Student Matt Shumer Selected for Blackstone LaunchPad Techstars Summer 2019 Lift Program

Headshot of Matt Shumer '22 (left) next to SU Blackstone Techstars alumnus AJ Damiano '18
Matt Shumer ’22 (left) coached by SU Blackstone Techstars alumnus AJ Damiano ’18, founder of Power-Spike
headshot of Matt Shumer
Matt Shumer, ’22, founder OptechVR/Visos

Matt Shumer ’22 (Martin J. Whitman School of Management), founder of OptechVR/Visos, is part of an elite cohort of seven university teams from the United States, selected for the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars LaunchPad Summer 2019 Lift program.

The LaunchPad Lift accelerator program, which kicks off this week, includes one LaunchPad team from Syracuse University (OptechVR/Visos), University of Texas Austin (Via), Cornell University (Antithesis), University of Buffalo (Aviate Audio), University of Central Florida (Ridesurf), Michigan State University (May West), and UCLA (ROSEN).  Participants were selected based a review process conducted by Blackstone and Techstars to assess the strength of each team’s business model and concept, coach-ability, and venture stage, as well as the team’s passion and ability to work with a Techstars mentor to grow.

Inaugurated this spring, LaunchPad Lift is a personalized mentorship-driven program for LaunchPad student-led ventures, designed to help student-led ventures with their next big steps, whether applying to an accelerator program, raising capital, building a team, or acquiring key customers. At the completion of the intensive 10-week program, each participating student-led venture will receive a $10,000 grant from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation.

“After seeing the tremendous impact from the inaugural Lift cohort earlier this year, we’re excited to be offering this unique and powerful startup program once again,” said Erica Lock, Vice President at the Blackstone Charitable Foundation. “As the LaunchPad network grows to reaching nearly a million students, we need smaller, more focused programs like this to offer unparalleled network-building opportunities to the nation’s top operating collegiate entrepreneurs.”

Shumer founded OptechVR/Visos as a freshman and worked extensively with the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars at SU Libraries to create a product development roadmap and business model to help position the company for strategic partnerships and investment. He was awarded 2019 Syracuse University Student Entrepreneur of the Year at the Panasci Business Plan Competition, and is an officer of SU’s student entrepreneurship club.  OptechVR/Visos is building an enterprise scale virtual reality (VR) platform that is accessible, easy-to-use, and affordable.  He is currently recruiting electrical, mechanical and software engineers to build out his team.

“I am so impressed by the LaunchPad Lift program,” said Shumer.  “It is amazing to have such personalized access to world class Techstars mentors who can help me craft milestones and refine my commercialization strategy.  This is a unique opportunity to work with global experts, and leverage the power of this incredible network, while still working with Syracuse University campus program.  This partnership will truly accelerate momentum this summer.”

Shumer was also selected by the Syracuse LaunchPad to participate in the recent Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars Startup Weekend.  He was part of a cohort of 70 student attendees representing 20 universities from six states and two countries. Upon completion of that program, he earned the title “Student Entrepreneur in Residence” and is now empowered by Techstars to lead campus Startup Weekends.  Shumer is working with SU’s LaunchPad to create the first ever Blackstone – Techstars Startup Weekend at Syracuse University, September 20 – 22 at SU Libraries.

About the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars at Syracuse University Libraries:

The Blackstone LaunchPad in Bird Library is Syracuse University’s innovation hub, connecting the entire University’s resource-rich ecosystem with a global network that provides support for aspiring entrepreneurs, inventors and creators. The program serves faculty, staff, students, and alumni across disciplines who are interested in venture creation and taking ideas for products, services or technologies from concept to commercialization. The program prepares participants to be trailblazers in an entrepreneurial world.

Orange Central 2019: What’s Happening at the Libraries?

