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 Take Home Five Prizes in NY Business Plan Competition; Law Student Earns Top Tech Prize
Syracuse University teams won the most of any university at the 2019 event. Syracuse teams captured five awards in 2018, and in the 2017 competition Syracuse teams won the top prizes in four categories, along with the grand prize. No other university has achieved this level of sustained success in the history of the state competition.
Third-year law student Molly D’Agostino won first place and a $10,000 prize in the Technology and Entertainment Section of the competition. D’Agostino’s business—Our Song Co.—writes custom songs and offers media services for couples and weddings, including consulting, video, poetry and memoir writing, and more.
Speaking to how her legal studies have contributed to her business venture, D’Agostino says, “The most valuable thing law school has contributed to my business is my experience with the College of Law’s Innovation Law Center (ILC). I knew I had a unique idea, and I wanted to learn how to protect it. What I discovered through ILC helped me craft my strategy.”
This year’s competition featured nearly 100 student-led teams at the event. Cash prizes were awarded in six tracks, with winners selected by a panel of venture capitalists, angel investors, investment bankers, business leaders and seasoned entrepreneurs.
The other Syracuse University winners were the following:
- $2,500 for second place in agtech and food category: FEI Technology, an online food platform focused primarily on Asian cuisine, Chenghao Zhang ’21 (Whitman School), Yongqian Wen ’22 (School of Information Studies), Yijie Huang ’21 (College of Visual and Performing Arts), Yangdi Jiang ’21 (Whitman School), and Tianni Xu ’20 (Whitman School);
- $1,000 for third place in technology and entertainment category: CLLCTVE, a platform that develops college creatives and delivers creative solutions to brands, Kelsey Davis ’19 (Newhouse School) and Ryan Williams. This team also won the $2,000 Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) excellence award;
- $2,000, MWBE excellence award, PAANI, a clean water filtration solution for low-income communities in India, Nikita Chatterjee ’20 (Whitman School) and Brianna Howard ’20 (Falk College).
The NYBPC regional qualifier was organized by the Syracuse University Libraries’ Blackstone LaunchPad, whose staff also accompanied the teams to Albany.
“The Blackstone LaunchPad provided business planning expertise, mentorship, collaboration space and pitch guidance to teams,” says Dean of Libraries David Seaman. “Strong showings over three years demonstrates the impact this Libraries service has had since it cut the ribbon in April 2016.”