," a press release from Happy Valley LaunchBox said.

Somnus is tackling snoring -- well, actually sleep apnea -- a dangerous medical condition that affects people in their sleep. The product is a medical device that will be able to diagnose sleep apnea at home, a notable improvement from the current diagnosis process that includes a costly, time-consuming, and uncomfortable stay at a sleep clinic.

Squid Bioadhesives was inspired by the suction cups of squids. Yet another medical startup, this company is working on a protein-based bioadhesive that's "10 times stronger than other natural adhesives and is capable of bonding underwater, as well as self-repairing." 

Last but not least is Lockeroom, "a platform for managing youth sports teams and leagues that automates and expedites registration, scheduling, and communication processes for team and league management."

Brook Hart, the co-founder of Lockeroom, was surprised to see just how vibrant of an entrepreneur community there is in State College and at Penn State. 

"Something I don’t think any of us realized growing up here, was how many talented and successful entrepreneurs there are in this community," Hart said. "We are looking forward to being able to learn from many of the talented people who have achieved the type of success that we are working toward."

Happy Valley LaunchBox will give these student startups an intensive 10-week training program, followed by nine months of additional support to help them develop their businesses. The initiative pledges to help connect these businesses with potential investors and gives them the tools and the physical workspace needed to grow.

Going forward, LaunchBox plans to expand by accepting 10 teams for each semester -- including summer -- for an ultimate capacity of 30 teams that it will support. 

Zach Berger is the managing editor of He graduated from Penn State University in 2014 with a degree in print journalism. Zach enjoys writing about a variety of topics ranging from football to government, music, and everything in between.
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