A photo of the Syracuse University campus with a cursive text overlay that reads "Welcome Home"

Registration is now open for Orange Central 2019, Syracuse University’s annual homecoming and reunion weekend, September 12-15. Throughout the weekend, Syracuse University Libraries will be hosting a multitude of unique events for the Orange community to enjoy:

Friday, September 13

  • 9:30-10:00am or 4:30-5:00pm – 150 Years of Tradition at Syracuse University Exhibition Tour*
    • Bird Library, Special Collections Research Center, 6th Floor
    • Featuring a wide selection of photographs, printed materials, textiles and other memorabilia from the University archives, this exhibition showcases the traditions that unite the University, including the number 44 and the color orange. Join University archivist and exhibition curator Meg Mason for a guided tour. (*Note that as of 6/7/19, the 9:30am time slot is full. Please see other tour time slot options on Friday and Saturday.)
    • Program cost: No charge
  • 10:00am-noon – Innovation Breakfast of Champions
    • Bird Library, Blackstone LaunchPad, 1st Floor, Suite 120
    • Did you ever pitch a product or an idea in an entrepreneurship competition while an SU student? Work on an innovation or student venture? Have you launched something since graduating? Join us in SU’s Innovation Hub in Bird Library to catch up and to get a sneak preview of the next crop of SU innovators.
    • Program cost: No charge; includes buffet breakfast
  • 2:30-3:15 or 3:30-4:15pm  – Preserving Your Orange Memories: A Preservation Fair
    • Bird Library, Special Collections Research Center, 6th Floor
    • Wondering how to preserve your freshman beanie, old photos, videotapes or yearbooks for years to come? Learn how to care for and preserve personal collections, especially your Syracuse University-related memorabilia. Please note: Libraries staff cannot provide preservation treatment or appraisals for items brought to the fair.
    • Program cost: No charge
  • 2:30-3:15 or 3:30-4:15pm  – Funding the Future
    • Bird Library, Blackstone LaunchPad, 1st Floor, Suite 120
    • Josh Aviv ’15, G’17, founder of SparkCharge, hosts an interactive fireside chat focused on emerging sustainable startup trends and creative funding opportunities for entrepreneurs. Co-hosted by the Blackstone LaunchPad, the School of Information Studies and Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.
    • Program cost: No charge
  • 4:00-5:30pm  – Forever Orange: The Story of Syracuse University
    • Bird Library, Peter Graham Scholarly Commons, 1st Floor, Room 114
    • Join Rick Burton ’80 and Scott Pitoniak ’77, authors of Forever Orange, a book commemorating Syracuse University’s 150th anniversary, for a fascinating look at the diverse people, places and events that have helped Syracuse become an internationally renowned research university. Hear from the authors and take the opportunity to purchase the book (with a special 25% discount) and have them sign it. Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART) will be provided.
    • Program cost: No charge

Saturday, September 14

  • 9:00-10:30am – 150th Campus Past and Present Walking Tour
    • Bird Library, Special Collections Research Center, 6th Floor
    • Learn about our past at the Special Collections Research Center exhibition, 150 Years of Tradition at Syracuse University; meet the University archivist; and then explore campus during a walking tour led by student guides from the Office of Admissions’ U100 group. The weather in Syracuse can be fickle, so check the forecast, dress appropriately and wear comfortable shoes—the tour will go on, rain or shine! Please follow the directions in the registration form if you require golf cart transportation.
    • Program cost: No charge
  • 10:00-10:30, 10:45-11:15, or 11:30-12:00 – 150 Years of Tradition at Syracuse University Exhibition Tour
    • Bird Library, Special Collections Research Center, 6th Floor
    • Featuring a wide selection of photographs, printed materials, textiles and other memorabilia from the University archives, this exhibition showcases the traditions that unite the University, including the number 44 and the color orange. Join University archivist and exhibition curator Meg Mason for a guided tour. (*Note that as of 6/7/19, the 9:30am time slot is full. Please see other tour time slot options on Friday and Saturday.)
    • Program cost: No charge
  • 10:30-11:30am – Bringing Don Waful’s POW Journal to Life
    • Bird Library, Peter Graham Scholarly Commons, 1st Floor, Room 114
    • A look behind the scenes of a unique audio project from Sound Beat, the popular public radio program from the Syracuse University Libraries. Host Brett Barry ’98, G’13 narrates selections from the World War II POW journal of Don Waful ’37, G’39 interspersed with present-day commentary from Mr. Waful himself, nearly 80 years later! Q&A to follow.
    • Program cost: No charge
  • 12:30-2:00pm – Libraries Former Employees Lunch*
    • Bird Library, Peter Graham Scholarly Commons, 1st Floor, Room 114
    • Have you ever worked in the SU Libraries system, either professionally or while an SU student? We welcome you back to the Libraries for a celebratory lunch for an afternoon of networking and conversation!
    • Program cost: No charge; includes refreshments

Please note that registration is required for all Orange Central events. For a full list of campus-wide events or to register, please visit:

Blackstone LaunchPad Powered by Techstars Welcomes Graduating Seniors to the Founders Circle

Group photo of 24 students and Dean David Seaman in front of screen that reads "LaunchPad for Life!"
Twenty-four of the 33 new Blackstone LaunchPad Founders Circle members from the 2019 graduating class.

