Pre-accelerator Program will Help Businesses Get Started, Stick Around

Penn State’s newest business pre-accelerator program, part of the Invent Penn State Initiative, was launched Thursday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the event.

Hosted by Penn State President Eric Barron at the former Verizon Building where a Happy Valley LaunchBox logo hung all month to tease the program’s opening, the ceremony drew cheers, applause, and emotion from local entrepreneurs and community leaders who want to help grow local businesses and keep them in harmonious operation with the community.

“This is an opportunity to come from Penn State, into our community, create your company with the support of the community, and to realize that your university and your community are here to help you be successful,” Barron said. “That is a wonderful message.”

Joining Barron were University Vice President for Research Neil Sharkey, State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham, Borough Manager Tom Fountaine, Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County President Vern Squier, and Pennsylvania Economic and Community Development Deputy Director Sheri Collins.

On hand were representatives from the first five companies that will call the LaunchBox home for the next nine months. Selected from a field of more than 40 applicants last winter, Lockeroom, Project Vive, ReDi Index, Scenomics, and Somnus will use the LaunchBox as their primary workspace to develop their businesses and tweak their technologies alongside one another.

Their residency inside the LaunchBox will be free for that span, a fact Barron brought up as he championed the program in his opening remarks.

“So this is Penn State, at all of its campuses, working with its communities in partnership to promote entrepreneurial thinking to create ideas that have impacts on communities and to create companies that help spur economic development and job growth and student career success,” Barron said. “It’s quite exciting to see them all unfold.”

All five companies are striving for measurable results in the community, too. Local business leaders want to make sure results continue to translate after each LaunchTeam moves on from the LaunchBox to offices and labs elsewhere.

“After that nine months, what happens? It’s incumbent upon the community, Mayor, and others. We have to be willing to host and accommodate and encourage and provide an environment where these enterprises can thrive,” Vern Squier, President and CEO of the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County, said. “It’s not just existing, it’s about thriving.”

About the companies:

Lockeroom is a platform that will make management of youth sports teams and leagues easier by automating and expediting registration, scheduling, and communication between players, parents, and league managers.

ReDi Index’s provides guidance and methods for measuring organizations’ recycling programs.

Scenomics’s software-as-a-service concept aims to help healthcare organizations pinpoint the value of technology investments.

Somnus and Project Vive are both developing medical technologies that will assist people stricken with sleep apnea and— in Somnus’ case —communication disorders.

Mary Elizabeth McCulloch, Co-Founder of Project Vive, spoke on behalf of her company and moved local business leaders with her remarks. Wearing a red glove dotted with electronics — the Vive Device — on her right hand, McCulloch spoke about the technology that allows users to overcome non-verbal communication barriers brought on by cerebral palsy and other related disabilities.    

McCulloch envisions more improvements for the device working out of the LaunchBox. “None of these resources would have been available without Invent Penn State. Project Vive would not be where it is,” McCulloch said. “I’m a senior in biomedical engineering and when people ask me what I’m doing next semester, I’m staying local and going full-time on Project Vive.”