Penn Youth Hack: A Startup Guru Club

In early January, we were accepted into a student-run accelerator based out of the University of Pennsylvania. The accelerator was called YouthHack. Every week for a couple of hours, Penn students working on startups meet in small groups to discuss their ideas and progress. The accelerator pairs student advisors with startup teams to help provide information on what differentiates good from great startups.  

Our team was very excited to join this network, but we quickly realized we would get a little more than what we bargained for…

When creating a startup, you must be sold on your idea. And, by creating something that you believe has every reason to succeed, it is often hard to see the big picture. For instance, I have noticed that our team often is so busy working on current objectives, that we lose sight of why we are doing what we do.

YouthHack has been very helpful in this regard. We were assigned two advisors who helped us think not just about “how,” but the “why” and “when” of creating our product. Just recently, I was texting with our lead advisor, Nikhil, about why our product would be used by universities around the US. To my surprise, my first three answers were not satisfactory. By the fourth answer, he decided that during next meeting the whole team needed to discuss the “why” question in much more depth.

Understanding the end-user, the paying customer, and everyone in between is essential to developing a good product. Small word of advice to fellow entrepreneurs: ask people what they think of your idea, regardless of their experience with the subject. While on the forefront of developing a product, you can get entrenched in the “how” and forget why you are working on your objectives. Take a step back and make sure you know “why does anyone care about us?”

Here is our answer in two sentences: Physical and mental health, arguably the two most important aspects of your life, can be hard to maintain. Fitalyst, the fitness catalyst, provides a clever, fun tool that helps you develop and achieve your health/wellness goals, whether it be eating more vegetables, exercising more often, or increasing your daily happiness.

Tech Carrot,

Michael Berk

The Fitalyst Team consists of recent Penn graduate, Jonathan Muruako, Founder and CEO; Cameo Hazlewood, a current Penn junior studying Cognitive Science and Consumer Psychology, CMO; and Michael Berk, a current Penn sophomore integrating his Computer Science and Data Analytic skills as CTO. Find more at


Jonathan Muruako