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Berks LaunchBox Idea TestLab Announces 2023 ‘Final Pitch’ Winners

by Penn State Berks

Dec 07, 2023

From left to right: Kuba Kerner and Vera Hempel in third place, Stacey Murrell in second place, and Mike Aman in first place. Photo courtesy of Berks LaunchBox

The Berks LaunchBox, powered by Penn State, recently announced the winners of its Idea TestLab accelerator pitch competition. Mike Aman earned first place, and Stacey Murrell of Master the Pieces took second place. Co-founders Vera Hempel and Kuba Kerner of Kiss UX took third place in the competition.

The competition started with 10 selected startups that received coaching to test their business ideas through customer discovery. The entrepreneurs met with potential customers, identified their target audience and value proposition, and created pitches. The program concluded with the pitch competition, where teams competed for seed funding to continue their business development.

Mike Aman, a 2003 Penn State graduate, secured $1,000 for his startup, which focuses on easing the lives of aging parents.

Master the Pieces, a coaching, workshop, and seminar facilitation company that empowers GenY and GenZ persons to dismantle negative belief systems, founded by Stacey Murrell, earned $600.

Kiss UX, a cloud-based tool to streamline the communication of application concepts to designers and developers, co-founded by Vera Hempel and Kuba Kerner, won $400 and finished in third place.

Competition judges included Jobany Bedoya, senior resource development director for United Way of Lancaster County and the owner of Diversity Mixers and Red Tie Affairs LLC; Chris Bradley, part-owner of i-core networks; Nicol Cancelmo, co-founder of OCOA; and Mark Trabbold, senior vice president of the strategic initiatives group at Ben Franklin Technology Partners.

The mission of Berks LaunchBox, located in Suite 105 of the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts in downtown Reading, is to support economic development and entrepreneurship. An innovation hub of Penn State Berks, the LaunchBox connects local early-stage entrepreneurs to the support, resources, and facilities that they need to build sustainable and scalable businesses with a viable plan for growth. Services include assistance with prototyping, conducting market research, and connecting with advisers. Berks LaunchBox offers entrepreneurship workshops, coworking space for startups, Meetups focused on business development, a makerspace with 3D printers for prototyping, and special youth programs.

Berks LaunchBox is supported by Invent Penn State — a commonwealth-wide initiative to spur economic development, job creation, and student career success. For more information, visit berkslaunchbox.psu.edu or contact Erica Kunkel at 610-396-6221 or via email at [email protected].

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