A Penn State Berks student recently had the chance to convince an international community of like-minded entrepreneurs. He presented the merits of his idea for a company at STup! 2021, a competition for college startups. The competition was held in a hybrid format from June 18-19, 2021. The University of Split in Croatia hosted the event.
Idea Came From Work with the Elderly
bctv.org reports that the elderly inspired Matthew Finger’s work. Finger is a senior information sciences and technology student with a minor in entrepreneurship and innovation. His time working for a family-owned and operated retirement home inspired his startup idea.
“In the world of retirement homes, caregivers lack access to senior’s digital health information systems. Caregivers cannot contribute digital care notes or directly access health records like treatment plans. Seniors often do not get the care they deserve because of this. My solution is essentially a visual app that is built on top of retirement home software to empower caregivers with personalized senior information, unified care notes, and coordinated care.”
Finger noted, “Coming from a tech student background I saw a huge void in caregiver’s access to digital health systems. There is so much potential to improve these systems and provide so much better care for these seniors. I knew I had to do something about it,” adds Finger.
The competition gave each of the 34 teams five minutes to make their pitch in front of a panel of judges and a live audience. The judges then quizzed each team questions about the details of their startup.
A Tough Student Competition
Dr. Sadan Kulturel-Konak, professor of management information systems and the director of the Flemming Creativity, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Development (CEED) Center at Penn State Berks, states, “I was very fortunate to mentor Matt in his startup idea. It was a delight to work very closely with Matt and vet his final pitch.”
Penn State Berks says that the mission of the Flemming CEED Center is to inspire an entrepreneurial spirit and innovative thinking in the Pennsylvania State University Berks community. The Center looks to develop economic growth and development in the Greater Reading area through technology based solutions, human capital development, and enterprise creation.
“I strongly believe that students’ participation in external competitions helps them cultivate an innovation mindset, gain greater self-awareness about their capabilities in innovation, and become more open-minded. Moreover, these kinds of co-curricular activities expand the University’s strong emphasis on entrepreneurship programs” Kulturel-Konak adds.
Finger first became involved in Penn State Berks’ entrepreneurship competitions when he participated in the STEM Business Idea Challenge last fall. The senior student went on to compete in the Student Enterprise Award competition and the CEED Center’s Customer Discovery Lab in the spring of 2021. Matthew received a National Science Foundation (NSF) microgrant for further customer discovery. Finally, this summer, he qualified to participate in STup! 2021.
Concentration on International Startup Competition
“I’m so grateful for the professional and even personal development I’ve made in competing on an international startup stage,” comments Finger. “My business is still in the early phases but competing has inspired me to push even harder.”
Finger noted that he worked closely with Professors Abdullah Konak and Sadan Kulturel-Konak in the Customer Discovery Lab at the Flemming CEED Center last spring. It was there that he learned to challenge and grow his business idea through interviewing customers, understanding my market segment, and perfecting my value proposition.
Finger says that Dr. Kulturel-Konak encouraged him to challenge himself and participate in the competition.
What’s Next for the Student
The student also said that he is taking advantage of Penn State’s Undergraduate Research and Fellowship Mentoring’s (URFM) Bootcamp to prepare to apply for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP).
“I’m excited to keep pushing forward at Penn State and with my mentors to bring this powerful solution to the millions of seniors in retirement home across the U.S. and beyond,” he remarked.
About the Program
STup! 2021 was organized by the University of Split in Croatia.
Participants must submit their startup presentation along with the application. Those “university startups” that are chosen are notified by email with further guidelines from the organizers. This is defined as a startup in early-phase that is associated with one of University institutions or with at least one member who is a student. For example, each team must be affiliated with a university through an incubator, accelerator, or as a student.
Penn State Berks says that it has a collaborative relationship with the University of Split. Berks faculty helped Split develop its service-learning program in 2018. Berks says that Stup! 2021 was another way of expanding this collaboration.
The 2021 categories were cyber security; agritech, food and bioeconomics; transportation and mobility; energy and environmental sustainability; and robotics and data/AI.
Penn State Berks is a commonwealth campus of Pennsylvania State University. The school is located in Spring Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania.