Happy Valley LaunchBox announced its inaugural cohort, an entrepreneurial class of six business startups who will participate in Invent Penn State’s no-cost business pre-accelerator program. The teams will complete 10 weeks of business startup training, have access to no-cost legal and marketing consulting, and enjoy no-cost co-working space that’s available to their teams 24 hours daily.

One of the six startups chosen was Somnus: a medical device that can diagnose sleep apnea at home, instead of requiring patients to check into a sleep clinic. The team is comprised of Nick LaBarbera and Michael McPhail. “Our team is thrilled to be selected for the Happy Valley LaunchBox! The workshop and training opportunities provided by the LaunchBox will be instrumental in getting our concept off the ground. We are especially excited to learn from experienced entrepreneurs and business people from the State College area,” Labarbera says in a release.

The final six entrepreneurial teams had submitted applications in early December, along with more than 40 other companies or entrepreneurial teams, and were selected from 11 finalists in a highly competitive process. Each finalist interviewed and pitched their business idea to the LaunchBox selection committee made up of a mix of entrepreneurs and business startup service providers. The process yielded a diverse mix of Penn State students, faculty, and Happy Valley community entrepreneurs comprising the finalist cohort teams.

“We believed, based on research, that there was a need for LaunchBox—a dynamic and collaborative university-community entrepreneurial environment,” vice president for sesearch Neil Sharkey says. “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.”

The other 5 chosen startups are:

  • Scenomics, a software-as-service concept that helps healthcare organizations identify and quantify the value of their technology investments.
  • Lockeroom, a platform for managing youth sports teams and leagues that automates and expedites registration, scheduling, and communication processes for team and league management.
  • Project Vive, a speech assistance technology that aims to give a voice to individuals who cannot talk by providing a low-cost, effective device.
  • ReDi Index, guidance and methods to measure an organization’s recycling efforts with a two-number system to measure your improvement and progress toward zero waste.
  • Squid Bioadhesives, a protein-based bioadhesive that is 10 times stronger than other natural adhesives and is capable of bonding underwater, as well as self-repairing. The material was inspired by the suction cups of squids and has potential as a surgical adhesive.

During the 10-week LaunchBox program, LaunchTeams will commit three hours per week to in-class time and five hours per week to out-of-class time. After the training, the teams will be eligible to retain their seats for an additional nine months to continue to develop their business concepts. Additionally, staff will connect teams who need capital with potential investors.

Following the inaugural cohort, LaunchBox will expand to accept 10 LaunchTeams for each session, including summer and fall of this year. Ongoing, LaunchBox will select three cohorts per year, for an ultimate capacity of 30 business startups.

“If you have an idea, you should connect with us at invent.psu.edu,” Sharkey says. “Due to the collaboration facilitated by the Invent Penn State initiative, every team that applied to LaunchBox is now a part of our entrepreneurship family and has been referred to proper mentors and programs in our ecosystem to grow their ideas. We expect they’ll apply for the Summer Founders Program, the LaunchBox summer session or TechCelerator when they’re ready. Happy Valley is a great place to start a business in 2016.”