On a recent trip to visit extended family, Cjala Surratt ’22, founder of the Black Citizens Brigade, was presented with a gift—her late grandmother’s boiler room jacket. Surratt’s grandmother had been a ship-fitter in Norfolk, Virginia, and the clothing item…
Selim Dangoor ’23 and Sandhya Iyer ’20 Selected for Prestigious Blackstone LaunchPad Fellowships
Syracuse University student startups Selim Dangoor ’23, founder of MUNCH Jerky, and Sandhya Iyer ’20, CEO of Geek Girl Careers, have been selected for the summer 2021 cohort of the Blackstone LaunchPad Fellowship. Both are active members of the LaunchPad at Syracuse University Libraries. The Blackstone Charitable Foundation and partners will support 55 student entrepreneurs from across the global network with $250,000 in grant funding and eight weeks of entrepreneurial resources, mentoring and support through the summer program.
Participating student founders will receive a $5,000 grant to support their time working on advancing their entrepreneurial ventures, as well as other resources and support, including weekly workshops, community-building activities, and mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs and executives in the LaunchPad network. The program also includes intensive LaunchPad campus director coaching sessions. Students will also have the opportunity to join the LaunchPad-supported Startup Grind Student Program and participate in the Techstars Empower Collective.
“We’re excited to welcome another cohort of bright entrepreneurs to the LaunchPad Fellowship,” says Blackstone Charitable Foundation Executive Director Amy Stursberg. “In spite of the many challenges of the past year, this diverse set of students has taken impressive strides toward bringing their ideas to life. We look forward to supporting their innovation and drive this summer, and can’t wait to see the companies and careers they develop in the future.”
Dangoor, studying public relations in the Newhouse School and finance in the Whitman School, became fascinated with the creation of flavorful jerky during the pandemic. He used his passion for food entrepreneurship to create artisanal beef jerky with high quality cuts of tender flank steak. This past academic year he worked with the LaunchPad, competed in business plan competitions, winning the Hunter Brooks Watson Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award from judges who loved his energy and passion. He also made important business connections and learned USDA and Department of Health regulations, connected with commercial kitchens and built a network of entrepreneurial agri-business producers as advisors. He incubated in the LaunchPad to bring his love of premium, high-protein artisanal jerky to life as a commercial venture, and to build a roadmap to launch into the marketplace and scale. He is also the recipient of a recent Innovation Fund Award from the LaunchPad.
Sandhya Iyer, a graduate of the Newhouse School in public relations and the Whitman School in marketing, hopes to empower young women to find a career they love in a tech field. As CEO of Geek Girl Careers, she is helping young women find careers in tech that align with their passions and personalities. Geek Girl Careers is committed to increasing representation in tech by broadening the pathways in tech fields. Women make up nearly half the American workforce but hold only 26% of computing-related jobs. The problem starts as early as middle school, but only becomes more apparent in high school and is especially apparent in college—in 2020, women made up only 18% of undergraduate students who earned a degree in computer science. Geek Girl Careers helps young women discover careers in tech that align with their existing passions and skills and connects them with other Geek Girls and mentors. Iyer speaks at Syracuse LaunchPad events and mentors other campus female tech founders.
The LaunchPad Fellowship program originally began in response to intern, job and entrepreneurial opportunities lost by college students at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and has now grown into a signature program of the Blackstone LaunchPad network. The Fellowship helps students learn by doing, growing and strengthening entrepreneurial skills like leadership, problem-solving and communication as they complete customer discovery interviews, launch initial marketing and sales efforts, add talent to their teams, and seek additional funding and support.
The program is funded by the Blackstone Charitable Foundation and coordinated through the Blackstone LaunchPad network and Future Founders.