April 04, 2024

East Stroudsburg University Student Diaa Meqdadi Wins the 2024 State System Startup Challenge

Contact: Kevin Hensil, khensil@passhe.edu

Harrisburg, PA – East Stroudsburg University (ESU) student Diaa Meqdadi won the $10,000 first-place prize in the annual State System Startup Challenge sponsored by Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education (PASSHE).  

ESU Student Diaa Meqdadi accepts first place award

East Stroudsburg University student Diaa Meqdadi, center, winner of the 2024 State System Startup Challenge poses with Debra Sheppard, left, president and chief executive officer of the Pennsylvania Cable Network and Chancellor Dan Greenstein, right, of Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education.

The competition finals featured three students pitching their business plans for a chance to win funds to support the launch or growth of their business. The Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN) aired the live competition Wednesday evening.

“On behalf of all PASSHE universities, I congratulate Diaa for winning this year’s State System Startup Challenge and I thank every student who competed,” said State System Board of Governors Chair Cynthia Shapira. “Across the State System, smart and hardworking students are preparing to become the next generation of business leaders. Each one of them is a reminder of the great entrepreneurs we have in Pennsylvania and that the spirit of innovation is thriving on our campuses.”

Meqdadi, a senior computer science and computer security student from East Stroudsburg, Pa. presented a business plan for Mercial LLC. The company simplifies data management and digital marketing solutions using an innovative approach to develop drag-and-drop customizable database API software. Meqdadi hopes the company will revolutionize how businesses handle data. 

The Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union (PSECU) Funded the $10,000 first-place prize. The Ben Franklin Technology Partners and the Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Company funded the second-place prize, and Marathon Studios funded the third-place prize.

“This business plan competition gives State System students the opportunity to pursue their dreams here in Pennsylvania,” said State System Chancellor Daniel Greenstein. “These students remind us about the value of public higher education to strengthen Pennsylvania’s economy as they translate a classroom education to real-world experience. Thank you to the students, faculty and universities for making this possible.” 

Shippensburg University student Nicholas Kornilow won the $5,000 second-place prize for his business plan for BioBlooms Naturals. The holistic oral hygiene brand is dedicated to redefining the concept of dental care by integrating nature-inspired solutions with innovative practices. BioBlooms Naturals will offer a comprehensive range of products designed to promote affordable oral health and overall wellness using natural, sustainable, and eco-friendly ingredients. Kornilow, from Waynesboro, Pa., is a junior biology student with a concentration in health professions and a business minor. 

Shippensburg University student Drew Dailey won the $3,000 third-place prize for his business plan for Deal Seal, which allows collectors of sports cards and collectibles to safely buy, sell and trade on social media platforms. Deal Seal provides transaction security and protection from scams for online customers using credit cards or cash. Dailey, from Phoenix, Md., is a graduate student pursuing an MBA after completing bachelor’s degrees in supply chain management and finance. 

The judges for the State System Startup Challenge finals were David Brantley, director of sales and marketing at Passenger Coffee and Tea; David Gongora, assistant director of corporate talent acquisition at Hershey Entertainment & Resorts; Andrea Jones, consulting manager at Deloitte; Steve Ross, managing director at Onsite ICF, and Wyatt Troxell, director of membership development and sales at PSECU.


Editor’s Note: Photos from the event and individual students are available by contacting Kevin Hensil, khensil@passhe.edu.