$5,000 Impact Prize for social entrepreneurship debuts this fall

Gisela von Dran

A new Impact Prize initiative launches this week at Syracuse University. The program will support student entrepreneur teams that devise innovative and implementable solutions to economic or social problems, or civic challenges.  Coordinated by the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University, the Impact Prize is supported through a gift to SU Libraries from Dr. Gisela M. von Dran, director emerita of the iSchool’s MSLIS program.

The Impact Prize consists of two components:  an Impact Generator workshop series, and an Impact Prize Competition.  The challenge is open to graduate and undergraduate Syracuse University students from all academic areas.

The Impact Prize kicks off with an event at 3 p.m. on September 22 in the Peter Graham Scholarly Commons, 114 Bird Library.  The event will feature an overview of the program and remarks by Dr. von Dran.  It will also open the on-line application process, which runs through October 27.  Twelve teams from across campus will be selected to pitch at a November 14 competition as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, and vie for $5,000 in awards to be allocated to the most promising, feasible solutions.

To jumpstart creative thinking about pressing social entrepreneurship challenges, Impact Generator workshops will be held on September 28-29 and October 5-6 at Bird Library. The goal of the workshops is to inspire students to think about big challenges in these areas, understand emerging issues and trends, and begin to brainstorm ideas for solutions. These interactive sessions will be led by local nonprofit leaders who are change-makers in:

  • Energy, the environment, and sustainable solutions
  • Arts, culture and education
  • Community revitalization, poverty, and empowerment
  • Healthcare, nutrition, and human services

The competition is not limited to the categories covered in the workshops, but is an open call for products, services, or technologies that can become practical and sustainable solutions to pressing global or local societal challenges.

The Impact Prize is funded through a personal gift from Dr. Gisela M. von Dran, director emerita of the iSchool’s MSLIS program, who has a special interest in entrepreneurship. Before joining the iSchool, Dr. von Dran served as an assistant professor of management at the Whitman School of Management. She is the wife of Raymond von Dran, who was dean of the iSchool from 1995 until his death in 2007.  Shortly after, Gisela established the Raymond F. von Dran Fund at Syracuse University, and directed that fund to support the RvD initiative which funds the iPrize student entrepreneurship competition each spring.  The new Impact Prize competition will serve as a gateway to the annual iPrize competition, as well as other global social entrepreneurship competitions on the Syracuse University campus, such as the Hult Prize.

Blackstone LaunchPad Engagement Scholar, Kennedy Patlan ‘18, a triple major in Advertising, Citizenship and Civic Engagement, and Women’s and Gender Studies,, is managing the project. The Engagement Scholar position was created as a part of the LaunchPad’s goal to grow social enterprise ventures across the campus innovation ecosystem.

For more information, see http://launchpad.syr.edu/impact/.

Kennedy Patlan named first Blackstone LaunchPad Engagement Scholar

Kennedy Patlan ’18, a triple major in Advertising, Citizenship and Civic Engagement, and Women’s and Gender Studies, has been named the first Blackstone LaunchPad Engagement Scholar at Syracuse University. The Engagement Scholar position was created as a part of the LaunchPad’s goal to grow social enterprise ventures across the campus.

Through her time at Syracuse University, Patlan has looked for ways to merge public and private sectors for impact. After conducting research on the relationship between nonprofits, technical fields, and sustainability, she is interested in building programs that serve as a campus-community collaborative. She has been involved with an array of organizations such as Hill Communications, the POSSE Foundation, and the Syracuse Philanthropy Council. She is a Resident Advisor and a current Remembrance Scholar. Kennedy will develop the outreach, branding, marketing, recruiting, and organizational aspects for the first annual Impact Program.

As the first Blackstone LaunchPad Engagement Scholar, Patlan will provide peer mentoring of student ventures, with a special focus on social enterprise and civic ventures.  The goal is to encourage more students to think about developing for-good, not-for-profit and for-profit enterprises as part of entrepreneurial landscape. Patlan is helping develop a special business plan competition for entrepreneurs who are developing ventures that serve a broader social purpose.  She will be helping coordinate the upcoming Impact Prize and Hult Prize competitions, as well as organizing a series of “Impact Workshops to explore topics related to social entrepreneurship, and assisting with events for Global Entrepreneurship Week, November 13-17.

The Blackstone LaunchPad, part of Syracuse University Libraries, is a campus-based experiential entrepreneurship program open to students, alumni, faculty and staff.  It offers ideation, coaching, and venture creation support, along with co-working space in Bird Library.

Learn more about the Blackstone LaunchPad global network at https://blackstonelaunchpad.org/syracuse/.

