When we dedicated the Happy Valley LaunchBox a short 20 months ago, the hard-working steering committee was sitting on rusty metal folding chairs without much heat, and drinking cheap coffee. And the first cohort of aspiring entrepreneurs were living on Ramen noodles. The operation was being run on a shoestring, but the ambition was impossible to contain. Now Sheetz provides us fresh roasted coffee, we have cushy bean bag chairs and our entrepreneurs are enjoying tasty hors d’oeuvres at events.
And here we are, ready to take Happy Valley LaunchBox to the next level with the support of colleagues, partners and friends, including several members of the Penn State Board of Trustees. Our trustees have embraced Invent Penn State from its inception, and they have been powerful advocates for this effort across the Commonwealth.
Happy Valley LaunchBox is one of 17 Penn State-affiliated entrepreneurial spaces located across the Commonwealth. In two and a half short years, the University has provided seed grant funding, in stages, for the development of 21 unique innovation hubs. Each reflects the unique character of the campus and surrounding community, but all share a common mission: to inspire and advance innovation and entrepreneurship, and to help transform great ideas into viable products and business opportunities.
Our first reporting year (2016-17) of activity — with only five of the innovation hubs open for the full year — already showed considerable impact. Consider:
- More than 2,500 faculty, staff and students engaged in entrepreneurial activity
- 100s of community entrepreneurs were supported
- 80 new products were developed
- 79 startups were launched
- 110 student internships were created
Now, let’s look at Happy Valley LaunchBox. In addition to the free legal and IP advice from Penn State Law and business consulting services from SBDC for startup entrepreneurs, it offers three programs designed to help early stage entrepreneurs de-risk their businesses and accelerate their entry to market.
Every day in this facility, between five to 15 individuals are collaborating, 75 students are attending the two entrepreneurship classes hosted here, and five to 10 startup teams are working. This was also a site for Global Entrepreneurship Week events with over 700 individuals attending.
Since the Happy Valley LaunchBox opened:
- 31 teams have completed the Accelerator program
- Startup teams have raised over $425,000 in funding, grants, and awards.
- 100+ interns have worked for startups
- They’ve hosted 100+ entrepreneurship events
- And, we’ve had our first Forbes 30 under 30 nominee.
I’m very pleased to announce that a special collaboration with PNC Bank will take the Happy Valley LaunchBox to the next level. PNC has generously provided a $1 million grant in support of this initiative, which Penn State will match.
In recognition of PNC’s extraordinary commitment and vision, we have renamed the center Happy Valley LaunchBox, Powered by PNC Bank. I’m thrilled that PNC is the first corporation to make this type of commitment in support of Invent Penn State.
We look forward to a close relationship that enables PNC executives to participate in entrepreneurial programming such as the hub’s speaker series, mentorship program and more.
PNC’s relationship with Penn State — both business and philanthropic — has spanned decades. There are nearly 600 Penn State alumni who work at PNC Financial Services. In addition, PNC’s philanthropy has been a part of some of the most important initiatives in Penn State’s history, supporting the Penn State Children’s Hospital, Schreyer Honors College, the Colleges of Business and Information Sciences and Technology, Penn State Harrisburg, Penn State Behrend, the Hershey Medical Center, Intercollegiate Athletics, and a multitude of other areas.
What’s more, PNC has often stepped forward in the early stages of a project — when Penn State most needed a partner with the vision to support new ventures and a friend who believed in the future.