Lion LaunchPad restarts microgrant program for entrepreneurial students

Eligible Penn State student teams can apply for up to $500 in funding


By Sean Yoder

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Teams of entrepreneurial undergraduate Penn State students can apply for microgrants of up to $500 in seed money to help get their ideas off the ground.

The microgrants are provided through Lion LaunchPad and in cooperation with the Penn State College of Engineering and its School of Engineering Design, Technology, and Professional Programs’ (SEDTAPP) engineering entrepreneurship (E-SHIP) program. The funding can help student teams during the very early stages of their idea development and help prepare them to later compete in business competitions at Penn State, as well as enter programs such as the Happy Valley Launchbox FastTrack Accelerator, Summer Founder Program from Invent Penn State and TechCelerator through Ben Franklin Technology Partners.

To qualify, one team member should have a SEDTAPP or intercollege minor in entrepreneurship and innovation minor (ENTI) affiliation.

The application, found here, requires that teams:

  • Describe the product or service
  • State the customer value proposition
  • Describe the target customer and target market
  • Discuss any customer discovery
  • Outline the path to revenue feasibility and how the idea will financially support a business
  • List any specific items to purchase, as purchases must be made on behalf of the team because funds cannot be directly distributed

Lion LaunchPad offered similar grants in the past, with one beneficiary being Matt Woods, co-founder and former chief technology officer of Xact Metal, a 3D metal-printing company.

Woods, a mechanical engineering undergraduate, was deeply connected with the entrepreneurial and engineering ecosystems during his undergraduate years at Penn State, first at Penn State Berks and then at the University Park campus. He participated in the Lunar Lion competition, the Inc.U student pitch competition, the Lion LaunchPad business accelerator and other entrepreneurial programs available through the College of Engineering and Smeal College of Business.

After an internship at SpaceX, Woods applied for and received a $500 Lion LaunchPad microgrant as he was developing a prototype metal 3D printer. This paid for machine time at the Bernard M. Gordon Learning Factory as well as metal powders from eBay.

In an interview in late 2020, Woods said the microgrant helped him get to his first working prototype during the very early stages of his entrepreneurship journey in 2015 and 2016.

“It’s so funny, the value of money at different stages in the process,” Woods said. “That $500 felt like a mound of cash to work with.”

Woods’ would go on to cofound Xact Metal in 2017. Xact Metal is now a growing company, headquartered at Innovation Park at Penn State and named the 2019 Emerging Business of the Year from the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County.

“The microgrant helps students overcome early-stage hurdles so they can pursue an opportunity they have identified and take their first steps towards an entrepreneurial endeavor,” said Ted Graef, director of E-SHIP.

Graef, who also serves as the coordinator of the ENTI technology-based cluster, partnered with Lion LaunchPad to restart the microgrant program to provide entrepreneurial minded students with additional resources.

“Students are encouraged to apply no matter their class standing, as the earlier they get started the more likely they are to create an entrepreneurial enterprise before they leave Penn State,” he said.

Lion LaunchPad, the co-curricular branch of the Center for Penn State Student Entrepreneurship, is supported by the Penn State Office of Undergraduate Education, the academic administrative unit that provides leadership and coordination for University-wide programs and initiatives in support of undergraduate teaching and learning at Penn State. Learn more about Undergraduate Education at


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Megan Lakatos

a man leans on a 3D printer

Matt Woods, a 2015 graduate of Penn State, benefitted from a LionLaunchpad Microgrant as he worked to build his first metal 3D printer. IMAGE: XACT METAL