“Empowering the Startup Dream”: A workshop on global entrepreneurship

The Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University has teamed up with a number of campus and community partners to present “Empowering the Startup Dream,” a half-day workshop focused on international student entrepreneurship. The event will take place on Friday, September 8 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Room 114 Bird Library.

Immigrants launch more than a quarter of all U.S. based businesses and have founded 51 percent of U.S. billion dollar startups.  However, the process of pursuing a venture in the United States can be very challenging, particularly for international students and New Americans.

Minhao Chen G’12 will keynote the workshop and share his insights on how to pursue a dream and his own entrepreneurial journey. He was recently selected as one of the 2015 Top Ten Outstanding Innovation Figures of China for his disruptive food startup Shi Quan She Mei Co., Ltd.

A panel of experts on immigration and business law will address the complex issues associated with the visa landscape and regulatory environment in the United States. Panelists include:

  • David DiMaggio – Program Manager, CASE, Center for Science & Technology, Syracuse University
  • David Reed – President, Reed Business Law
  • Andrea Godfread-Brown – Immigration Attorney, Brown and Palumbo
  • Anna Putintseva – Immigration and Business Attorney, Bousquet Holstein PLLC
  • David J. Wilks – Immigration Attorney, Miller Mayer
  • Caterina Ranieri – Immigration Attorney, Bousquet Holstein PLLC
  • Patricia Burak – Slutzker Center for International Services, Syracuse University
  • Jennifer Gavilondo – Associate General Counsel , Syracuse University
  • Michael Stanczyk – Corporate Attorney, Lynn, D’Elia, Temes and Stanczyk
  • Josh Aviv – Founder and CEO, SparkCharge
  • Tom Garden –President and Owner, Syrasoft
  • Daniel Rickman – Branch Manager/District International Trade Office, U.S. Small Business Administration

For further details, visit, launchpad.syr.edu/empowering-the-startup-dream. To register for the workshop, email LaunchPad@syr.edu.

Syracuse University student entrepreneurs win big at the New York Business Plan Competition

Syracuse University student entrepreneurship teams dominated the eighth annual New York Business Plan Competition (NYBPC), which took place on Friday, April 28, 2017 at SUNY Poly’s NanoTech Complex in Albany. Syracuse teams captured the $100,000 grand prize as well as taking first-place honors in four out of the six main categories. No institution in the competition’s history has achieved this level of success at a single event.

More than 400 student-led teams applied for the statewide competition. Friday’s final featured 103 teams that advanced through regional semifinal rounds that were held across the state.

The statewide NYBPC offers the largest prizes of any student business competition in the world — a total of $160,000 was awarded at this year’s competition. Winners were selected by expert judges, including venture capitalists, angel investors, investment bankers, public and private investors, and seasoned entrepreneurs. Syracuse University student teams came home with $140,000 of the prize money, competing against teams from 60 colleges and universities representing the 10 Regional Economic Development Council zones (Capital Region, Central New York, North Country, Mohawk Valley, Finger Lakes, Western New York, Southern Tier, Mid-Hudson, New York City, and Long Island). Winners were selected by expert judges that included venture capitalists, angel investors, investment bankers, public and private investors, and seasoned entrepreneurs.

The Syracuse prize winners:

  • $100,000 Grand Prize: Spark Charge—Josh Aviv, Bryan Christopher Morris, and Jaydeep Sathe; portable, fast-charging battery unit for electric vehicles; http://www.spcev.com.
  • $10,000 First Place, Clean Technology: Spark Charge: http://www.spcev.com.
  • $10,000 First Place, Social Entrepreneurship/Non-profit: Thrive Project—Ryan Brinkerhoff, Brian Kam, Josh Moon, Khalid Bin Ayaz Khan, Amanda Chou; empowering underserved communities through education and skills training for sustainability; http://thriveproject.org.
  • $10,000 First Place, Service: IIID—Jack Phillips; 3D printed architectural elements for the historic preservation industry.
  • $10,000 First Place, Software/IT: Power Spike—AJ Damiano; influencer marketplace for live streamers; http://power-spike.com.

Syracuse University teams also won the following prestigious NYBPC awards:

  • Undergraduate Excellence Award: Busie—Seth Samowitz, Louis Bookoff, and Joshua Bain; quoting and booking app for charter bus operators.
  • People’s Choice Award: Shine the Magazine—Michaela Anne Quigley; online publication for teenagers and young adults with disabilities.
  • Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise  Awards: Origin Story—Analise Sesay; subscription service of artist/maker products for niche consumer market; Modo Script—David Zuleta; smart pill device integrated with technology platform to combat prescription drug abuse.

