Luz Perez is spring 2018 Blackstone LaunchPad Engagement Scholar

Luz Perez (’20), a triple major in Entrepreneurship, Accounting, and Citizenship and Civic Engagement, is this spring’s Blackstone Launchpad engagement scholar at Syracuse University. The engagement scholar position was created as a part of LaunchPad’s goal to increase social enterprise ventures across the campus.

Throughout her time at Syracuse, Perez has become interested in merging the campus community with the Syracuse city community in order to create impact and sustainability through social entrepreneurial efforts. Her involvement with a variety of departments and organizations both on and off campus has inspired her to focus on assessing community needs and finding solutions through interdisciplinary thinking (or interconnectivity of different groups).

As this semester’s Blackstone LaunchPad Engagement Scholar, Perez will assist professional staff in programming with a focus on social entrepreneurship and civic ventures. The goal is to encourage more students to think about and get engaged in civic entrepreneurship. She will be helping increase the participation and communication between students engaged in entrepreneurship across the campus, and organize and implement programs to include guest speakers, panels, workshops, and idea competitions.

Student venture Ravle advances to semi-final round of Student Startup Madness

Kevin Rieck (left) and Tay Lotte

Student startup Ravle, founded by Syracuse University students Tay Lotte ’19 (Creative Leadership, University College) and Kevin Rieck ’19 (Knowledge Management, University College), has been selected to advance to the semi-final round of the 2017-2018 Student Startup Madness Tournament, held at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas in March. They will compete against 31 other digital media, product, and service startups from 29 colleges across the nation for a spot in the tournament’s final round.

Ravle is a digital travel platform and filmmaking collective that engages travel filmmakers to turn beautifully filmed travelogues into mapped itineraries and personal travel guides to such destinations as the Australian Outback, Vancouver Island, Iceland, and unique places like Ladakh, India, Bangkok, and Nara, Japan.

Lotte and Rieck launched their venture in February 2017 and went on to win second prize in the Whitman School’s 2017 Panasci Business Plan Competition, securing $7,500 in funding to kick-start their venture. Since then, they have assembled a team of developers and launched the Ravle website in September 2017.

“Our goal is not just to inspire others to get out and explore, but to give travelers the tools they need to plan an adventure that will change the way they experience the world,” says Lotte, who is also Ravle’s head designer. “Our filmmakers share a common drive to travel to new destinations or seek out hidden gems. They have a sixth sense for finding cool places that others do not often see.”

“We were so excited to make it to the semi-final round because this is a prominent national competition with a massive pool of applicants. We are working on getting brand sponsorships for upcoming trips by our filmmakers, and are hopeful that our growth will help us be selected for the final round,” said Rieck.

The Ravle team developed their venture with the support from the Blackstone LaunchPad at Bird Library.  They received mentorship to refine their business strategy, establish themselves as a legal entity, and connect to other student entrepreneurs with the skills they need to grow their team.

Student Startup Madness (SSM) is the only nationwide collegiate tournament focused on digital media startups. Sean Branagan, founder of the Student Startup Madness Tournament, and director of the Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at the Newhouse School, believes that Ravle is among a highly competitive selection of teams that “are the best college digital media startups in the country.”

Venture for America is looking for student entrepreneurs

Venture for America (VFA) is accepting applications from students who expect to graduate in May 2018 for its upcoming fellowship program. VFA is a two-year fellowship program for recent grads who want to work at a startup and create jobs in American cities. The deadline to apply for the upcoming program is January 29, 2018.

VFA Fellows learn important startup skills at a five-week summer training camp, apply for jobs within the VFA-vetted company network, and then work for two years as full-time, salaried employees in one of 18 cities. When Fellows are ready to start a company, whether two years after college or ten, VFA has the resources to help make that dream a reality, from connections to seed funding to crowdfunding competitions.

This year, VFA announced their intent to become an onramp to entrepreneurship for historically underrepresented groups, and to grow the equity and inclusion resources provided to Fellows. VFA is partnering with the 20 campuses that are part of the Blackstone LaunchPad global network to help spread the word about this special emphasis on equity and inclusion.

Former SU Blackstone LaunchPad entrepreneur Dylan Kim ’16, founder of Brevite, participated in the fellowship program and successfully launched his company, which is now operating out of New York City.

VFA CEO, Amy Nelson, and members of VFA Rise, its identity-based resource group, will discuss VFA’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and answer general questions about the Fellowship on January 22 at 7:30 p.m. To register, visit deiatvfa.splashthat.com/.

An overview of the application process, as well as VFA program stats, can be found at VFA by the numbers. Learn more, and apply by January 29, 2018 at ventureforamerica.org/.

Spring business plan competitions announced

business terms written on a chalkboard Building on last year’s successful track record, when Syracuse University teams captured the grand prize and four first place awards in the 2017 New York State Business Plan Competition, a number of 2018 business plan competitions launch this semester. Open to Syracuse University students across all disciplines, the major competitions include:

The campus competitions for the ACC InVenture Prize and Hult Prize are coordinated through the Blackstone LaunchPad at Bird Library. The Panasci Business Plan Competition is coordinated through the Whitman School of Management and the Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship. The RvD iPrize is coordinated through the School of Information Studies.