Syracuse University Libraries’ Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars welcomed 33 new Founders Circle graduating Syracuse University students at a dinner and induction ceremony held on May 3 at Bird Library. The group launched 18 ventures.

The Founders Circle includes graduating seniors and recent alumni who have contributed significantly to building the Blackstone LaunchPad since its opening in April 2016.  Founders Circle members serve as role models for future student entrepreneurs and exemplify a passion for innovation and entrepreneurship.

The Founders Circle Class of 2019 and their ventures include:

  • Art Inspires You: Geena Matuson (Newhouse G’19)
  • Blackstone Global Fellow: Bridget McDonough (Engineering & Computer Science ’19)
  • Bowtie Blvd: Jake deHahn (VPA ’19)
  • Broad Brothers Productions: Kaelan and Aja Selbach-Broad (VPA ’19)
  • CLLCTVE: Kelsey Davis (Newhouse ’19), Ryan Williams
  • Creator’s Institute: Randy Ginsburg (Whitman ’19)
  • Fibre Free: Charles Keppler (Engineering & Computer Science ’18 and G’19)
  • 410 Pictures: Daniel Simoni (VPA ’19), Peter Hartsock (VPA ’19), Justina Hnatowicz (Newhouse ’19)
  • Gamercraft: Jose Garcia (Whitman ’19)
  • Globalists: Saniya More (Newhouse ’19), Divya Murthy (Newhouse ’19)
  • HALO: Jaclyn Higre (Engineering & Computer Science ’19)
  • Indulo: Attila Melegh (Engineering & Computer Science ’19)
  • In-Spire: Kayla Simon (Engineering & Computer Science ‘19), Elizabeth Tarangelo (Engineering & Computer Science ’19)
  • Justin Case: David Fox (iSchool ’19)
  • MCM: Marcus Cook (Whitman ’19)
  • Prioritage: Angelica O’Hare (Engineering & Computer Science ’19), Samantha Santoni (Engineering & Computer Science ’19), Brooke Walden (Engineering & Computer Science ’19), McKenna Murthy (Newhouse ’19)
  • Promptous: Josh Jackson (iSchool G’19), Chris Chomicki (iSchool ’19), Phil McKnight
  • RAVLE: Kevin Rieck (University College ’19), Tay Lotte (University College ’19)
  • SWIP: Daniel McMurray (Maxwell ’19)
  • TEDx Syracuse: Chris Sekerak (iSchool ’19)
  • Ambrosia LSZ: Zeus Rocancourt (Whitman ’19)

The group was inducted by Quentin Rosso (Whitman ’18), chair of the Founders Circle, several alumni who started the Founders Circle in 2018, and Dean of Libraries David Seaman.   Rosso is director of Innovation and Transformational Initiatives, North America, for Credit Agricole CIB, the world’s largest cooperative financial institution, and he was named Student Entrepreneur of the Year in 2018 by the Whitman School of Management.  He founded four ventures as a Syracuse University student and also created the Blackstone LaunchPad Global Fellows program.

“Syracuse University has every right to be proud of these innovative, industrious, and successful young women and men as they go out into the world,” said Dean David Seaman.  “The library has provided them a space in which to work, staff expertise, and a rigorous set of programming to help develop their ideas, and they have created a community of innovation that continues to grow.  We look forward to having them come back to campus as young alumni and staying in touch with us – and each other – through the Founders Circle.”

“Being inducted into the Founders Circle gives Promptous access to a wide support network of entrepreneurs across different industries,” said the organization’s founder and recent inductee, Josh Jackson.  “Likewise, the LaunchPad does a fantastic job accelerating startups through mentorship and incubation space, both of which enable student-run ventures to build a strong team, acquire financing, and connect with strategic partners and customers.”  Jackson will be working on his start-up full-time after graduation and has built a diverse team to launch his innovative self-funding dental benefits solution for employers.

