In 1978, Cliff Ensley ’69, ’70, G’71 had an idea to start his own business and just $2,500 to do it. He was used to taking on challenges—there was no stopping him. Growing up, he struggled with a learning disability—at…
Student Startups Win Over $175,000
Student startups won a combined $178,500 in seed funding on April 11 when, for the third consecutive year, Syracuse University entrepreneurship and innovation competitions came together as OneUniversity to support them. The RvD IDEA Awards, the Panasci Business Plan Competition and the Invention and Creativity Competition, held at the Martin J. Whitman School of Management, are coordinated so that students can participate in all three.
The University’s RvD IDEA office runs the RvD IDEA Awards. The office is part of Academic Affairs, devoted to exposing all Syracuse University students to entrepreneurship, regardless of major.
“We started the cross-campus entrepreneurship initiative almost eight years ago at Syracuse University,” says Stacey Keefe, executive director of the RvD IDEA. “Since then, the entrepreneurship landscape on campus has become more collaborative, creating stronger student startups that touch many disciplines and colleges across SU. As a result, we’re seeing more and more competitive ventures in our competitions.”
The Raymond von Dran (RvD) IDEA Awards competition has provided seed funding to help student entrepreneurs launch their ventures since 2009. The RvD Fund, named after the late iSchool dean, Raymond von Dran, has provided $60,000 over the last two years to support student ventures through the RvD IDEA Awards competition.
“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 iSchool, Ray von Dran’s widow 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.”
Students come from majors from across the University and they work with entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial faculty across campus and in the community.
“The RvD IDEA Award funding is going to propel us from the technical development phase into the launch phase,” says Max Doblin, co-founder and CEO of HoundDog. “This funding allows us to execute. We’ve been working to create a platform that intertwines the physical world with the digital world to create a physical web where brands and consumers can interact, and I think the generous funding from RvD is a key facilitator in making that vision possible.”
David Kern, HoundDog co-founder and COO, adds, “Apart from providing funding to turn our dream into a tangible reality, RvD IDEA has introduced us to the Syracuse University entrepreneurship network, which has been just as important. We appreciate all of the help and encouragement we’ve received and are excited to be part of this awesome and empowering network as we move forward in our careers.”
The Panasci Business Plan Competition is a campus-wide student business plan competition, hosted by the Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship and made possible by the late Henry A. Panasci, founder of Fay’s Drugs, a long-time Whitman supporter .
Students wishing to participate in the Panasci Competition are required to submit their business plans in early March. This year, 21 business plans were submitted. The contestants were narrowed down to “the Sweet 16,” who presented to judges from the community. From there, the contestants were narrowed down to five. The final five presented again to a new set of judges, who made the final selection.
“Each year, the enthusiasm and energy exhibited by the students for their businesses is a highlight of the spring semester. What really is noteworthy is that students come from all schools across campus with a variety of majors with business plans that have market relevance,” says Terry Brown, executive director of the Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship.
“JoJo Rings is both honored and grateful for the Panasci Business Plan Competition,” says Jordan Dudden, founder of JoJo Rings. “With our prize money, JoJo Rings will be able to capitalize on existing opportunities by creating much needed inventory. Our leadership team learned much about business through the process, mentors and Whitman students and staff.”
The College of Engineering and Computer Science’s Invention & 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 Syracuse University team consisting of at least one College of Engineering and Computer Science student.
“We are proud of the impressive applicants for the Invention and Creativity Competition this year, exemplifying the spirit to seek new solutions for challenging problems with direct relevance to human welfare and global priorities,” says Chilukuri K. Mohan, interim dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science.
“After winning RvD IDEA and Invention and Creativity money last year, we were able to put our plan into action and complete a prototype,” says Anthony Caporizzo, co-founder of Apollo Biomedical. “The generous money awarded to us at the two competitions this year will allow us to pursue a patent and start the early stages of product manufacturing. We are extremely grateful for the guidance we have received from the IDEA team and others at Syracuse University.”
The Syracuse Center of Excellence sponsored the energy and sustainability category of the RvD IDEA Awards with $20,000, making it possible for teams from any of the CoE’s partner institutions to compete in this category of the competition.
