A Recap from Associate VP of Research James Delattre

James Delattre speaking at the VIP Conference

James Delattre, Associate Vice President for Research and Director of the Office of Entrepreneurship, addressed a networking luncheon in the park’s Technology Center to debrief the group on the results of Penn State’s recently concluded Venture and IP Conference.

“We had 585 attendees at the conference. We were going to declare victory if we got 300, so that just tells you there was a great response from the university community and from places far away,” Delattre said, reporting that attendees came from all across North America.

“We had 100 attendees participate in tours of the Millennium Science Complex and the Happy Valley LaunchBox on Allen Street, so that was a huge response. There is great interest from people in the entrepreneurship space to learn about the resources Invent Penn State has here in the community.”

Delattre summarized some of the other highlights of the event:

  • 95 start-up companies attended, with 75 participating in the Venture Connection event—a “speed dating” forum in which start-ups had twenty minutes to pitch their companies to professional investors who had been matched with their profile.
  • 69 professional investors participated in the conference, including 39 who met with start-ups in the Venture Connection.
  • 39 organizations stepped up to sponsor the event, defraying much of its cost and making the event possible, including State College-based Accuweather.
  • 30 Penn State students were able to shadow professional investors for two days—a unique learning laboratory to introduce them to the world of early-stage investing.

Tech Tournament

Another major segment of the conference, the Tech Tournament, featured 14 faculty innovations, each of which involved Penn State intellectual property. Four of these technologies received cash awards to support their continued development:

1st Place: AdvanceRib, an FDA-approved device to improve outcomes of rib surgery invented by a team at Hershey Medical Center led by Barry Fell.

2nd Place: Avocolor, a natural food colorant developed by Penn State food researcher Greg Ziegler that is being commercialized by Ziegler’s start-up company, Persea Naturals LLC. Persea Naturals has recently begun operations in the Innovation Park incubator.

3rd Place: Project Team, an anti-bullying curriculum developed by a team of Penn State Education faculty members.

People’s Choice: Lasers for Innovative Solutions, LLC (L4IS), a laser imaging system, developed by Penn State grad student Ben Hall, which provides highly detailed images of samples as the laser slices them into fine layers. L4IS is a tenant in the Innovation Park incubator.

Startup Showdown

Twelve more mature start-up companies were selected to make presentations in a “startup showdown,” with three Pennsylvania companies winning cash awards:

1st Place: Indigo Biosciences, a tenant in Penn State’s Zetachron incubator.

2nd Place: Actuated Medical, from Bellefonte, PA.

3rd Place: RenderFX, from Erie, PA.

Inc U Competition

Since Penn State is first-and-foremost in the business of educating students, the conference also featured an Inc U event (organized by PENNTAP) in which eight student entrepreneurs each received $2,500 awards to advance their student start-ups. This group included Phosphosolutions, which is currently enrolled in the Ben Franklin TechCelerator program in Innovation Park.


Penn State’s next venture conference is tentatively scheduled for April 2018, which will provide an eighteen-month period for the venture pipeline to recharge and will also position the conference to offset and complement Pittsburgh’s 3 Rivers Venture Fair, thus allowing the two events to collaborate under the common direction of Kelly Szejko, who organizes both.

Entrepreneurs will have increased opportunity to refine their business plans so that as they mature and begin to look for executive management and funding, we’ll have some really strong bonds there.

Delattre discussed his objective of having the Penn State entrepreneurial community interact with and learn from the more mature venture community at work in Pittsburgh.

“Entrepreneurs will have increased opportunity to refine their business plans so that as they mature and begin to look for executive management and funding, we’ll have some really strong bonds there,” Delattre said.

At the conclusion of his remarks, Delattre encouraged the local start-up community to get to work early to develop their applications for the next conference—admittance was highly selective, and he wants to encourage the local community to play a major role. He also told the group he expects the next venture conference to have a greater emphasis on education companies and technologies (EdTech) because of Penn State’s strength in this field.