Startup Challenge

The Graham Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership Studies 2017–18 Startup Challenge

The Graham Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership Studies (The Graham Center) Startup Challenge is an interdisciplinary program focused on enhancing innovation and entrepreneurship activities across the Penn State York community. This program is designed to:

  1. Help students determine how viable their big idea could be in the marketplace.
  2. Create an opportunity for students to collaborate as an interdisciplinary team and to network with individuals in the business and campus community.
  3. Provide students with exposure to angel investors, employers, and other innovators.
  4. Allow students to apply what they are learning in the classroom.
Design Thinking Training (2016–17)

Penn State York students involved in the Startup Challenge had the opportunity to participate in a Design Thinking Training workshop as part of their preparation for the competition.

Rules and Eligibility

  1. There is no fee to participate in the challenge.
  2. A minimum of two teams must be accepted into Phase 1 (What’s Your Big Idea?) in order for the Startup Challenge to be conducted.
  3. Teams must include at least two, but no more than five, degree-seeking Penn State York undergraduate students. At least one member of the team must be an active Graham Center student.
  4. All team members must be actively involved in the development of the team’s idea.
  5. No more than five teams will be accepted into Phase 3 (Pitch It!).
  6. Teams that are accepted into Phase 3 (Pitch It!) must participate in The Graham Center Startup Challenge Finale.

Prizes and Awards

  1. A total of $500 per team will be available to assist with the purchase of materials, services, etc. during Phase 2 (Customer/Idea Development) and Phase 3 (Pitch It!). Teams will need to follow competition guidelines for all purchases.
  2. Finale winners who establish a legal entity are eligible to receive prize money. The levels include first place, $2,000; second place, $1,000; and third place, $1,000. Winners are also eligible to receive non-monetary awards.
  3. Winners of the finale may be considered for entry into future Penn State competitions, as arranged by The Graham Center.


Registration for the 2017-18 Startup Challenge is now closed.

Information for the 2018-19 Startup Challenge will be posted in the fall semester of 2018. Please visit the Graham Center website for more information:

Competition Process

Phase 1 – What’s Your Big Idea

  1. Use the Customer Profile and Value Map segments of a business model canvas to explore a product/service idea that solves a problem that your potential customers have.
  2. Complete the Idea Summary template and submit by the deadline.

Phase 2 – Customer Discovery / Idea Development

  1. Continue to develop your idea by talking with potential customers. Use a variety of methods to gather data.
  2. Using customer feedback, continue to develop your idea into a minimally viable product or service.
  3. Complete the Customer Discovery / Idea Template and submit by the deadline.

Phase 3 – Pitch It!

  1. Prepare to present your idea to a panel of judges.
  2. Create a brief video that expresses how your idea solves your potential customer’s needs/wants.
  3. Complete the Customer Discovery / Idea Template and submit by the deadline.


  1. Judges will review and score the packets and videos based on how well teams met the objectives outlined in each section.
  2. Each team will receive feedback.
  3. Finalists in each round will advance to the subsequent rounds. Finalists in Phase 2 will advance to Phase 3 and must be present at the Finale.

Startup Challenge Calendar

  1. November 1, 2017 - December 15, 2017 - Round 1 What’s Your Big Idea
  2. December 18 - 22, 2017 Round 1 - Judging
  3. January 10, 2018 - March 2, 2018 - Round 2 Customer Discovery/Product Development
  4. March 5 - 9, 2018 - Round 2 Judging
  5. March 13, 2018 - April 12, 2018 - Phase 3 Pitch It!
  6. April 16 - 19, 2018 - Phase 3 Judging
  7. April 20, 2018 - Finale Competition / Winners Announced

Entry Videos (2016–17)

App This: 2016–17 Graham Start-Up Challenge Entry

WeKnow, by App This, is the future of learning with its specialized keyboards for every class and most languages, easy communication between group members and professors, and user-friendly file sharing and editing features. Developed by Koven Leatherman and Athena Koufomihalis, WeKnow aims to help students work together and succeed in an academic setting.

Credit: App This
Creaventor: 2016–17 Graham Start-Up Challenge Entry

Creaventor’s Start-Up Challenge entry.

Credit: Creaventor
Home Solutions: 2016–17 Graham Start-Up Challenge Entry

Our business, Home Solutions, is part of a start up challenge sponsored by the the Graham Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership Studies at Penn State York. Our product changes the way you control and interact with your smart home devices. With the push of a button, you can control all your devices such as the Phillips Hue lights, Nest thermostat, and many more devices to be supported soon.

Credit: Home Solutions
PSY1: 2016–17 Graham Start-Up Challenge Entry

Start-up Challenge
Team: PSY1 Aaron Broughton Robert Clarke Roberto Morales Timothy Hanle Urmil Parikh

Credit: PSY1
Rose Gold Productions: 2016–17 Graham Start-Up Challenge Entry

Rose Gold Productions presents our products debut to the public.
Our team consists of Kirsten McWilliams, Sufya Awan, Kat Valerio, Camila Amezquita, and Lorraine Peters.

Credit: Rose Gold Productions
Sharp Vision: 2016–17 Graham Start-Up Challenge Entry

Sharp Vision’s Start-Up Challenge entry.

Credit: Sharp Vision