Sean O’Keefe is a University Professor and the Howard G. and S. Louise Phanstiel Chair in Strategic Management and Leadership in the Maxwell School. O’Keefe served as administrator of NASA during the George W. Bush Administration. In a recent op-ed…
Centscere Wins $150,000 in StartupLabs Competition
Centscere, the philanthropic student venture that began last summer in the Syracuse Student Sandbox, and entered the Syracuse StartupLabs competition earlier this year, was awarded the top prize of $150,000 in the StartupLabs contest.
At the Centerstate CEO annual meeting April 14 where the results were announced, it was also revealed that the business won the Market Ready Award, which brings $50,000 in marketing and branding assistance from Eric Mower and Associates.
The premise behind Centscere is simple. It allows users of social media services to donate a portion of their online activity to different charities. Users can attach a donation amount to each Tweet they send on Twitter, Facebook Like and/or status update they write.
The company was up against two other firms in the StartupLabs competition: Regattable, a foldable sailboat company, and fellow Sandbox participant, and Crowsnest.io, a networked Internet camera management company from Rochester.
Those three firms were selected from a field of nearly 90 applicants in the fall of 2013.
Centscere has been working with local charities, including the Central New York Community Foundation and the Connective Corridor, to fine-tune their product in a series of trial runs. Two hundred people are currently using Centscere to donate to about 30 different charities.
“We are absolutely ecstatic about winning Startup Labs, and we are eternally grateful for the continued support we have received from both Syracuse University and Central New York’s business community,” says Centscere co-founder Mike Smith, a 2013 graduate of the master’s program at the Whitman School of Management, and a 2012 graduate of the dual undergraduate degree program with Whitman and the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication.
“This influx of funding and marketing support will allow us to strengthen our partnership with leading nonprofits across the nation,” Smith says.
The company also plans to add more members to the team, as well as expand the number of charities that they work with.
In addition to Smith, the Centscere team includes co-founders Ian Dickerson (a 2013 graduate of the communications and rhetorical studies department at the College of Visual and Performing Arts) and Frank Taylor (a 2013 graduate of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, and currently enrolled in the Newhouse School of Public Communications).
“Good entrepreneurs have a vision of where they want to go and along the way, they listen to feedback from coaches, advisors and, most importantly, the customer,” said Student Sandbox director John Liddy. Liddy worked with the company during its 12-week stint in the incubator, and also taught the class where the idea was originally born.
“Centscere has made many alterations from its original inception in my What’s The Big Idea (IDS 401) class, but they never took their eye off of the desire to help others by making giving easier for millennials,” says Liddy. “We constantly challenged them in the Sandbox and they responded by wrapping their arms around the customer and fully understanding their motivation.”
In addition to the big win at StartupLabs, Centscere was also awarded $8,000 at the Raymond von Dran (RvD) IDEA Awards this past weekend. The RvD competition has provided seed funding to help student entrepreneurs launch their ventures since 2009. Awards are funded, in part, by the RvD Fund at Syracuse University. The fund was named after the late dean of the School of Information Studies, Raymond von Dran.