The RvD IDEA Awards also serve as the regional competition for the New York Business Plan Competition. The teams listed below denoted with an asterisk have been invited to attend the New York Business Plan Competition finals in Albany on April 24.
The winning companies are:
Raymond von Dran IDEA Awards
Energy and Sustainability
- Solstice Power*, which is poised to revolutionize 100+-year-old energy markets as a solar power systems manufacturer and solar energy solutions provider, founded by Griffin Kearney (SU, master’s, electrical engineering), James Shomar (SU ’12, mechanical engineering, G’14, M.S. entrepreneurship), and Tim Jeter (SU ’12, aerospace engineering, G’14, M.S. mechanical and aerospace engineering), $9,000
- Sustainable Plant Feed, which produces a sustainable liquid plant feed by feeding worms a waste product, created by Renee Halloran (SUNY-ESF, environmental biology) and Jocelyn Harvey (SUNY-ESF, conservation biology), $4,000
- Apollo Biomedical*, a diagnostic knee brace accessory for patients recovering from knee-related injuries/surgery, created by Philip Choiniere (SU, biomedical engineering), Nikolay Rodionov (SU, B.S. biomedical engineering/M.B.A. finance and supply chain management), Weston Ryan (SU, biomedical engineering), Anthony Caporizzo (SU, biomedical engineering), and Elliott Russell (SU, biomedical engineering), $5,000
- Blue Defib*, which uses innovations in energy storage and delivery to help solve some of the common problems associated with the automatic external defibrillators available today, created by Elliott Russell (SU, biomedical engineering), Austin Miller (SU, international relations/economics), Kevin Aziz (SU, computer science), and Harlan Toussaint (SU, mechanical engineering), $5,000
- HoundDog*, a mobile discovery app that leverages social scavenger hunts to create immersive experiences between brands and consumers through location-based beacons, created by Max Doblin (SU, advertising and entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises) and David Kern (SU, advertising and finance), $10,000
- soos*, an artist-friendly music-streaming service that will change the way royalties are paid and how music is curated, created by Ian Brooks (SU, Bandier Program and advertising), $7,500
- Lokil, an app that offers a way of quickly connecting hobbyists who need help with fellow hobbyists who want to help complete projects, resolve emergencies and help with tough dilemmas, created by Adrian Hatch (SU, information management and technology), and Josiah MacDonald (SU, computer science), $3,750
- ParkAmigo, which is Uber for driveways, allowing users to find, book and pay for a vacant parking space easily, created by Michael Oviosu (SU, economics) and Nata Barbosa (SU ’14, information management and technology), $3,750
- Glamour MMA, LLC*, a company that is revolutionizing and paving the way for female equality in the sport of mixed martial arts, created by Jihun Han (SU, broadcast journalism and political science), $6,000
- PopStream, which aims to introduce international content streaming and distribution in India, created by Sanya Sood (SU, master’s, television, radio and film), Sharika Ajaikumar (SU, master’s, television, radio and film), Rio Maulana (SU, master’s, telecommunications and network management), Sagar Dubey (SU, information technology and management), $6,000
- ThunderCakes by Courtnee, a remote location bakery on the Syracuse University campus specializing in custom order cakes, fundraising for organizations and corporate catering, created by Courtnee Futch (SU, communication and rhetorical studies), $4,000
- FreshU, an online publication for freshmen, by freshmen, created by Kate Beckman (SU, magazine journalism), Matt Gehring (SU, master’s, television, radio, and film), and Lindsay Dawson (SU, graphic design), $3,000
- BodyMatch, which combines a mobile app with an interactive sex toy, created by Li Zhang (SU, engineering, Ph.D.), and Kepei Sun(SU, engineering, Ph.D.), $2,000
- Enmemoriam, which provides families with professionally crafted obituaries and memory books, created by Domnick Hadley (SU, master’s, advertising) and Michael Vincent (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville), $2,000
- Contact*, a device that will allow users to more intuitively communicate kinesthetic information to a computer, created by Benjamin Marggraf (SU, biomedical engineering) and Timothy Meyer (SU, mechanical engineering); team includes Tom Buchanan (SU, biomedical engineering) and Katie Grant (SU, public relations), $7,400
