Entrepreneurs / Funding

4 Penn startups to watch in 2017

This according to a student-run “innovation fund.”

The Penn Innovation Fund team. (Photo courtesy of Jason Shein)

Penn’s Weiss Tech House Innovation Fund, a program founded in 2003 that gives non-dilutive grants to student-founded startups, just relaunched to feature more support services for its companies, including mentoring from local tech leaders and Penn alumni, free legal services and office space.

Run by a team of students, the Innovation Fund awards about 20 grants between $500 and $5,000 to Penn students startups every year. Think of it as a Dorm Room Fund or Rough Draft Ventures that invests smaller amounts, doesn’t take equity and isn’t affiliated with a major venture firm. The capital comes from donors, said Innovation Fund manager Jason Shein.

More than half of its funded companies are still running or have been acquired, according to the Innovation Fund team. Its portfolio companies have won the Penn President’s Innovation Prize and the Y Combinator Fellowship, as well as raised funding from angels like Marissa Mayer and Mark Cuban.

So far, the Innovation Fund has funded these four companies this academic year, according to its blog post:

Sanguis: Empowers patients to monitor their health with portable, inexpensive, and at-home blood count testing.

Twine Labs: Provides people analytics software that helps Fortune 500 companies reduce employee turnover through internal mobility. (See our coverage of Twine here.)

SolutionLoft: Provides an on-demand scripting platform that gets customers the data they need.

Bright Idea: Offers free LED upgrades in exchange for a share of future customer savings.

Apply for funding here.

The Innovation Fund hosted a relaunch event last Friday featuring Red and Blue Ventures’s Brett Topche, Penn entrepreneurship professor Jeffrey Babin and Twine Labs cofounder Joseph Quan.

Read the whole blog post about the relaunch here.

It bears mentioning that Penn students looking to build a business have a lot of avenues for capital: there’s the Dorm Room Fund, Red and Blue Ventures , the Innovation Fund for grants and a brand new venture firm we’ll be writing about shortly.

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