“Through my nearly three years at the LaunchPad, I’ve had the opportunity to grow into anything I want to be,” said David Fox, founder of Justin Case and a Blackstone LaunchPad Global Media Fellow.  “I walked into the LaunchPad to learn more about entrepreneurship, but I’ve come out learning more about myself.  I could not have imagined the impact the LaunchPad would have on my life, and it’s my favorite memory of my undergraduate career.  The LaunchPad made me a better entrepreneur, landed me opportunities, and got me into Law School.  I am beyond grateful for all of the people I’ve met through this experience, and all the places I will go because of what I’ve accomplished here.”  Fox will start classes in fall 2019 at Syracuse University’s College of Law, where he plans to specialize in innovation law.

“Working here, I grew as a person, student and entrepreneur,” added Kayla Simon, co-founder of In-Spire, LaunchPad Global Media Fellow, and LaunchPad Watson Scholar.  “Creating In-Spire has not only been a highlight, but it led me to the Blackstone LaunchPad, which became one of the best parts of my college experience.  I became empowered here and confident and made friends I’ll have forever.”  Simon’s experiences are helping her launch a career with innovation leader Virgin Orbit.

About the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars at Syracuse University Libraries:

The Blackstone LaunchPad in Bird Library is Syracuse University’s innovation hub, connecting the entire University’s resource-rich ecosystem with a global network that provides support for aspiring entrepreneurs, inventors and creators. The program serves faculty, staff, students, and alumni across disciplines who are interested in venture creation and taking ideas for products, services or technologies from concept to commercialization. The program prepares participants to be trailblazers in an entrepreneurial world.


Syracuse University Students Participate in Blackstone LaunchPad Techstars Startup Weekend

Four Syracuse University students were selected to participate in the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars Startup Weekend in Los Angeles April 26 – 28.  They were part of a cohort of 70 student attendees representing 20 universities from six states and two countries. Throughout the weekend event, the students worked in teams to “create ventures in a weekend” and pitch to 12 Techstars mentors and judges in a competition. Out of thousands of Startup Weekends catalyzed by the Techstars Startup Weekend network, this was the first multi-campus event in the history of the program.

Four students holding sign that reads Blackstone LaunchPad Startup Weekend, Techstarts, in Partnership with Google for Startups
Matt Shumer, Sam Hollander, Alexandra Cianfarani and Emma Rothman. All four are members of the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars at Syracuse University.

Alexandra Cianfarani (Whitman ’22), Sam Hollander (Newhouse ’22), Emma Rothman (Falk ’21), and Matt Shumer (Whitman ’22), members of the LaunchPad at Syracuse University Libraries, were selected through a competitive campus application process to represent Syracuse University at the event.  Student participants at the event were named “Student Entrepreneurs in Residence” and are now empowered by Techstars to return to their universities and lead campus Startup Weekends.  Cianfarani, Hollander, Rothman and Shumer will work with SU’s LaunchPad staff to create a Techstars Startup Weekend at Syracuse University this fall.

The event in Los Angeles was a great experience, according to Shumer.  “We had the opportunity to meet students from other LaunchPads, and quickly formed a team with Cornell, University of Montana, and UC Irvine participants.  Over the course of the weekend, we did rapid ideation, customer discovery, product development and a full pitch.  We walked from Venice Beach to the Santa Monica pier, and interviewed store owners to glean input to create Last Mile, a platform that could enable customers to order anything on-line from local merchants and have it delivered door-side within two hours.  Over the course of the intensive weekend, we developed an app mockup, prototype code, a website, a full pitch deck, and presented it to industry experts and investors. It was an incredible experience.”

Cianfarani and Hollander were also part of the Last Mile team.  “I loved the opportunity to grow my personal and professional networks and represent Syracuse University in such a positive way,” added Hollander.  “We are looking forward to creating a Startup Weekend at SU. We want it to be a fun and energetic experience that will enable Syracuse students to develop and grow ideas and connect with other like-minded innovators across campus.”

Rothman joined students from Cornell, University of Montana, University at Buffalo, and Texas A&M University to create Succint, a web extension to organize web design around individual learning styles and preferences, including text and typography, visuals, color, layout and user experience. She valued the opportunity to be the lead pitch spokesperson for the team.  “It was the first time I did a pitch, and it was such a supportive space that was low risk and high reward.  I am excited to stay in touch with other student innovators from around the country and work together this summer to launch a Startup Weekend this fall at SU.”

