CENTER VALLEY, Pa. — It has been eight months since the first round of grant recipients of Lehigh Valley LaunchBox became part of this University- and community-sponsored business accelerator program for early-stage entrepreneurs. We wanted to check in with each recipient to ask how their business or product development is coming along, hear the advice they have for other entrepreneurs, and see how they benefited from the micro grants, support, and mentorship from Lehigh Valley LaunchBox.
Steve Boerner, president of Hatch House Ventures, and David Gritz, vice president of Hatch House Ventures, received a micro grant for their business, Virtual Incubator Network, during Lehigh Valley LaunchBox’s first round.
Virtual Incubator Network is a software designed especially for higher education entrepreneurship programs, which will be a platform for Lehigh Valley LaunchBox projects to share knowledge, communicate and grow within an entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Here Boerner answered some questions for us.
What inspired you to start your business?
“I had been running a network of startup accelerators in partnerships with several prominent higher education entrepreneurship centers along with one location that is unaffiliated with any higher education institution. At each of our locations, I saw a large pain within the role of community managers. They were all having the same difficulties managing their respective ecosystems of mentors, students, faculty, community members, speakers, along with all the resources they provide their students. We looked for software solutions and simply could not find anything we thought worked. Therefore, we decided to start a company that would create its own solution and sell it to those who had the same struggles.”
What was your biggest challenge before receiving a Lehigh Valley LaunchBox grant, and how did you overcome it?
“Our biggest challenge was getting the funds to start. Banks were turning us down and we hadn't started pre-selling the product yet. The grant gave us the funds we needed to get started and move past our prototype. Also, the legal resources we received were outstanding. Without that legal counsel, we would have made mistakes with our contracts that are now in force at four universities who have purchased our software.”
What Lehigh Valley LaunchBox services have you taken advantage of since receiving your grant?
“Legal counsel and office space.”
How do you define success?
“We define success as installing our software at many universities and seeing it reach and help countless student entrepreneurs grow and reach their dreams.”
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs who are requesting a Lehigh Valley LaunchBox portfolio grant? Or, more generally, as they start their businesses?
“Make sure you truly are committed to the idea you are submitting. The Lehigh Valley LaunchBox program is for only those who are going to give it as much as they can as a thanks for the investment Penn State Lehigh Valley and LaunchBox make in its companies.”
Lehigh Valley LaunchBox is a signature program of the Invent Penn State initiative.