MONT ALTO, Pa. — An easy to build racing drone kit, a faster and easier way to mix infant formula, and a customer loyalty app were business ideas entrepreneurs pitched during the Mont Alto LaunchBox LION Tank Competition on March 15 in the University’s General Studies Building Auditorium.
LION Tank is an activity of the Mont Alto LaunchBox, an innovation hub funded by a seed grant from the Invent Penn State initiative. The event was sponsored by the Patriot Federal Credit Union.
The top two pitches considered to be most viable received grants of $1,000 and $1,500 along with a year's access to the Mont Alto LaunchBox and additional services to help get their products into the marketplace.
Dwight Neptune took first place with his project BeagleDrones — a modular drone racing kit that allows users to build and fly in less than 30 minutes.
BeagleDrones started when its founders met going into college and tried to build their first racing drone. They found the experience to be so frustrating they decided to design a drone anyone can build and fly.
Beagle Technologies includes a diverse group of engineers and computer scientists, including Keelan Gayle, a Penn State engineering student. The others are Ryan Conlon, Luis Guzman and Josie Mandingo.
“Our business is based on simplicity and our drones are fairly uncomplicated in terms of the average person can put one together,” said Neptune describing the next steps for his company. “We really want to get it into mass marketing.”
Second-place winner, Corry Wiechec, who is a business graduate student at Shippensburg University, pitched his idea, Powder Popper, a product that makes mixing powdered formula for infants “better, cheaper, faster.”
“This is just more fuel to the fire to keep going,” he said about winning second in the competition. “Preparing for LION Tank was kind of a milestone for me and after this, I’m at a dividing point of licensing or pulling the trigger for manufacturing. So, this has kind of sealed the deal and I’ve gotten some good feedback from some of the judges and I can move forward,” he said.
David Brantley, who studies marketing and management at Shippensburg University, also pitched Marqo — a customer loyalty program that is delivered through an app offering customers prizes and incentives while benefiting local businesses and strengthening communities.
The judges, who are experienced not only with business start-ups but also in considering whether to fund them, included Linsey Covert, CEO and founder of TEAMology; John Rotz, a retired high-ranking bank administrator, most recently from First Community Bank of Mercersburg; and Tom Trgovac, CEO of Global Data Consultants.
“I think tonight’s competition shows how much the Lion Tank competition has evolved in just one year with three high-quality startups vying for prizes tonight,” said Penn State Mont Alto Chancellor Francis K Achampong.
“The competitors had ideas that they had really developed to the point that they are all poised to potentially generate significant revenues in the marketplace. Hopefully this means viable startups view Lion Tank as a worthy venue to pitch their ideas and more aspiring entrepreneurs will be inspired to participate in the future,” he said.
The Mont Alto LaunchBox opened in January 2019 at 40 N. Second St. in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, offering free services to business entrepreneurs such as receiving legal assistance from Penn State's Dickinson Law to set up a new company or file a patent for a product.
“We connect aspiring entrepreneurs to resources and we do it all for free,” said Achampong.
More information about the Mont Alto LaunchBox is available at montalto.psu.edu/launchbox.
Invent Penn State is an initiative meant to spur economic development, job creation and student career success.