A Little on Clipboard+, a Penn State Student-Run Startup

“Trying to use your smartphone as a tool while simultaneously doing work with paper is at best an inconvenient hassle,” say the creators of Clipboard+. Designed by Penn State student entrepreneurs, Clipboard+ integrates the clipboard, a classic tool for productivity, with the modern productivity tools found in mobile technology so that “everything you need to be productive is always right at your fingertips”.

The idea first started when founder Kevin Merlini sought a way to simultaneously use his phone and the more traditional pen-paper-clipboard, rather than having to constantly shuffle between one and the other. With Merlini’s idea and the help of his co-founders and fellow Penn State students, Zhaojun Chu, Eric Reale, and Patrick Ryan, Clipboard+ was born. Now, just over a year after the idea’s inception, the State College-based startup has launched on crowdfunding site Kickstarter, and was recently featured on both Business Insider and App Advice.

The solution to Kevin Merlini’s problem took the form of the “Clipboard+ Smartphone”. It combines a lightweight but durable polystyrene clipboard with a suction-cup mount, which positions your smartphone to your eyes so “working with content on your phone feels extremely natural”. And, in anticipation of a further consumer need–specifically in the healthcare industry–Clipboard+ created the Clipboard+ iPad, currently being piloted by physicians and nurses at Mount Nittany Medical Center.

In light of the recent successes of Clipboard+, founder Kevin Merlini offered us his advice to any prospective entrepreneurs. “Your first idea doesn’t have to be the next Facebook, make it something that you reasonably think you can carry out,” says Merlini. “[Any idea] is going to be a challenge, but overall it’s going to be a learning experience. By the time you are ready to move on to your next idea you’re going to be much more prepared from what you learned by pursuing the first.”

In Merlini’s case, his interest in tech startups was limited by his lack of a technical background. Though creating a physical good presents its own challenges, Merlini felt his capabilities and understanding of the problem made Clipboard+ a more practical route for him. But running a startup is of course beyond the efforts of a single person.

“I found that the majority of what I learned [through starting a company] has been about dealing with other people,” says Merlini. “Getting the best team to help make your idea a reality is almost certainly the most important job you have if you are doing a start up. You simply can’t do it alone.”

Indeed, Merlini and his teammates have made significant strides toward making their idea a reality with the launch of their Kickstarter profile. Through Kickstarter, Merlini and his team hope to raise $10,000 to improve upon their current Clipboard+ designs and produce their first batch of clipboards. Despite beginning their Kickstarter campaign fairly recently, they’ve already raised over $3,000.

Here’s to the current and future successes of Clipboard+, and to the Penn State entrepreneurs that will follow the footsteps of Merlini and his co-founders towards creating new innovations.

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