After an impressive debut in 2016, the Invent Penn State initiative returned to Innovation Park at Penn State to host its second Venture and IP Conference April 19–20, 2018, at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center. More than 600 participants attended the conference, including 80 startup companies and more than 40 venture capitalists and industry advisers.

The Venture & IP Conference provides a space for entrepreneurs and investors to connect and celebrates the creative thinking and innovative minds at Penn State.

“[It] is an example of the kind of important and vital work emerging from Penn State’s research enterprise and from its students,” said Vice President of Research Neil Sharkey. “Moreover, the collection of entrepreneurs, investors, sponsors and others who converged for this event demonstrates the ingenious power of partnership envisioned by the Invent Penn State initiative, where we are collaborating amongst out academic colleges and campuses and with industry partners to innovate and create what’s next to improve mankind.”

Penn State University President Eric Barron opened the conference and awarded $2,000 to each of the six Penn State student startups who presented their companies following his speech. The six startups were finalists in the IncU competition hosted by PennTAP:

Hardwired: a custom, high performance PC design and build business that services the virtual reality, gaming and 4K video editing markets. Hardwired was founded by political science major Robert Zigmund.

HemoGO: a medical app producer that uses smartphone technology combined with a proprietary test strip reader to provide complete blood count tests at home. The results can be sent electronically to healthcare professionals. HemoGo was founded by biology major Shecy Karbasiafshar.

SponsrU: the first trackable, goal-based crowdfunding platform designed to directly help pay a student’s debt so long as the individual demonstrates need and the drive to reach their academic goals. SponsrU was co-founded by James Aversa and Leo Skoronski, both corporate innovation and entrepreneurship majors.

Steer Logic, LLC: a proprietary automated team-roping dummy that is designed to help improve a team-roper’s skill through practice on the automated dummy as opposed to live animals, reducing the animal’s stress. Steer Logic, LLC was co-founded by Olivia Paige Scribniak and Anthony Gyke, both electro-mechanical engineering technology majors.

Trimatis, LLC: a business that uses proprietary methods to recycle certain plastic waste into 3-D printer filament to be used in environmental education and in 3-D printed products. Trimatis LLC was co-founded by Jason Lehrer and Tito Emmanuel Orjih, both engineering majors.

UnisBrands, LLC: a custom-fit shoe manufacturer that produces its shoes through a proprietary 3D-printing method. UnisBrand LLC was founded by accounting major Nick Unis.

The Tech Tournament

One of the conference’s central events is the Tech Tournament, a Shark Tank-style pitch competition. Representatives from 12 startups competed for cash prizes totaling $160,000.

First place and a $75,000 cash prize was awarded to Phospholutions for its granular soil amendment that reduces phosphorous runoff and enhances plant growth.

Second place and a $50,000 cash prize was awarded to Thoracicair for a device used to enhance natural breathing in infants in respiratory distress without the need for invasive ventilation devices.

Third place and a $25,000 cash prize was awarded to Aleo BME Inc. for a biodegradable adhesive used to address unmet needs in surgical adhesives and sealants.

People’s Choice, and a $10,000 cash prize was awarded to ConidioTec, LLC for a bio fungal-pesticide that targets and kills bedbugs via disease that is safe to use around children and pets.

Invent Penn State 2018 Inventor of the Year

The 2018 Inventor of the Year award and a unique 3D-printed trophy were presented to James H. Adair, a professor of Materials Science and
Engineering, for his work with nanotechnologies in the biomedical field for use in cancer treatment.

Top Venture Connection Entrepreneurs

Perhaps the most important event at the conference for the entrepreneurs present was the Venter Connection. At this event, registered entrepreneurs and startup representatives were given the opportunity to talk to and connect with potential investors. Three startups were awarded as the top Venture Connection Entrepreneurs after the conclusion of the second session.

First place was once again awarded to Phospholutions. Second place was awarded to Actuated Medical Inc., a fully integrated medical device company that incorporates electronically controlled actuation into medical devices to reduce health care costs, improve patient outcomes and increase profitability. Third place was awarded to Informu Inc., a company that developed the world’s smallest predictive loss prevention device with an AI.


Throughout the two-day conference, smaller panels open to all attendees where held, each hosted by experts in their field. Panel topics ranged from financing to “how I did it” stories from entrepreneurs and using new emerging technologies in education to growing Pennsylvania’s capacity for life sciences startups.

Although only in its second year, the Invent Penn State Venture and IP Conference is proving itself to be a valuable resource for entrepreneurs and investors. The chance to connect and share ideas creates the perfect breeding ground for progress and innovation, ideals firmly rooted in the Penn State community.