State College, PA seems to have the midas touch for startups at Penn State University’s Innovation Park.
When starting a business, location matters, and 200 Innovation Boulevard is one location in particular that seems to be paved in gold.
The second floor of 200 Innovation Boulevard in Penn State’s Innovation Park complex has launched dozens of successful companies including, 911-communications-consultants Mission Critical Partners, educational-website-and-content-provider Schoolwires and modular-computer-systems-company Real Time Devices.
Novasentis just finished a fundraising round that garnered investment from its current investors. It is using that money to develop and market a new haptic actuator that provides tactile feedback in wearable devices. The company expects the technology to be used in wearable devices like fitness monitors and smart watches.
“Wearable devices are becoming quite popular and could potentially replace some of the functions in current mobile phones, GPS devices and other traditional electronics devices,” Richard Ducharme, Novasentis’ VP of engineering, said. “Novasentis’ film-based haptic actuators will play a crucial role in the new communications paradigm. Our product is paper thin, feather lite, flexible and virtually disappears into your wearable device.”
But when the company went through a recent reorganization, it decided that its office in Innovation Park was very valuable to its future success.
“There are two big reasons that we maintain the R&D facility here. One, the core research and technology was developed by the team that is based here. Second, we have lab resources close by that we can tap into,” Ducharme said.
Novasentis is not the only company to benefit from the second floor at 200 Innovation Boulevard. When Mission Critical Partners was created, the space was invaluable, said Kevin Murray, the firm’s president and cofounder.
“When you’re building a new business, it provides you with a place that makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something. It gives you an address and it is a nice-looking building—which is much better than being just a couple of guys working in a garage,” Murray said. “We could market the space as being on the Penn State campus. So, there were 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 country. In 2013, the company was named one of the top 10 places to work in Pennsylvania by the Team Pennsylvania Foundation. But according to Murray without the time spent at Innovation Park, the firm’s success would have taken longer to achieve.
“I can remember that they had one of the CBICC events there. And during that event, I met two of the commissioners that were running for office. I was able to introduce our business and we ended up supporting the county on one of their projects,” 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,’” he said. “Invariably, someone would have a list of people for us to contact. We used some of the Innovation Park attorneys, and were provided with IT recommendations. We were even able to get office equipment from people who had extra stuff. We are still tied into the network today. If people need help, we make sure we’re giving back.”
It is 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 [email protected] or (814) 865-5925.