One State College Location Seems to Have the Midas Touch for Startups

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In the past, the second floor of the 200 Innovation Blvd. at Penn State’s Innovation Park complex has launched dozens of successful companies including, 911-tech-systems-company Mission Critical Partners, educational-website-and-content-provider Schoolwires and modular-computer-systems company Real Time Devices. Today, the floor continues to be a successful launching pad for startups.

200 Innovation Blvd.

The second floor of the 200 Innovation Blvd. at Penn State’s Innovation Park complex has launched dozens of successful companies.

When starting a business, location matters, and one location in particular in Happy Valley seems to be paved in gold.

The second floor of the 200 Innovation Blvd. at Penn State’s Innovation Park complex has launched dozens of successful companies including, 911-tech-systems-company Mission Critical Partners, educational-website-and-content-provider Schoolwires and modular-computer-systems company Real Time Devices.

Today, the floor is home to such startups as Shelf Scouter, a grocery organizing app; L4IS, a laser technology startup; and Novasentis, a wearable technology company.

This year, Novasentis just finished with a round of fundraising that garnered more than $1.5 million. It is using that money to develop and market a revolutionary new plastic that buzzes, vibrates and responds to touch it expects to be used in things like fitness monitors and smart watches.

“We all believe that phones are going to be obsolete in the future, then you’re going to have all your notifications through a wearable tech device. And when you think about it, it actually makes sense. We’re going to be laughing at these bulky phones that everyone’s had in their pockets,” Richard Ducharme, Novasentis’ VP of engineering, said.

But when the company went through a recent reorganizing, they decided their office in Innovation Park was more valuable than the one they had in tech-mecca San Francisco.

“There’s two big reasons that we maintain the office here and not the one in San Francisco. One was the core research and technology was developed with the team that’s here. So that’s was a big reason. We also have resources down the street. We can go there and use the lab equipment and test if we need to,” he said.

Novasentis is far from the only company to benefit from second floor at 200 Innovation Blvd. When Kevin Murray started Mission Critical Partners, he said the space invaluable.

“When you’re building a new business, it kind of provides you a place to feel like you’ve accomplished something. It gives you an address and it’s a nice looking building when instead of being just a couple guys working in a garage,” he said. “You could market the space as being on Penn state campus. So it’s a lot of good things about that space that really helped us out.”

Today, Mission Critical Partners employs 80 people and works to install cutting edge emergency response systems with clients all over the county. In 2013, the company was named one of the top 10 places work in Pennsylvania by the Team Pennsylvania Foundation. But Murray, now president, said without his time at Innovation Park, his success would have been questionable.

“I can remember that they had one of the CBICC events there. And during that event, I actually met two of the commissioners that were actually running for the county. Got to introduce my business and we ended up working for the county,” he said.

Before moving to its own building in 2013 in Grays Woods, Mission Critical Partners rented nearly every office on the floor.

“It’s hard to put a price on ‘hey, do you know somebody?’ and then someone would have a list of people for you. We used some of their attorneys. We’ve used recommendations for IT. We were able to get office equipment from people who had extra stuff,” Murray said. “We still are tied into the network today. If people need help, we make sure we’re giving back.”

It’s that sense of community and support that makes Innovation Park a great launching pad for startups.

Companies interested in learning about services available through Innovation Park should contact Dan Leri, Director of Innovation Park, at danleri(at)psu(dot)edu or (814) 865-5925.

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Jodie Dello Stritto
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