Student Startups Win More Than $200,000 at Emerging Talk
Student startups won a combined $218,000 in seed funding at the third annual Emerging Talk conference on April 12 and 13 in the Whitman School of Management. More than 300 students, faculty, entrepreneurs, investors and community members came out to watch students pitch in several competitions, display their businesses and ideas at Demo Alley and win seed funding to take their ventures to the next level.
This year, in the interest of fostering closer collaboration among aspiring entrepreneurs throughout the University community, three startup funding competitions were held together at Emerging Talk.
The Raymond von Dran (RvD) IDEA Awards competition is part of the Raymond von Dran Innovation and Disruptive Entrepreneurship Accelerator (IDEA) and has provided seed funding to help student entrepreneurs launch their ventures since 2009.
The Panasci Business Plan Competition is a campus-wide student business plan competition, hosted by the Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship, and made possible by a longtime Whitman supporter, the late Henry A. Panasci, founder of Fay’s Drugs.
The L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science’s Invention and Creativity competition offers students the opportunity to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors and encourages students to leverage their education in science and technology to bring their ideas to fruition. This competition was open to any team consisting of at least one L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science student.
Students from SU, SUNY Cortland, Le Moyne College, SUNY Oswego, Colgate University and SUNY-ESF pitched to panels of judges composed of alumni, entrepreneurs and investors. The student teams were composed of an interdisciplinary mix of talent and a diverse range of majors, including civil, mechanical, electrical and bioengineering, political science, finance, fashion design, information management and public relations, to name just a few.
“The judges were impressed again this year with the quality of business ideas, talent and excitement in our student entrepreneurs,” says Bruce Kingma, associate provost for entrepreneurship and innovation at SU. “The quality of applications continues to increase, so it was very competitive to make it to the final pitch round. We hope that even more students know about these competitions next year so that we continue to grow as a resource for student entrepreneurs.”
Funding is awarded to student companies to cover start-up expenses, including salaries of company owners and employees, space rental and marketing, legal, website and proof-of-concept development.
“The RvD IDEA Award will allow me to jump-start my project and get into mushroom production very quickly. I’ll be able to buy my construction and lab materials and start putting things together immediately,” says Matt Gretton, SUNY-ESF student and founder of Trifecta. “With help from professionals at the Syracuse Center of Excellence and the Whitman School of Management entrepreneurship program, I’ll be able to navigate the twisty path of forming a real business, and turn my little idea into profitable reality.”
Winning teams from SU will be required to meet with Entrepreneur-in-Residence John Liddy to outline the deliverables, company calendar and business plan, after which they will receive the first half of their funds. They earn the remaining half of the Ray von Dran IDEA Award in six to 12 weeks, based on their work in implementing the plans discussed with Liddy.
“We are honored to receive an RvD IDEA Award for the second straight year,” says Nate Forer, SU aerospace engineering student and co-founder of MOUNTech. “The $10,000 prize will enable MOUNTech to complete designs currently in development, patent designs that have already been developed, and manufacture its first mounts for the consumer market.”
Many students had product to show judges in the competitions this year.
“After realizing how my Industrial Design Thesis, ‘Carrying Oxygen,’ could help supplemental oxygen users, it was clear that I needed to attempt to bring this concept to reality,” says Jaimie Gerst, industrial and interactive design student and founder of Carrying Oxygen. “Receiving the RVD Award has provided me with the opportunity to start a business and mass produce my own concept—something most design students never get to experience.”
The Ray von Dran IDEA Award and Invention and Creativity Competition recipients were recognized during Emerging Talk, an event that pulled together student entrepreneurs from universities and colleges across Central New York, as well as investors and others interested in entrepreneurship. Forty-five student teams took part in Demo Alley, where they had the opportunity to talk about their venture with investors, faculty, students and community members. OneCard won $500 for Best Display, MOUNTech won $500 for Crowd Favorite and the Gambia Lifewater Project won $500 for Best 60 Second Pitch given on Friday evening at Emerging Talk.
“Ray [von Dran] was an academic entrepreneur and, like the student entrepreneurs, embodied the ‘can-do spirit’,” says Gisela von Dran, professor emeritus at the School of Information Studies (iSchool) and benefactor of the RvD IDEA Awards. “The students’ drive to bring about change through new ideas, innovations, products and services—and their determination and hard work—makes them stand out as role models. I am proud to support their endeavors and to keep their talent here in Central New York.”
Emerging Talk was also the site for the New York State Business Plan Competition regionals. The companies listed below denoted with an asterisk have been invited to attend the New York State Business Plan Competition finals in Albany on April 26.
