Fifth annual LION Tank pitch competition to be held on April 6

Entrepreneurial spirits have a chance to shine once again as Penn State Mont Alto hosts its fifth annual LION Tank competition at 6 p.m., Wednesday, April 6.

LION Tank, an annual pitch competition hosted by the Mont Alto LaunchBox, will be held in the newly renovated Generals Studies Building auditorium at Penn State Mont Alto.  

During the competition, contestants will pitch their business plans and field questions from three judges. Following all the presentations, the judges will confer to determine the winners.

The top three entrepreneurs will receive prizes of $1,500, $1,000 and $500 respectively, as well as one year’s access to the Mont Alto LaunchBox, where they will have access to additional services to help bring their services or products to the marketplace. Prize money is sponsored by Patriot Federal Credit Union and the Mont Alto LaunchBox.

The five contestants are competing in this year’s competition:

  • Nathan Bonslaver, a Penn State student and co-founder/president of CarToCamp, a designer and manufacturer of a custom-fit sleeping platform for vehicles to enable the “van life” experience with room for storage.
  • Talia East, Class of 2014, and founder of HER Tech World, a digital solution matching women founders with Venture Capital investors.
  • David Moyer, a Penn State student and founder of 42MORO Co L.L.C., a miniature greenhouse nursery business under the name Cannapy Tents that pairs greenhouses and smartphone technology to provide optimal growing conditions for seedlings.
  • Blake Newbern, founder of American Drone Services, a photography and videography service providing aerial photography and video footage of live events.
  • Rachana Sooraj, a Penn State student and team member of SkaiVue, an AI-based drone for automated site surveying.

This year’s LION Tank™ falls during Penn State Startup Week powered by PNC, an annual University-wide event that celebrates entrepreneurial spirit by connecting students with alumni who have achieved success with their own startup initiatives. Comprised of networking events, student pitch competitions, and presentations from startup founders and innovators—many of whom are Penn State alumni—Startup Week is designed to inspire students to push the limits and think creatively about their future career path.

The Mont Alto LaunchBox ― one of 21 innovation centers at the Commonwealth Campuses ― opened in 2018 and is part of Invent Penn State, a broader Penn State initiative to promote entrepreneurship and innovation across the Commonwealth. The hub provides free educational and technical support for local entrepreneurs and connects them to the resources they need to get started.

The 2021 LION Tank competition, which was held virtually due to COVID-19, featured six finalists.  The first-place winner was Jake Grim, Penn State Mont Alto student, for his startup Table Rock Markets, an online retail platform that helps connect farmers to produce purchasers in their area.

Penn State Harrisburg student Carley Furlow won second place with her business Bonded Bows. A violinist and student-athlete, Furlow leveraged her own experiences playing her violin while suffering from hand injuries to develop a device that allows musicians with hand injuries or medical conditions to be able to comfortably grip their bow.

Nicholas Anzalone, a senior at the University Park campus, took home third place with Crash Pad, a specially designed shock-absorbing seat insert for racecar drivers that reduces the risk of spinal injury. Anzalone collaborated on the product with his business partner and grandfather, a veteran racecar driver.

“One thing all LION Tank competitors have in common is a genuine excitement and passion for their idea,” McGarry said, adding that they are hungry for feedback on how to make their businesses succeed.

The public is invited to be part of the audience and can attend in person or via Zoom.  While there is no cost to watch, community members are asked to register, which puts them in the running for door prizes.

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Currently, face masks are optional in all indoor spaces on Penn State campuses. Visitors should consider and evaluate how their own vaccination status impacts the level of risk they are comfortable accepting before visiting campus.