Penn State University: Penn State research, innovation on full display at Venture & IP Conference

Penn State students, faculty and alumni entrepreneurs joined with venture firms and startup champions from across the United States for the 2022 Invent Penn State Venture & IP Conference, held April 28-29 at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center.

The 2022 conference tapped the energy of more than 450 attendees, including 60 startups, 40 investors and 30 sponsors, working together to drive the efforts of entrepreneurs, researchers and others into the next phase of their businesses. One of the largest tech startup conferences in the mid-Atlantic, the event highlights innovation from high-growth and emerging markets and expands Penn State’s diverse technology and entrepreneurial research efforts.

“This year’s Venture & IP Conference featured a diverse and informative group of topics and speakers that provided impactful and actionable advice to attendees,” said James Delattre, associate vice president for research and director of the Office of Entrepreneurship and Commercialization. “The conference also featured some of our best student startups, alumni founders, and disruptive technologies born from Penn State research, which are on their way to having a beneficial impact on our world.”

The conference kicked off with opening remarks from Penn State President Eric J. Barron and presentations from eight Penn State student entrepreneurs during the Student Startup Showcase. Each entrepreneur received $2,000 to help move his or her company forward.

Each student startup was selected because of its successful participation in the Invent Penn State Summer Founders program or Inc.U Competition.

The Student Startup Showcase featured:

Eugene Ryoo (fourth year, cybersecurity analytics and operations), co-founder, The Ballet Scout, a website for dancers to find auditions, training programs and job opportunities.
Monem Rizvi (second year, finance), co-founder, ShambaTek, which is seeking to radically change the productivity of small-scale farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and improve food insecurity by renting out agricultural equipment.
Jake Grim (fourth year, business management and marketing at Penn State Mont Alto), co-founder, Table Rock Markets, an agricultural-focused e-commerce platform designed to connect consumers with local producers by leveraging cloud-based technologies to build a more sustainable future.
Mikayla Agard (fourth year, corporate innovation and entrepreneurship), founder, Stack House, adding variety to fitness routines by providing users with highly effective, customizable workouts centered around unique stack-class formats.
Nathan Bonslaver (fourth year, mechanical engineering at Penn State Berks), co-founder, CarToCamp — a universally fitting sleeping platform for car camping, which provides a flat area on top for two individuals to sleep and storage space underneath.
Marcella Marino (fourth year, corporate innovation and entrepreneurship and international business), founder, MarRosa’s Old World Cuisine, an Italian specialty food line that currently has a marinara sauce, vodka sauce and tomato basil sauce.
Joseph Duncan (fourth year, industrial engineering), co-founder, Ithaka, a building software for landscapers, which uses artificial intelligence to bring landscapers into the 21st century.
Jaelyn Monroe (third year, political science), founder, Miss Monroe Collection, an organic and protective hair care company catering to the needs of people of color.
The two-day event also featured Venture Connection, a match-making event between entrepreneurs and venture capitalist investors who are pre-paired based on industry and capital needs, among other key criteria.

The conference’s first day rounded out with the Tech Tournament, a showcase of disruptive technologies and early-stage companies born of Penn State’s robust and diverse research enterprise. Seven competitors competed for a grand total of $160,000 in innovation awards.

The final luncheon was hosted by James Pietropaolo, associate director of the Penn State Office of Entrepreneurship and Commercialization, who announced the winners of the Tech Tournament.

First place ($75,000) was awarded to Illuminate Therapeutics, a controlled siRNA delivery system that provides a minimally invasive treatment option for the $1 billion head and neck cancer treatment market.
Second place ($50,000) was awarded to NPep Therapeutics, which uses ultrasound-controlled nanomaterials to track, guide and activate on-demand the precision delivery of proteins into cells.
Third place ($25,000) was awarded to BioRES Technologies for its protein-based method for extracting and separating rare earths, a group of 17 metals labeled as critical materials by the U.S. Department of Energy.
The $10,000 People’s Choice Award went to Epicrop Technologies for its development of a system to help improve worldwide crop production by increasing a plant’s resilience to stress.
Entrepreneurs and investors also had the opportunity to participate in multiple panel discussions throughout the two-day event, where they heard and learned about intellectual property and raising funding, among other current topics.

The event also included a keynote presentation by Doug Farren, managing director at the National Center for the Middle Market, who shared how national market trends are impacting small and midsized companies.

A Penn State alumni Unicorn Panel wrapped up the event, showcasing founders and their startups, which have crossed the $1 billion valuation threshold. The event was moderated by Ryan Newman, managing director at Goldman Sachs, host of the Invent Penn State “Dare to Disrupt” podcast, and conference co-chair, who interviewed Ash Ashutosh, founder of Actifio (acquired by Google) and global director of solution sales at Google, and Mo Bhende, CEO and co-founder of Karat. During the panel, Bhende announced Karat is teaming up with Serena Williams in an effort to diversify the tech industry and increase the number of Black software engineers in the United States.

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