- Brevite Camera Backpacks*, a backpack company aimed at providing convenience and functionality to the user, created by Dylan Kim (SU, psychology), Elliot Kim (Johns Hopkins, economics and social policy) and Brandon Kim (Fordham University, philosophy and visual arts), $5,000
- MOUNTech, which designs easy-to-use mounts for the field of action sport videography, created by Nate Forer (SU, aerospace engineering) and Niel Lewis (SU, master’s, aerospace engineering), $5,000
- Electro Beats Apparel, which incorporates fashion with technology by enhancing the night experience, offering light-up athletic and party wear, created by Gabriela Escalante (SU, marketing management and entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises), Hannah Fagut (SU, arts and sciences), and Alexander DeJohn (SU, mechanical engineering), $3,200
- LIFT Protein Muffins, a gluten-free, paleo muffin that serves as a meal replacement, created by Zach Schleien (SU, information management), $2,400
- Savage Apparel, a clothing brand that brings innovation and a slight twist on how streetwear fashion will be defined, created by Gregory Tobias (SU, mechanical engineering), $2,000
Nonprofit and Social Enterprise
- Design to Table*, a design agency that helps small farms identify new opportunities to grow in the local food movement, created by Ryan Pierson (SU, industrial and interaction design), Ryn Adkins (SU, industrial and interaction design) and Nick Zidzik (SU, industrial and interaction design), $8,000
- Volu*, a volunteer management system which allows nonprofits to track volunteers from first exposure to first action, created by Chris McCarthy (SU, master’s, information management), and AJ Richichi (Phillips Exeter Academy), $5,000
- Roux, a pop-up dining experience that cross-pollinates food and design, created by Rohan Thakore (SU, industrial and interactive design) and Ryn Adkins (SU, industrial and interactive design), $5,000
- Show Me SU, which provides students with a system to generate their own preventative support to one another before it becomes a crisis issue, created by Keagan Kirk-Singer (SU, industrial and interactive design) and Shelby Zink (SU, industrial and interactive design), $3,000
- Shine Magazine, an entertainment magazine geared toward young adults with intellectual disabilities, created by Talia Rotenberg (SU, communications and rhetorical studies) and Michaela Quigley (SU, magazine), $2,000
- The Emergence of a Children’s Book, a book that targets prevalent issues such as bullying and inclusive education, created by Kanisha Ffriend (SU, education), $2,000
Panasci Business Plan Competition
$20,000 first place
- Diamond MMA, which empowers athletes to overcome the obstacle of being human by creating products that eliminate athletes’ fear of injury, co-founded by Daniel Goldberg (SU, information management and technology).
$7,500 second place
- JoJo Rings, a Central New York-based company that produces and sells locally handcrafted jewelry from 100-percent recycled rings, created by Jordan Dudden (SU, communications design).
$2,500 third place
- Solstice Power
$5,000 Fetner Prize in Sustainability Enterprise
- Solstice Power
$5,000 Consumer Product Innovation Award
- Silver Medical, which promotes a product that offers extended protection for the control of infection in chronic wounds, created by Katherine Desy (SU, marketing management, entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises).
$2,500 Goldberg Prize for Technology and Innovation
- Solstice Power
Invention and Creativity Competition
- Apollo Biomedical
Electro Beats Apparel
- CourseGoat, a schedule generating site that allows the user to add classes and generate possible schedules and sort them based on selections, created by Josiah MacDonald (SU, computer science), Maxwell Burggraf (SU, computer science) and Joey Cole (SU, computer science).
- SPARE it!, a mobile application allows the user to buy, sell, rent or share any commodity by locating the required commodity in the user’s vicinity, created by Abhilash Krishnamurthy Rahavendra (SU, master’s, computer engineering), Tushar Bhatia (SU, master’s, computer engineering), and Sohene Rane (SU, master’s, information management).
- The Hurleycles, an apparatus that acts as an automated spotter for bench pressing that can lift up to 1,500 lbs, created by Brandon Hurley (SU, master’s, engineering management).