HackPSU: Pitch Your Idea to a Reddit Co-founder; Win a Trip to Silicon Valley

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What is HackPSU? Think of this scene — minus the tequila shots, sorry — from The Social Network; add 160 (and counting) entrepreneurs from Penn State, UPenn, Michigan, Carnegie Mellon, Illinois, and Pitt; and, for good measure, throw in Reddit co-founder Steve Huffman, along with other Silicon Valley big shots, as judges for the event.

Oh, and by the way, first prize is an all-expenses paid trip to San Francisco for the winning team of entrepreneurs, who will “get the red carpet treatment, tour the hottest start-ups in the valley, meet start-up founders and venture capitalists, attend interesting talks, and of course attend awesome parties and networking events along with 100 other top hackers from around the country.”

That’s HackPSU, Penn State’s 24-hour hackathon, organized by student-run entrepreneurship accelerator, Innoblue and hosted by the College of Information Sciences and Technology as a part of IST Startup Week. HackPSU starts this Friday at 6:30 p.m. and will go through the night into the next day. At the hackathon’s conclusion, HackPSU teams will pitch their resulting ideas or prototypes to a panel of judges including Reddit’s Steve Huffman, Weebly co-founder David Rusenko (Penn State Class of ’07), and Sincerely co-founder Matt Brezina (Penn State Class of ’03).

The judges will provide feedback to HackPSU entrepreneurs and will award the top three teams with the following prizes:

  • First Prize: The aforementioned all-expenses paid trip to San Francisco, sponsored by Readyforce
  • Second Prize: $1,000 cash
  • Third Prize: $500 cash

In addition, Microsoft representatives will be giving away an Xbox 360 and a Microsoft Surface.

These prizes — and the hackathon itself — could not have been possible without a generous $5,000 contribution from State College-based Videon Central, HackPSU’s lead sponsor. Videon Central was founded by Penn State alum Todd Erdley who, in recognition of the “support of amazing entrepreneurs” he received when he started his company, wanted to give back and help the budding entrepreneurs here at Penn State.

“[Penn State] students have tons of energy and awesome ideas,” says Erdley. “If I can instill some seeds of wisdom that helps a person grow their company faster, fantastic. Nothing makes me happier than seeing a company grow out of the energy established [at Penn State].”

About 160 entrepreneurs have signed up for HackPSU, but the hackathon is still open to participants, whether they would be “local student hackers” (i.e. students from around the Penn State area” or “visiting student hackers” from schools that already include UPenn, Michigan, Carnegie Mellon, Illinois, and Pitt. You can register for HackPSU here.

HackPSU should be a great opportunity for Penn State entrepreneurs to network with similar-minded students from various parts of the country, according to Innoblue President Kathleen Warner.

“It’s not just about the product you’re building in 24 hours, it’s also about the relationships you make in the process,” said Warner to us when we spoke to her about last semester’s hackathon. “There are people I’ve met at hackathons I have participated in that I would seriously consider starting a business with someday.”

Got comments about HackPSU or questions for its organizers? Post them in the comment section below.

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