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Pitch competition to feature five student entrepreneur startup teams | Penn State University

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October 18-20, 2023 / Tucson, AZ
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The Story

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Nittany Entrepreneur Society (NES) (formerly known as Innoblue) and Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship Society (CIES) will host their biggest pitch competition of the year from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 17.

Held in room 603 of the Eric J. Barron Innovation Hub, the event will feature five student startup teams and three judges, including Penn State senior and winner of the 2023 Inc. U pitch competition, Mary Richardson; Centre County Commissioner Mark Higgins; and founder and CEO of Alloy Market, Brandon Aversano.

Co-hosting organization, NES, has contributed to similar technology and entrepreneurship initiatives throughout their time as the oldest entrepreneurial organization on campus, including the Summer Founders ProgramHackPSU and LionLaunch Pad. It also runs workshops to improve entrepreneurial skills and knowledge and provide support and opportunities for student-led projects.

“We provide a very supportive community where we act as a hub that connects a lot of organizations,” said Matt Christianson, NES president and representative for Student Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Sustainability.

NES hosts meetings every Monday on the second floor of the Happy Valley LaunchBox. The club welcomes students of any year and major for free food and help with projects and startup ideas in the hopes of obtaining job offers.

CIES has similar goals of fostering a creative culture of entrepreneurs at Penn State and establishing a close network of students interested in the Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship program. Both organizations highlight the larger scene of entrepreneurial education at Penn State and provide supportive environments and opportunities for interested students.

Despite their independent endeavors across the University Park campus, such opportunities as the upcoming pitch competition could not achieve the same degree of success without contributions like this year’s sponsorship from gold-buying company Alloy Market, Christianson said.

“We want to relay our appreciation for our sponsor who is a senior contributor to Forbes and is a founder of a startup,” added Christianson. Alloy, which has been featured in such publications as CBS and USA Today, promotes honesty and fair compensation with a mission to provide a compassionate support system to help customers sell gold, silver and platinum jewelry.

Student attendees can expect the opportunity to gain invaluable skills and experience whether participating or simply attending the competition. Officially named the “NES X CIES Pitch Competition: Shark Tank Edition,” the event is open to all students to gain exposure to the processes of promoting a startup business from fellow students and professionals alike. Christianson, who secured his full-time job after graduation through a similar pitch competition at Penn State, said that there are “no other competitions like this,” specifically noting the unique judging system in which each of the three judges may award an individually selected amount of money to a team of their choice.

While there will be an award for best overall team, awards like this will be separate from funding, explained Christianson. There are various factors judges will look for when selecting a team to fund and while some will have excellent pitches, they may not require financial assistance as urgently as other teams.

NES stresses the need to “allocate money appropriately to the startups that really need it,” while still “awarding the people that are doing an amazing job at pitching,” said Christianson.

The NES X CIES Pitch Competition serves as a middle-ground between the Ideamakers Challenge, hosted by the College of Information Sciences and Technology, and the Inc. U Competition, hosted by Invent Penn State. Christianson described the Ideamakers Challenge as the earliest stage of pitch competitions, featuring ideas from mostly inexperienced startups. Inc. U, however, is the final stage for startups that have been developing their ideas for six months or more. NES and CIES addressed the gap between these levels of competition by creating a space for “middle-stage” startups, or those that are not experienced enough for Inc. U and too far ahead for earlier stages. The only requirement to apply for the NES X CIES competition is that startups may not have received any funding from previous competitions.

Competing teams will not only have the chance to develop critical public speaking and problem-solving skills, but will be able to participate in extensive networking with entrepreneurs and business professionals. NES additionally uses competitions such as this to recruit students into other programs like the Entrepreneurship and Innovation minor.

The event provides the combined opportunity for community involvement, professional exposure and skills development, whether teams are awarded funding or not. As Christianson said of the NES perspective, “We don’t see that as losing, we see that as: Here’s the next step.”

Full story: Pitch competition to feature five student entrepreneur startup teams | Penn State University

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