The winning companies are:
Raymond von Dran IDEA Awards
Energy and Sustainability
- Avatar Sustainable Technologies,* which creates energy from cellulose waste, created by Bhavin Bhayani (SUNY-ESF, Ph.D. candidate, bioprocess engineering), $10,000
- El Dorado Energy, Inc., which provides consumers in the emerging markets with the gold standard in energy, created by Kiven Pierre (SU, master’s in business administration), $10,000
- Busme, an app that crowdsources information to show the current position of buses in a public transportation system, created by Nikolay Rodionov (SU, bioengineering, and finance and supply chain management) and Polar Humann (SU, Ph.D., 2008), $10,000
- SunRazors, which brings clean solar electricity to Mexican villages and gives communities the opportunity for social and economic development through micro-finance, created by Anna Ebers (SUNY-ESF, Ph.D. candidate, energy economics) and Andres Diz (SU, finance and entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises), $10,000
- Trifecta*, an integrated, energy-efficient system for growing leafy greens, tilapia and gourmet mushrooms, created by Matthew Gretton (SUNY-ESF, environmental studies: communications, culture and writing), $10,000
- Elbow Room,* a people-counting infrastructure that gives real-time analytics, created by Ryan St. Pierre (SU, systems and information science), $5,000
- MOUNTech,* which designs easy-to-use mounts for the field of action sport videography, created by Nate Forer (SU, aerospace engineering), Niel Lewis (SU, aerospace engineering), and Geoff Carr (University of Arizona, physiology), $10,000
- Regattable, which is creating a portable sailboat, founded by Anthony DiMare (SU, mechanical engineering), Julian Capriles (SU, mechanical engineering), and Nicholas Poorman (SUNY Oswego, computer science), $5,000
- Carrying Oxygen,* a bag which allows oxygen users to carry oxygen tanks with comfort and confidence, created by Jaimie Gerst (SU, industrial and interaction design), $10,000
- Dry Ice Synthesis for Developing Nations, which provides a sustainable and practical method to synthesize dry ice with limited access to resources in developing nations for the purpose of transporting biological samples and medical products, created by Rebecca Dudley (SU, bioengineering), Dennis Frazer (SU, bioengineering), Seong-Yoon Cho (SU, bioengineering), Gabriel Phillip (SU, bioengineering) and Alexa Deininger (SU, bioengineering), $5,000
- Vuelo Horse Boot,* a low-cost diabetes testing device used by patients to check their daily glucose levels, created by Brooke Zotara (SU, mechanical engineering) and Dawit Mulate (SU, mechanical engineering), $10,000
- Droppin,* a location-based conversation tool that enables people who are nearby to engage in a way never possible before, created by Aidan Cunniffe (SU, entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises) and Nate Frechette (Le Moyne College, business management and leadership), $10,000
- HookItUp,* which is creating a more efficient and simple manual that can be customized to whichever products the customer is using, created by Barnett Klane (SU, marketing), Eric Filkins (SU, computer art), and Corinee Halpern (SU, communications design), $5,000
- Tricky, a trick-sharing app for skateboarders that turns everyday skating into a competition among skaters around the country, created by Will Bater (SU, information technology and management), $5,000
Products and Services
- Blu Arc Media,* a digital signage advertising network, created by Scot Friedberg (SU, finance), $5,000
- MoreStick, a product that helps lipstick users gain easy access to the approximately 30 percent of lipstick stuck at the bottom of the used lipstick tube, created by DeBorah Little (SU, information management and technology), $5,000
- OPENLift, a product that allows people to more easily work on their own cars, created by Nick Dorfer (SU, entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises and accounting), $5,000
- ThunderCakes, a remote location bakery on the SU campus specializing in custom-order cakes, fundraising for organizations and corporate catering, created by Courtnee Futch (SU, pre-medicine), $5,000
Recipe into Reality,* software allowing users to go to their favorite recipe website or blog, choose a recipe that looks delicious and order it from their nearest online grocer, will also be going to the New York State Business Plan Competition in the products and services category. Recipe into Reality was created by Yuni Sameshima (Colgate University, molecular biology, economics).
Social and Nonprofit
- Congo Leadership Initiative,* an initiative that develops the next generation of leaders to be catalysts for peace and prosperity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Emily Ballard, deputy director (SU, international relations and policy studies), $5,000
- Gambia Lifewater Project, which rehabilitates and repairs broken and abandoned hand pumps to improve clean water access for rural communities in Gambia, West Africa; Jeremy Mak, managing director (SU, masters in international relations), $5,000
- Projectionary,* a product that allows people to more easily work on their own cars, created by Nick Dorfer (SU, entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises and accounting), $10,000
- Refuse 2 Lose, Inc., an organization formed to help spread respect, discipline and integrity to the youth of New York State through martial arts, created by Nicholas Cain (SU, entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises), $5,000
Panasci Business Plan Competition
$25,000 first place
- Life Choice Meals, a complete line of frozen meals, delivered to homes and specifically designed for people with heart conditions, diabetes and pre-/post-bariatric surgery, created by Jane Gardner (SU, accounting)
$10,000 second place
- PsyQic, a mobile/web service that allows people to exchange questions and predictions about the future on various topics, created by Keisuke Inoue (SU iSchool Ph.D. candidate)
$5,000 third place
- Blu Arc Media
- El Dorado Energy, Inc.
$3,000 IDEA Award
- Blu Arc Media
Invention and Creativity Competition
$3,000 award for the development of a product or business
- Elbow Room
- Level-Headed Ladder Feet, a mechanical device that provides a sense of stability while using an otherwise shaky ladder, created by Alexander Nocera (SU, mechanical engineering)
$2,000 award for the development of a product or business
- SafeSwipe, which brings multiple layers of security to a physical credit card, fighting credit card fraud from several angles, created by Daniel Folkman (SU, finance and entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises) and Elias Smith (SU, civil engineering)
Most Creative ($300) and Most Sustainable ($300)
- Dry Ice Synthesis for Developing Nations
Most Likely to Succeed ($300)
- Level-Headed Ladder Feet
The RvD IDEA Awards and Emerging Talk had many great sponsors this year. The health care track of the RvD IDEA Awards was sponsored by St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center and Welch Allyn. The energy and sustainability track was sponsored by the Syracuse Center of Excellence. eMinutes partnered with IDEA to offer incorporation services to all RvD IDEA Award winners. SquareSpace, a do-it-yourself platform for building websites, came to Emerging Talk and is offering SU students a free 14-day trial and 50 percent off their first year of SquareSpace service.
The Raymond von Dran IDEA provides contacts, resources and funding support for student entrepreneurs. A list of all RvD IDEA and Invention and Creativity Competition applicants can be found at idea.syr.edu/ventures. To learn more about IDEA, email firstname.lastname@example.org.