Syracuse’s InVenture prize winner, Kate Beckman of Fresh U, advances to ACC finals

Kate Beckman, founder of Fresh U, will represent Syracuse University at the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) InVenture Prize Competition on March 30-31 at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

The ACC is comprised of 15 member universities that compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)’s Division I. 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 Television and streamed online.

“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.”

The Fresh U team is led by Kate Beckman, a senior at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. 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 over 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. Founder Kate Beckman is supported by a team that includes Matt Gehring, Mia Cole, Katie Czerwinski, Amanda Morrison, Sabrina Sooknanan, and advisors Sean Branagan and Melissa Chessher.

“I’m so excited to represent Syracuse while pitching my startup on a national stage. 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,” said Kate Beckman, founder of Fresh U.

Beckman represented Syracuse 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, Beckman and Fresh U, and 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.

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 campus-wide competition and help to prepare the competitors” said David Seaman, Dean of Libraries and University Librarian, “and impressed by the very strong slate of student entrepreneurial endeavors who entered from Syracuse University.”

NYS Business Plan Competition comes to Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University

The Blackstone LaunchPad and Syracuse Libraries are pleased to host CompeteCNY, the regional qualifying event for the 2017 New York State Business Plan Competition.

The event will be held on March 24 at Bird Library. Regional winners will advance to the April 28 statewide competition in Albany, which features a $100,000 grand prize.

CompeteCNY is open to all undergraduate or graduate students currently enrolled in a Central New York college or university. In addition to Syracuse University, these include SUNY ESF, SUNY Upstate, SUNY Oswego, SUNY Cortland, Onondaga Community College, Cayuga Community College, LeMoyne College, Colgate University, Wells College, and Cazenovia College.

While all students can compete for the $100,000 statewide grand prize, only Syracuse University students can vie for an additional $40,000 provided through the iPrize, supported by The Raymond von Dran (RvD) Fund for Student Entrepreneurship at the School of Information Studies (iSchool).

Student teams can submit an application for one of the following categories:

  • Information Technology/Software
  • Clean Technology
  • Advanced Technology
  • Products
  • Services
  • Entrepreneurship/Non-Profit.

Teams are required to indicate which category they are applying for on the application and provide a one sentence explanation of why they feel they should compete in the category that they are applying in. Details about these categories are available on the Compete CNY website, and the application is available online

Check-in is 2:30 p.m. at the Blackstone LaunchPad and pitches will be held in various locations in Bird Library. Reception and awards ceremony will be in the Peter Graham Scholarly Commons from 5 – 6 p.m., when two winning teams in each of the six categories will be announced.

Regional winners will go on to compete for $100,000 state grand prize on April 28 in Albany against other regional semi-final winners from New York’s nine other Regional Economic Development Council districts – Capital Region, North Country, Mohawk Valley, Finger Lakes, Western New York, Southern Tier, Mid-Hudson, New York City, and Long Island.

Details, competition rules, and the CNY application are available through the Compete CNY website, with more information about the statewide competition available on the NYBP website.  A template is provided for presentations. Applications for CompeteCNY close March 15.

For more information, contact:



The Soul of Central New York: book talk and signing on February 24 with author Sean Kirst

kirst-author-photoLocal author Sean Kirst will discuss his new book, The Soul of Central New York: Syracuse Stories at an event on Friday, February 24 from 3 – 5 p.m. in the Peter Graham Scholarly Commons (Room 114) of Bird Library. Co-hosted by Syracuse University Libraries, Syracuse University Press, and the Blackstone LaunchPad, the event will feature remarks by the author, a reception, and book signing.

In his newest book, published by Syracuse University Press, nationally-celebrated columnist Sean Kirst offers a deeply moving collection of stories about the struggles and triumphs of the everyday men and women who define Syracuse. A group of strangers risk their lives along the New York State Thruway to save a soldier from a burning truck. The true story of how the number 44 rose to prominence at Syracuse University, as told by football legend Jim Brown. The beautiful yet tragic connection between Vice President Joseph Biden and Syracuse. The impossible account of how Eric Carle, one of the world’s great children’s authors, found his way to a childhood friend through a photograph taken in Syracuse more than eighty years ago.

These and other stories can be found in The Soul of Central New York, a collection of Kirst’s columns that spans almost a quarter-century. During his long career as a writer for the Syracuse Post-Standard, Kirst won some of the most prestigious honors in journalism, including the Ernie Pyle Award, given annually to one American writer who best captures the hopes and dreams of everyday Americans.

Copies of the book will be available for purchase at the event. For more information, contact Linda Dickerson Hartsock at

Syracuse University students to compete for ACC InVenture Prize

acc-inventure-graphicShark Tank isn’t the only place to catch a first-look at talented young entrepreneurs creating innovations that will shape the future. Teams from Syracuse University are about to vie for the InVenture Prize, a televised event open to student startups at the 15 colleges and universities that are part of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Academic Consortium.

The InVenture Prize Competition has been nicknamed “American Idol for Nerds,” recognizing the interdisciplinary competition as one of the biggest and best talent searches for student creativity, invention, and entrepreneurship.  The Emmy Award-winning competition was created by the Georgia Institute of Technology and Georgia Public Broadcasting, with contestants pitching to a live audience at a dynamic televised, live-streamed event.

