AppItUp Challenge returns for second year

Last fall, the Penn Center for Innovation (PCI) launched the AppItUP Challenge, a contest that collected mobile app ideas from across the University and helped bring the best ones to life. The 2013 challenge yielded 185 ideas from 11 of Penn’s 12 schools. Of that pool, venture capital and development partners selected the top five ideas for free prototype development.

“We’re gathering the best ideas from across Penn and fast-tracking them into development,” says John Swartley, executive director of the PCI. “AppItUP is emblematic of the opportunities that PCI is facilitating through comprehensive commercialization services for Penn faculty and students—efficiently translating innovative discoveries into the market for both social and economic impact.”

The AppItUP Challenge is now gearing up for its second year, with additional support from Ben Franklin Technology Partners (BFTP). One of the nation’s most active early-stage investors in technology-based ventures, BFTP has provided both early-stage and established companies with funding, business, technical expertise, and access to a network of resources. This year, BFTP will offer an investment of $50,000 to a finalist of its choice.

“Unlike other app development contests, we’re drawing on the diverse spectrum of knowledge that can only be found at a place like Penn,” says Karina Sotnik, AppItUP’s program director. “We’re looking to unearth the hidden gems that exist outside the software and business development world.”

Now through Sunday, Oct. 19, Penn students, faculty, and staff can confidentially submit ideas on the AppItUP website into one of four categories, three of them being commercial apps with broad appeal, specialized apps that serve a particular professional need, or “noble mobile” apps that are aimed at doing social good.   

The fourth category is a new addition: a “Climate Change and Resiliency” track being sponsored by Penn’s Facilities and Real Estate Services and the Penn Institute for Urban Research. Apps entered in this category will solve problems related to energy efficiency, the creation of sustainable food networks, transportation, waste recycling, and green infrastructure, and will be eligible for a $5,000 prize.

Partner developers and venture capital firms will then spend a month combing through the submissions and selecting 10 semifinalists. While last year’s partner venture capital firms were locally based, this year’s competition includes new partners from across the nation.

The semifinalists will attend a public forum on Thursday, Nov. 20, at which development partners will bid for the opportunity to turn the ideas into functional prototypes. The final selectees will then be paired with developers to start building their apps. In April 2015, the best prototypes will be selected to receive investment.