The LaunchPad team, mentors, and professional service providers are available to help develop investment-ready business models, create more competitive pitches, and coach teams on the art of successful pitching.  Whitman and iSchool faculty, along with Falcone Center staff, are also available to help prep teams and provide feedback.

To learn more about the competitions, get details on the schedule, or schedule coaching sessions, please e-mail: LaunchPad@syr.edu .

Syracuse University Hult Prize winners announced

Student startups Farm to Flame Energy and Drop Top won first and second place respectively in the Syracuse campus qualifier for the prestigious Hult Prize, hosted by the Blackstone LaunchPad at Bird Library this week. Farm to Flame will now advance to one of 15 regional finals in March 2018, and first alternate, Drop Top, will move on to an open national competition, with another opportunity for a spot at the regionals.

A winning team from each of the 15 regional finals will be selected to participate in an eight-week summer residency at the Hult Castle accelerator in the United Kingdom, and a chance to pitch at the United Nations in September 2018, with the winning team receiving the $1,000,000 grand prize.

Farm to Flame Energy was founded by William Lee Mendes McKnight ’18, Arts and Sciences.  The venture partners with entrepreneurially-minded community members in developing countries to collaboratively design and develop micro-grid solutions, leveraging locally grown crops, to harness the power of energy and build more sustainable rural economies.

Farm to Flame Energy’s patented, smokeless, odorless, efficient bio-mass combustion system can be used for micro-grids and integrated with a cloud-based sensor system and data analysis for real-time monitoring. The team proposed a franchise model to achieve scalability, empowering community entrepreneurs and farmers in developing countries to become business partners. The model includes a strong agricultural education component, teaching local farmers how to plant high yield energy crops that are best suited for their climate and soils, which can be used as local biomass sources.

The model created by Farm to Flame Energy has the power to address Hult’s goal of impacting 10 million people by the year 2025, since it is estimated that 960 million people live in energy poverty in rural areas around the globe. “I am thrilled that our venture is gaining recognition, so that we can start bringing electricity to those who need it,” said McKnight, who is majoring in history and minoring in chemistry.  He is the son of Lee McKnight, associate professor in the iSchool.

Farm to Flame Energy team members include Kwaku Jyamfi ’18, a chemical engineering major in Engineering and Computer Science, and Sayje Lasenberry ’19, who is majoring in sustainable energy management at SUNY ESF.

Second place winner is Drop Top, with a concept to conserve water and enhance drip irrigation using REVLAR, a waterproof, tear-proof, durable, and impervious paper-thin material specifically designed to withstand high/low temperature fluctuations.  Drop Top’s ingenious design, made entirely of REVLAR, increases agricultural output while conserving water.  The venture also utilizes a franchise model to create scalability and help local farmers become entrepreneurs through education and empowerment.

Drop Top team members include Jason Kuperberg ’18, a biotechnology major in Arts and Sciences,  Serena DeSeta ’18, a dual major in entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises and advertising and business communication in Whitman, and Matthew Goodman ’19, a design major in Visual and Performing Arts (VPA).

Hult Prize Syracuse campus judges included:  Alejandro S Amezcua, Assistant Professor, Whitman School of Management; Karen Livingston, energy entrepreneur and senior business advisor, New York State Small Business Development Center; Joshua Aviv, founder, SparkCharge, and entrepreneur in residence, Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship; David Eihlers, innovation consultant, and former co-founder of Blue Highway, as well as adjunct faculty, MBA@SU; and Amanda Chou ’18, founding member and chief marketing officer of Thrive Projects. Thrive Projects was last year’s Syracuse campus Hult Prize winner, and went on to the regionals in Boston.

Ten teams pitched in the campus qualifier, receiving consistently high scores from the judges in a very tight competition.  The other eight teams included:  ComEnergy, led by Tyler Vartabedian (Engineering and Computer Science); Flow, led by Michael McCormack (Whitman); Flux, led by Nate Banks (Architecture); GiraTech, led by Teodoro DeLellis (Engineering and Computer Science); Inspire, led by Kayla Simon (Engineering and Computer Science) and Kutokea, led by Aaron Mwewa (Maxwell).

The Hult Prize, known as “The Nobel Prize for student startups,” seeks out game-changing student social enterprises that compete to solve the world’s toughest challenges.  This year’s theme, “Harnessing the Power of Energy,” issued a challenge to conceive a scalable solution to transform the lives of 10 million people by 2025.  Swedish billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist Bertil Hult established the competition in 2009. The Hult family donates $1,000,000 in seed capital annually to the winning social enterprise. Rutgers Business School students won last year’s grand prize for their solar-powered rickshaw, Roshni Rides, to reduce energy and encourage sustainable transportation in developing countries with large refugee populations.

Learn more at:  http://www.hultprize.org/