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…
Students Participate in Blackstone LaunchPad Techstars Startup Weekend in Los Angeles
Four Syracuse University students were selected to participate in the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars Startup Weekend in Los Angeles April 26-28. They were part of a cohort of 70 student attendees representing 20 universities from six states and two countries. Throughout the weekend event, the students worked in teams to “create ventures in a weekend” and pitch to 12 Techstars mentors and judges in a competition. Out of thousands of Startup Weekends catalyzed by the Techstars Startup Weekend network, this was the first multi-campus event in the history of the program.
Alexandra Cianfarani (Whitman ’22), Sam Hollander (Newhouse ’22), Emma Rothman (Falk ’21) and Matt Shumer (Whitman ’22), members of the LaunchPad at Syracuse University Libraries, were selected through a competitive campus application process to represent Syracuse University at the event. Student participants at the event were named “Student Entrepreneurs in Residence” and are now empowered by Techstars to return to their universities and lead campus Startup Weekends. Cianfarani, Hollander, Rothman and Shumer will work with Syracuse’s LaunchPad staff to create a Techstars Startup Weekend at Syracuse University this fall.
The event in Los Angeles was a great experience, according to Shumer: “We had the opportunity to meet students from other LaunchPads and quickly formed a team with Cornell, University of Montana and UC Irvine participants. Over the course of the weekend, we did rapid ideation, customer discovery, product development and a full pitch. We walked from Venice Beach to the Santa Monica pier and interviewed store owners to glean input to create Last Mile, a platform that could enable customers to order anything online from local merchants and have it delivered door-side within two hours. Over the course of the intensive weekend, we developed an app mockup, prototype code, a website and a full pitch deck, and presented it to industry experts and investors. It was an incredible experience.”
Cianfarani and Hollander were also part of the Last Mile team. “I loved the opportunity to grow my personal and professional networks and represent Syracuse University in such a positive way,” Hollander says. “We are looking forward to creating a Startup Weekend at SU. We want it to be a fun and energetic experience that will enable Syracuse students to develop and grow ideas and connect with other like-minded innovators across campus.”
Rothman joined students from Cornell, University of Montana, University at Buffalo, and Texas A&M University to create Succint, a web extension to organize web design around individual learning styles and preferences, including text and typography, visuals, color, layout and user experience. She valued the opportunity to be the lead pitch spokesperson for the team. “It was the first time I did a pitch, and it was such a supportive space that was low risk and high reward. I am excited to stay in touch with other student innovators from around the country and work together this summer to launch a Startup Weekend this fall at SU.”
“We were completely blown away by the presentations, work ethic and professionalism of the students,” says Courtney Gras, community director of the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars global network. “We are thrilled to hear SU students enjoyed Startup Weekend. It was such an exciting event and amazing to see the quality of the students and their ideas.”
About the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars at Syracuse University Libraries
The Blackstone LaunchPad in Bird Library is Syracuse University’s innovation hub, connecting the entire University’s resource-rich ecosystem with a global network that provides support for aspiring entrepreneurs, inventors and creators. The program serves faculty, staff, students and alumni across disciplines who are interested in venture creation and taking ideas for products, services or technologies from concept to commercialization. The program prepares participants to be trailblazers in an entrepreneurial world.