Brandywine and Berks LaunchBoxes collaborate for Idea TestLab Pitch Competition

winners of idea TestLab competition standing on stage with large checks for $400, $600 and $1000

Third-place winners Kubarius Kerner and Vera Hempel (left), second-place winner Stacey Murrell (middle) and first-place winner Mike Aman (right) each received large checks following their wins at the Idea TestLab competition on Nov. 8.

Credit: Penn State

MEDIA, Pa. — Penn State Brandywine’s and Penn State Berks’ LaunchBoxes, powered by Penn State, collaborated with Penn State Great Valley to hold the Fall 2023 Idea TestLab Pitch Competition on Wednesday, Nov. 8. Nine startup entrepreneurs participated in the competition, which was held at Great Valley and included two students from Brandywine as well as seven teams of the campus’ respective communities.

The Idea TestLab is a five-week business accelerator program for early-stage entrepreneurs who want to explore their scalable idea or address a customer problem for a potential business. The Idea TestLab is a “customer discovery” investigation designed to help entrepreneurs better understand the customer problem they are trying to solve and how to provide value in a different way.

Participants must be in an early stage, which means they have already conceived an idea and are ready to seek proof of concept and engagement in a customer discovery process.

The winner of the Fall 2023 Idea TestLab Pitch Competition, Mike Aman, won for his startup focusing on easing the lives of aging parents. Second place winner, Stacey Murrell, a Lansdowne resident, won second place for her company Master the Pieces, a mental health coaching startup. Third place was awarded to Kubarius Kerner and Vera Hempel for their startup Kiss UX, a digital experience company focused on web design.

Tony Mattei, director of entrepreneurship and digital marketing at Penn State Brandywine, noted how much each team has grown throughout the five-week program, saying it’s not a small feat to have that much courage and present on a large stage.

“We met these teams on Oct. 4, just five weeks ago. We didn’t know the contestants before this and had just been introduced to them on that day. I want to thank those who coached our teams for meeting with us multiple times per week throughout the whole process,” he said.

“Now, on Nov. 8, seeing the growth of these teams has been astonishing. Even if you don’t win anything tonight, continue building up your small business.”

Now, on November 8, seeing the growth of these teams has been astonishing. Even if you don’t win anything tonight, continue building up your small business.

—Tony Mattei , director of entrepreneurship and digital marketing, Penn State Brandywine

Judges for the pitch competition were Jobany Bedoya, senior resource development director for United Way of Lancaster County and owner of Diversity Mixers and Red Tie Affairs LLC; Chris Bradley, part-owner of i-core networks and Brandywine Advisory Board member; Nicol Cancelmo, co-founder of Ocoa; and Mark Trabbold, Brandywine LaunchBox Advisory Board member.

Brandywine LaunchBox is a signature program of Invent Penn State, a commonwealth-wide initiative to spur economic development, job creation and student career success. At one of the University’s 21 innovation hubs across the commonwealth, Brandywine LaunchBox provides programs and resources for early-stage entrepreneurs. The LaunchBox is located in Lansdowne at the Utility Works MakerSpace, which is operated by the Lansdowne Economic Development Corporation.

The next Idea TestLab program will begin in February 2024.