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Student Competes in International Startup Competition

by Penn State Berks

Student Competes in International Startup Competition

Penn State Berks student Matthew Finger recently had an opportunity to pitch his startup idea in front of an international community of like-minded entrepreneurs in STup! 2021, a competition for college startups. The competition was held in a hybrid format from June 18-19, 2021, and it was hosted by the University of Split in Croatia.

Finger, a senior information sciences and technology major with a minor in entrepreneurship and innovation, stated that his startup idea was inspired by his time working for a family-owned and operated retirement home. He explains, “In the world of retirement homes, caregivers lack access to senior’s digital health information systems. Caregivers cannot contribute digital care notes or directly access health records like treatment plans. Seniors often do not get the care they deserve because of this. My solution is essentially a visual app that is built on top of retirement home software to empower caregivers with personalized senior information, unified care notes, and coordinated care.”

“Coming from a tech background I saw a huge void in caregiver’s access to digital health systems. There is so much potential to improve these systems and provide so much better care for these seniors. I knew I had to do something about it,” adds Finger.

Each of the 34 competing teams made a five-minute pitch to a panel of judges in front of a live audience. Judges then asked each team questions about their startup.

Dr. Sadan Kulturel-Konak, professor of management information systems and the director of the Flemming Creativity, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Development (CEED) Center at Penn State Berks, states, “I was very fortunate to mentor Matt in his startup idea. It was a delight to work very closely with Matt and vet his final pitch.”

“I strongly believe that students’ participation in external competitions helps them cultivate an innovation mindset, gain greater self-awareness about their capabilities in innovation, and become more open-minded. Moreover, these kinds of co-curricular activities expand the University’s strong emphasis on entrepreneurship programs” Kulturel-Konak adds.

Finger first got involved in Penn State Berks’ entrepreneurship competitions when he participated in the STEM Business Idea Challenge in fall of 2020. He went on to compete in the Student Enterprise Award competition and the CEED Center’s Customer Discovery Lab in the spring of 2021. Then, he was awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) microgrant for further customer discovery. Finally, this summer, he qualified to participate in STup! 2021.

“I’m so grateful for the professional and even personal development I’ve made in competing on an international startup stage,” comments Finger. “My business is still in the early phases but competing has inspired me to push even harder.”

“This last spring, I worked closely with Professors Abdullah Konak and Sadan Kulturel-Konak in the Customer Discovery Lab at the Flemming CEED Center, where I learned to challenge and grow my business idea through interviewing customers, understanding my market segment, and perfecting my value proposition. Dr. Kulturel-Konak encouraged me to challenge myself and participate in this incredible event, and I am so grateful. I’m also taking advantage of Penn State’s Undergraduate Research and Fellowship Mentoring’s (URFM) Bootcamp to prepare to apply for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). I’m excited to keep pushing forward at Penn State and with my mentors to bring this powerful solution to the millions of seniors in retirement home across the U.S. and beyond.”

STup! 2021 was organized by the University of Split in Croatia. Penn State Berks has a  collaborative relationship with the University of Split in which Berks faculty helped Split to develop its service-learning program in 2018.  Stup! 2021 was another way of expanding this collaboration.