While spending last summer in State College, Joseph Kitonga, a sophomore computer engineering major at Penn State, started developing an event and ticket platform website, a hub where friends and peers could find things to do even when school was out. But the idea was still in its infancy.
“Students who were doing research here at Penn State from other campuses kept telling me that they wished they had something like What’s Poppin in their own campuses because it was difficult finding events for them,” he said. “That’s when I knew that What’s Poppin could solve a real problem that was prevalent at most universities.”
Since then What’s Poppin, his site, has become a five-person operation, with an app-launch scheduled for early this year. During the fall semester, Kitonga’s team participated in the Happy Valley LaunchBox, a 10-week accelerator program for entrepreneurs, and as part of the experience culled weekly consumer feedback. With a focus group of hundreds of his peers, Kitonga was able to tailor his fledgling startup to meet the needs of the end users.
The Happy Valley LaunchBox will welcome its fourth class, and more entrepreneurs like Kitonga, this semester. Applications are open until 5 p.m. on Jan. 20, and anyone in the community or at Penn State can apply. The LaunchBox announced that it will select five to seven startups to participate.
The no-cost program provides teams mentorship, consultation services and co-working space in the downtown State College location at 224 S. Allen St. During the 10 weeks, teams collaborate weekly and work with a coach to set and meet goals. After the program concludes, the teams can then retain their seats for an additional nine months for development purposes.
According to a release, the LaunchBox is “a signature program” of the Invent Penn State initiative, which launched in 2015.