Compete CNY, the NYBPC qualifying competition for the Central New York region, was held in March and was organized by the Syracuse University Libraries’ Blackstone LaunchPad, whose staff also accompanied the teams to Albany last week.  “The Blackstone LaunchPad has provided business planning expertise, mentorship, collaboration space, and presentation guidance to teams across Syracuse University,” said Dean of Libraries David Seaman, “and we are delighted at the impact this new library service has had in its first year of operation.”

As an incentive for Syracuse University teams to participate in the qualifying competition, the School of Information Studies (iSchool) offered $40,000 in prize money from the Raymond von Dran Fund for Student Entrepreneurship (RvD iPrize). RVD iPrize award winners who went on to success in the statewide competition included IIID ($6,000), PowerSpike ($5,000), Spark Charge ($4,500), Modo Script ($3,500), Thrive Project ($3,000), Busie ($3,000), Shine the Magazine ($1,500), and Origin Story ($1,000).

“I am pleased to see our iPrize winners continuing on to sweep so many of the top spots at the statewide competition,” remarked iSchool Dean Elizabeth D. Liddy. “Many of these students were participants in our Information Technology, Design, and Startups minor or spent summers at the Syracuse Student Sandbox working on their companies. I am proud to see their efforts and hard work being so handsomely rewarded.”

Spark Charge also won $10,000 in the Whitman School’s recent Panasci Business Plan Competition—$2,500 as the third place overall winner; $5,000 for the Fetner Prize for Sustainable Enterprise; and $2,500 for the Goldberg Prize for Technology & Innovation.

“We are extremely proud of our student entrepreneurs and what they have accomplished together,” says Alexander McKelvie, Chair of the Department of Entrepreneurship & Emerging Enterprises in the Whitman School.”I believe that this truly is a result of bringing together educational resources, funding, and mentors from across the entire SU campus. The diversity in ideas and industries is impressive and underscores the idea that entrepreneurship is a viable path forward for students from every background and school. SU clearly is leading the charge in entrepreneurship education across the state.”

SU student teams advance to NYS Business Plan Competition finals

SUNY Polytechnic Institute (SUNY Poly), University at Albany’s School of Business, and Syracuse University will host the eighth annual New York Business Plan Competition (NYBPC) on Friday, April 28, 2017 in Albany, NY. Eleven Syracuse University student venture teams will be among the finalists competing for top state prizes.

The NYBPC is a venture creation and innovation competition established in 2010 to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship throughout New York’s colleges and universities. The 2017 NYBPC finalists were selected from regional competitions across New York State’s 10 Regional Economic Development Council zones – Capital Region, Central New York, North Country, Mohawk Valley, Finger Lakes, Western New York, Southern Tier, Mid-Hudson, New York City, and Long Island. Regional partner colleges and universities hosted semifinal competitions in their regions in late March and early April. The top teams from each of the 10 regions face off this week for the grand prize at the state finals.
The New York State winners will be selected by esteemed judges, including venture capitalists, angel investors, investment bankers, other sophisticated public and private investors, and seasoned entrepreneurs.

Compete CNY winners advancing to the finals were selected by area judges in a regional qualifier open to student entrepreneurs from Central New York colleges and universities. The regional competition was sponsored by the Blackstone LaunchPad on March 24, 2017 at Bird Library.

Winners selected to go on to the statewide competition include:

Social entrepreneurship/non-profit

  • Thrive Project, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY, First place
  • Shine the Magazine, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY, Second place

Clean technology

  • Spark Charge, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY, First place


  • Origin Story, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY, Second place


  • Invergo, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY, First place
  • Schwab’s Cider Port, Wells College, Second place

Advanced technology

  • ModoScript, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY, First place
  • SkyWorks, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY, Second place


  • PowerSpike, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY, First Place
  • Busie, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY, Second place

Teams have the opportunity to win first, second, and third place cash prizes in each of the six tracks. Audience participants will also select a People’s Choice award in each category. Judges will also be asked to select an Esprit de Corps, an Undergraduate Excellence award, and a Community College distinction award in each category.

The awards are milestone based. Winning teams will be required to develop and meet at least two business development and two technical milestones in order to be eligible for their prize awards.

The NYBPC has grown into a statewide competition with some of the largest awards and prizes of any student business competition in the world. The NYBPC is the only leading collegiate business competition that is a regionally coordinated, collaborative statewide program representing over 75 colleges and universities, setting it apart from all other competitions in the nation.