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Innoblue Garage: Coming Fall 2011

Innoblue released this letter from cofounder David Adewumi earlier this evening.

In April last year, Jon Tornetta and I sat down to discuss how we could impact the Penn State community. We wanted to level the playing field — that anyone, anywhere, in the Penn State community, that had an idea to improve Penn State, to help alleviate a global issue or social problem, or to start a for profit venture — would get the help that they need to change the world for the better.

We met through our fraternity, Beta Theta Pi.  Jon had an exceptional amount of university experience as a Sub Chair for the University Park Allocation Committee — which is responsible for allocating over $3 million in student activity funds — and I had just completed my bid for UPUA President. Several of our brothers have been instrumental to the creation of Innoblue, including but not limited to, Saury Mejia, Drew Mohoric, Will Sheehan, Zach Johnston, Vijay Nainani, and Steve Kaczowka.

We met with Borough Manager Tom Fountaine in June to talk about an idea related to civic projects. He latched on to the idea of the “garage” space, and helped set up meetings with the Redevelopment Authority, and invited us to speak at a fall Borough Council meeting. The idea was simple: create a collaborative space, open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, where members of the State College and Penn State community could come together and build great ideas and new businesses.  We first were in discussion about the old-Verizon Building, but quickly realized the space was too big for our needs; we continued all through the fall to meet with Borough Council members, State College business leaders, and Penn State administrators to bring our idea to life.

So we started Innoblue, a not-for-profit organization that has opened its first student chapter Innoblue @ University Park, which is responsible for putting the programming, mentorship, and education of new ventures in the community. In December, they held the inaugural Penn State Demo day —which had over 125 investors, faculty, administrators and students in attendance; and Innovation Expo, Today, April 29 in the Hub from noon to three o’clock. Within a couple months, three of the 12 ventures have received investment offers of a combined $300,000.  Nothing could prove Innoblue more possible than the very concept of a small group of students starting a venture that could help bring innovation to our community – we ourselves essentially launched a new venture.

I’ve seen dozens of friends, students, and teachers have great ideas that languished for lack of a community that could help grow their idea. That’ll all change with the launch of Innoblue Garage in the fall of 2011, which we are announcing today, Sunday April 24 2011 – almost a year to the day that we started Innoblue. We will open up a 2500 square-foot facility on the 3rd floor of the State College Municipal Building, right next to Schlow Memorial Library, a State College landmark, and in the heart of downtown State College. The space will cost students the same as a gym membership — $99 per semester, and for non-students $99 per month. 100% of the revenue goes back towards Innoblue and supporting the State College and Penn State community.

“Collaboration is the most important way to promote creativity and innovation, making Innoblue [Garage] the key to developing Pennsylvania into a hub of enterprise,” said Rex Kirshner, former Tomorrow Innovations program manager and one of our several partners. “Some of the best ideas with the most potential for profit come from the people with the least business experience: students in the nation’s top universities.”

Having been born and raised in State College, Pennsylvania – technically Lemont –this is an incredibly exciting announcement for me. We couldn’t be more excited to be working with the State College Borough to make this dream a reality. We believe this is an historic achievement, where the local community members, students, Penn State staff and faculty will be able to come together and build and innovate on important problems, build new ventures, and add value to the world. On that note, my co-founder Jon Tornetta said, “The garage is the culmination of Innoblue’s efforts to construct an entrepreneurial outpost in the heart of Happy Valley. It is exists for all; because all Penn State students and State College residents are entrepreneurs in their own right and all have the potential to create something great and unique. All it takes is some collaboration.”

In his speech in February, President Obama visited Penn State to speak about innovation, entrepreneurship, and how young men and women can change the world. He said this:

“Innovation is what this country is all about. Sparking the imagination and creativity of our people, unleashing new discoveries — that’s what America does better than any other country on Earth. That’s what we do. And this innovation has always been driven by individual scientists and entrepreneurs….

In America, innovation isn’t just how we change our lives; it’s how we make a living …these are places where the future will be won. These are the places where the new jobs and the world’s best businesses will take root — right here in State College; right here in Pennsylvania.”

I know he believes in this commitment because last week we received an email from the Chief Technology Officer of the United States of America, and the Assistant Secretary of Economic Development about Innoblue. They offered assistance in pointing us to government resources that could help us win the future.

David Weekly, founder of PBworks and Palo-Alto based, Hacker Dojo, and an Innoblue advisor, said. “But there’s no reason why a hub of innovation like this can only exist in Silicon Valley; we at Hacker Dojo are cheering on Innoblue’s efforts to open a hacker space at Penn State. Innoblue will stimulate, encourage, inform, and inspire students and entrepreneurs in the Penn State community to come together, connect, and build companies and projects that will change the world.” David was our advisor who put us in touch with CTO Aneesh Chopra, who serves in President Obamas Executive cabinet.

“In addition, Innoblue — from a broader perspective — could prove to be a valuable addition to longstanding “town and gown” efforts to enhance commercial innovation and entrepreneurship in the State College area says Jon’s adviser, Dr. James Gardner who is the head of the Eberly College of Science Science/MBA program, a former US Army ranger officer, and a top executive at Pfizer.

We aim to serve the community and believe this is the first step in a long journey towards making State College, PA a new center for innovation and entrepreneurship in Pennsylvania. Together, we can make our town a place where students and community members come together to build great things.

I’d like to personally thank the dozens of students, university faculty and administrators, advisors, mentors and all those who have helped make this dream a reality. We’re thankful to our partners at MediaTemple, Happy Valley Communications, Tomorrow Innovations, Schreyer Honors College, Weebly, Square1Bank, Lion Launch Pad, and Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship. We’d especially like to thank Mayor Elizabeth Goreham, who has showed unwavering support for Innoblue, and Abbey Leadership Executive Director Jeff Rundle, who has provided countless hours of advice and mentoring. As we succeed, it is because of you and your continued support.

David A. Adewumi

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