The InVenture Prize plays off the spirit of the ACC. “They’ve battled it out on the field, but now the ACC’s best minds come together for a competition like no other,” according to event organizers. “The InVenture Prize is an opportunity to stimulate undergraduate entrepreneurial activity and increase student-faculty engagement, to celebrate and highlight the exceptional creativity and ingenuity of our students, and to inspire a greater sense of camaraderie across the conference.”

The 15 participating colleges are: Boston College, Clemson University, Duke University, Florida State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, North Carolina State, University of Notre Dame, Syracuse University, 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.

“Syracuse University has a very long and impressive culture and track record of innovation and entrepreneurship,” says Vice Chancellor and Provost Michele Wheatly. “This is a great opportunity for our incredibly talented students and recent graduates to go toe-to-toe with their ACC peers for prize money to launch their next venture. And it’s a wonderful way to showcase the fact that the ACC is about more than sports—that it’s also about celebrating our shared commitment to academic and scholarly excellence and advancing it to new levels. I can’t wait to see the creative ideas that our students put forward to represent Syracuse in the finals.”

Deadline to apply online for the Syracuse University qualifier is January 31. Student startups will pitch to a panel of university judges, drawn from across academic programs, at a campus competition on February 10. One finalist team will be selected to represent Syracuse University at the finals in Atlanta on March 30-31.

The fifteen university teams advancing to Atlanta will pitch during the preliminary round on March 30th, after which five teams will be chosen to advance to the final round on March 31st. A panel of expert judges will award the first-place team $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.

Eligibility requirements:

  • Each university finalist team may be composed of full-time, degree-seeking undergraduate students or recent graduates of the university within one year of graduation from their undergraduate program.
  • If a team member is a recent graduate of the university, the idea for the invention must have been initially conceived while the student was enrolled as an undergraduate.
  • Full-time, degree-seeking undergraduate students must comprise at least 50% of the registered team members. Individual teams with only one student are eligible to compete.
  • Teams with generated revenue or venture capital funding in excess of $100,000 are not eligible to compete.
  • Entrants should be the original creators, inventors, or owners of the intellectual property (IP) underlying their invention. Any co-invention with non-students or any other third party outside the university must be fully disclosed during registration to determine if the outside contribution was substantial. A team whose idea or invention qualifies as university-owned IP is not eligible to enter.

The application process is straightforward: teams submit on-line, and upload a one-page business statement. If selected for the Syracuse competition, they will create a pitch deck for the campus competition. Coaching in advance of the campus finals will be available through the Blackstone LaunchPad and the Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship’s Couri Hatchery.

Students may make appointments to meet at the Blackstone LaunchPad with experts from the U.S. Small Business Administration and New York State Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for technical assistance. Appointments for coaching or meetings with business advisors or professional service providers can be made by e-mail:  Pro-bono professional service advisors are also available by appointment at the Couri Hatchery:




Global Game Jam Rides Wave to Success

game-jamSyracuse University students created ideas for new digital and analog games at Global Game Jam 2017, the world’s biggest game jam. Held in Bird Library on January 20-22, the event linked over two dozen local students with participants from six continents to create themed games.

The weekend-long event was powered by the Blackstone LaunchPad, in partnership with the Department of English (CAS), the Computer Art and Animation program in the Department of Transmedia (VPA), Information Technology and Services (ITS), the School of Information Studies, and the Syracuse University Libraries.

The theme of this year’s game jam was “Waves.” Teams created working prototypes of video, mobile, web-based, iOS/Android, board, card, tabletop, and other “wave-themed” games. They worked in the concept of waves from the perspective of science, art, technology, nature, and the built environment. They also embedded the concept at many levels of game creation, from audio, graphics, code, and gameplay, as well as thematic aspects.

At the conclusion of the jam, teams presented their game concepts to judges who are area professionals in the game industry.  Teams and their games were recognized in categories such as biggest blockbuster potential, most cinematic, best player interaction, and best platform game mechanic.

Judges included SU alumnus John Spatola ’07 (Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science) who is founder, owner, and CEO of Lake Effect Applications. He was joined by Lisa Spatola ’08 and Josh Burns, also from Lake Effect Applications, which creates mobile experiences for core gamers. Other judges were Angelo (AJ) Damiano ’18 (Whitman School of Management), founder of Power-Spike, a Syracuse University student startup in the game industry, and Glenn Allen G’01, who is an expert in software development and design.

Games by SU students were uploaded on the official website,, to be shared with more than 36,000 jammers in 702 sites in 95 countries. More than 7,000 new games were created worldwide that weekend by artists, musicians, coders, designers, writers, producers, and other creative talent. Game concepts spanned desktop PCs, handheld touch screens, eye-tracking, virtual reality, physical electronics, and paper-and-cardboard tabletop games. All of the games produced in the event are open source and can be accessed on-line and played at

The event, organized and coordinated by Syracuse University’s Games Studies Research Group, brought together two new SU Libraries’ programs, the Digital Scholarship Space (DSS) and the Blackstone LaunchPad. The DSS is a collaborative pilot project by Syracuse University ITS and the University Libraries, based in Bird Library, that provides students and faculty access to a variety of technologies for software design, gaming, data visualization, digital humanities projects, and digital mapping. The Blackstone LaunchPad is an experiential learning service center, connecting Syracuse University’s innovation ecosystem with a global network that provides support for aspiring entrepreneurs.