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Syracuse’s InVenture Prize Winner, Kate Beckman of Fresh U, Advances to ACC Finals
The ACC is composed of 15 member universities that compete in NCAA Division I athletics. The ACC InVenture Prize brings that spirited collegiate competition to the “turf” of ideas, pitting the best innovators and entrepreneurs from each campus against each other, “Shark Tank”-style, before a live audience and panel of expert judges.
The first-place team will be awarded $15,000 to continue development of their invention or product. The second-place team will receive $10,000, and $5,000 will be awarded to the fans’ favorite invention, as determined by online and text voting during the televised final round.
Fresh U will compete in a preliminary round on March 30 in Atlanta, facing off against teams from Boston College, Clemson University, Duke University, Florida State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, North Carolina State, University of Notre Dame, University of Louisville, University of Miami, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, University of Pittsburgh, University of Virginia, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University and Wake Forest University. The winners of that round will participate in the finals on March 31, which will be broadcast on PBS and streamed online.
The Fresh U team is led by Kate Beckman, a senior in the Newhouse School. Fresh U is a national online publication geared toward college freshmen. Since launching in June 2015, Fresh U has grown to a staff of 300 contributing writers on more than 100 campuses and has a media partnership with Teen Vogue. The publication’s content ranges from the new experiences of college life to surfacing local news stories on college campuses using its network of contributing writers. The publication offers brands the opportunity to reach a group of newly minted, Gen-Z consumers who are making hundreds of purchasing decisions as they prepare for college life. Along with Beckman, team members include Matt Gehring, Mia Cole, Katie Czerwinski, Amanda Morrison and Sabrina Sooknanan, and advisors Sean Branagan, director of the Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship in the Newhouse School, and Melissa Chessher, professor and chair of the magazine department in the Newhouse School.
“I’m so excited to represent Syracuse while pitching my startup on a national stage,” Beckman says. “The ACC competition is a great opportunity to meet student founders from other schools, while also gaining real-life experience pitching my company. I think it will be a challenging and rewarding opportunity.”
Beckman represented the University last March at Student Startup Madness at SXSW. She is an accomplished public speaker on content development and marketing trends related to Gen Z and has been invited back to Austin this March to participate in a national panel at a pre-SXSW event.
The InVenture Prize attracted 21 teams for the Syracuse University qualifier, with novel ideas for products, services and technologies. Seven semi-finalist teams were selected to pitch in a juried round: Comfortwear, Fresh U, IIID, ModoScript, Ravel, Savofair, and SORB. A panel of cross-campus judges then selected two finalists: 1) Beckman and Fresh U, and 2) Jack Phillips, founder of IIID, for an “audience choice” face-off. In an exciting final pitch round, a live audience selected Beckman in a close vote that added to the spirit of the competition.
“This competition was an invaluable opportunity for our students to stretch their entrepreneurial skills while competing for the chance to showcase their great ideas at the national level,” says Vice Chancellor and Provost Michele Wheatly. “Congratulations to the winning team of Fresh U, who I know will represent Syracuse proudly and well at the finals. And congratulations to all the students who participated. Their innovative ideas and creative vision made for a very exciting competition.”
IIID, founded by fifth-year architecture student Jack Phillips, creates 3D printed architectural applications using shale and clay powder for historic replication and preservation projects. The 3D printing process brings detail, precision and affordability to the construction and building materials industry, especially for the restoration of architecturally significant buildings with ornate elements that can typically only be reproduced by skilled artisans using hand tooling. Phillips has achieved proof of concept, is working on his patent strategy, and collaborating with preservation architects, engineers and historic preservation organizations.
“I’m delighted that the Blackstone LaunchPad at SU Libraries was able to coordinate this campuswide competition and help to prepare the competitors” says Dean of Libraries and University Librarian David Seaman, “and impressed by the very strong slate of student entrepreneurial endeavors who entered from Syracuse University.”