Student teams to compete on WPSU’s 'The Investment'

The logo for the Penn State Inc.U competition
Credit: Penn State

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The top six Penn State student startup teams have been selected for the 2021 Inc.U Competition and will compete on WPSU’s Shark Tank-style TV show “The Investment” for a chance at a share of up to $30,000 in funding for their startup.

“There were a lot of great applicants this year, which was great to see considering the challenges the pandemic has brought,” said Tanna Pugh, director of the Pennsylvania Technical Assistance Program (PennTAP), Inc.U Competition host organization. “These six teams really stood out as having great potential, and we are excited to help these teams get their pitches ready for ‘The Investment.’”

The student startups are:

Girls Code the World

Girls Code the World is a nonprofit corporation that seeks to provide opportunities, resources, and role models for young girls in STEM-related fields through a series of engaging programs and extended mentorships. The startup founder is Sydney Gibbard, a sophomore at University Park studying biomedical engineering in the College of Engineering.


JERPA Jeans is a clothing company which created the first jeans lined with sherpa. The startup founder is Austin Thomas, a senior at University Park studying supply chain management in the Smeal College of Business.

Miss Monroe Collection

Miss Monroe Collection is an organic and protective hair-care company established to empower people of color to embrace their natural hair. The startup founder is Jaelyn Monroe, a sophomore at University Park studying political science in the College of the Liberal Arts and obtaining a business certificate from the Smeal College of Business.

Sports Data Now

Sports Data Now is a data research platform designed to improve the decision making of a sports fan with a passion for fantasy leagues, analyzing player statistics, and refining sports models. The startup founder is Andrew Briglia, a senior at University Park studying industrial engineering in the College of Engineering.

Table Rock Markets

Table Rock Markets is an e-commerce platform for connecting consumers to local farmers. The startup founder is Jake Grim, a junior at Penn State Mont Alto studying business management and marketing.


Xora provides visual communication tools which allow 3D designers to communicate both internally and externally with higher clarity and speed. The platform, using technologies such as augmented reality and cloud computing, will combat the $250-billion waste problem in the construction industry caused by changes after initial construction has started. The startup founders are Gregory Costeas, a junior at University Park studying human-centered design and development in the College of Information Sciences and Technology, and Royce D’Souza, a senior at University Park studying qualimetric data engineering through the Individualized Major Program.

Several of these teams have already taken advantage of Penn State entrepreneurial ecosystem programming, including the Invent Penn State Summer Founders program and the Ben Franklin Technology Partners TechCelerator @State College.

To prepare their pitches for the April 10 filming, the finalists will be working with experienced mentors and coaches from the Invent Penn State entrepreneurial ecosystem over the next month. These coaches will help guide the teams on how to deliver a successful pitch as well as prepare for questions the teams may face from the judges on the show.

Student teams will also be connected with the Intellectual Property Law Clinic and the Entrepreneur Assistance Law Clinic when it comes time for them to establish LLCs and for patent/IP assistance.

Beyond just pitch coaching, being a finalist on Inc.U also affords the teams one-on-one mentorship and advice to help them determine how best to take their businesses to the next step. It also opens up additional opportunities for the teams to pitch their companies to investors, including at the upcoming Invent Penn State Venture & IP Conference on April 15.

In addition, the teams will be introduced by Penn State President Eric Barron at the Student Recognition Event during Penn State Startup Week powered by PNC, taking place from March 22 to 26.

Since the Inc.U Competition officially launched in 2015, it has produced 10 winning teams and provided $120,000 in prize money to fund winning student startup teams. Past Inc.U Competition winners of note include Vitable Health, Reflexion, and Purpose Therapy Box.

“Participating in the Inc.U Competition impacted us and our company by providing us with the funds to expand our business and develop essential aspects of our company, such as our custom website,” said Ali Izzo-Linton, co-founder and co-CEO of Purpose Therapy Box. “The Inc.U Competition also gave us the opportunity to connect with investors, entrepreneurs and fellow alumni. We also cannot forget that because of ‘The Investment,’ we were invited to the President’s Tailgate and to watch the whiteout game in the President’s Box, which is one of greatest memories we have from our time at Penn State!”

Funding for the competition prize money is made possible by Invent Penn State, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central & Northern PA, the Penn State College of Engineering Entrepreneurship program, and the Robert & Tammy Morgan Entrepreneurship Fund.