“We were completely blown away by the presentations, work ethic, and professionalism of the students,” said Courtney Gras, community director of the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars global network.  “We are thrilled to hear SU students enjoyed Startup Weekend.  It was such an exciting event and amazing to see the quality of the students and their ideas.”

About the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars at Syracuse University Libraries:

The Blackstone LaunchPad in Bird Library is Syracuse University’s innovation hub, connecting the entire University’s resource-rich ecosystem with a global network that provides support for aspiring entrepreneurs, inventors and creators. The program serves faculty, staff, students, and alumni across disciplines who are interested in venture creation and taking ideas for products, services or technologies from concept to commercialization. The program prepares participants to be trailblazers in an entrepreneurial world.

Syracuse University Team Captures Second Place at Prestigious ACC InVenture Prize Competition

Syracuse University Libraries’ Blackstone LaunchPad participants Quinn King and Alec Gillinder won second place at the Atlantic Coast Conference’s (ACC) InVenture Prize Competition held April 16 – 18 at North Carolina State, Raleigh. King (VPA, ‘20) and Gillinder (VPA, ‘20) competed in a head-to-head, “Shark-Tank” style battle for “top inventor” in the ACC conference. As second place winners, they received a $10,000 prize. The final round of the competition was televised and broadcast by a number of Public Broadcasting stations across the Northeast region.

Syracuse University Libraries’ Blackstone LaunchPad team who competed in ACC InVenture Prize Competition. Quinn King (VPA, ‘20) and Alec Gillinder (VPA, ‘20) College of Visual and Performing Arts, School of Design students received second place and a $10,000 prize.

The two VPA School of Design students’ team, MedUX, created a wearable product that is a portable solution to traditional intravenous (IV) medical treatments. It allows patients to abandon the traditional IV pole for a more portable solution.  Their invention, L-IV, which they’ve dubbed a “liberating intravenous” product, uses both gravity-fed and pressure infusion methods to allow infusion patients to remain mobile and active while receiving treatment.

Developed at Invent@SU, a collaboration between the College of Engineering & Computer Science (ECS) and the College of Visual & Performing Arts (VPA), the product is being refined and commercialized with assistance from the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars at Syracuse University Libraries.  The team has filed two provisional patents and is now filing a non-provisional patent to fully protect their invention, while they work with a team of expert industry advisors and strategic partners to bring their product to market.

The MedUX students built a team of professional regional advisors that included: Kathi Durdon, executive director, CNY Biotech Accelerator, SUNY Upstate Medical University; Winthrop (Win) Thurlow, executive director, MedTech Association; Kathryn Ruscitto, consultant and retired President and CEO, St, Joseph’s Health; Chris Horacek, principal, ICIP Consulting, LLC and former vice president and deputy general counsel, Welch Allyn; Cynthia Dowd Greene, retired executive, Quadrant Biosciences; and Dr. Robert A. Dracker, founder of Infusacare.

The team was also closely mentored by Blackstone LaunchPad executive director Linda Dickerson Hartsock and by ECS and VPA faculty, as well as Syracuse University innovation partners including:  SU alumnus Gianfranco Zaccai, co-founder, president and chief design officer at EPAM Continuum; LaunchPad Syracuse Entrepreneurs in Residence Dennis Taussig, CEO of Taussig + Associates, and Tom Nerviano, managing partner of Smart Vines Consulting and former HR Director of Unilever. The Blackstone LaunchPad coordinated the campus qualifier and also mentored and coached the teams that competed for the coveted title of top ACC inventor.  The Syracuse campus competition is supported by the Syracuse University Provost’s Office.

“The entire Syracuse University campus is proud of the MedUx’ team. This is an exceptional example of how Syracuse University Libraries’ Blackstone LaunchPad is partnering across campus to create innovative solutions through collaborative opportunities,” said David Seaman, Dean of Libraries and University Librarian.

The ACC InVenture Prize Competition is a collaborative effort by institutional leadership from the ACC and represents an opportunity to stimulate undergraduate entrepreneurial activity and increase student-faculty engagement, celebrate and highlight the exceptional creativity and ingenuity of students, and inspire a greater sense of camaraderie across the conference. Teams representing each ACC university were given the opportunity to pitch their inventions or businesses before a live audience and panel of judges and competing for $30,000 in prizes and a chance to be the next winner. Fifteen university teams pitched during the preliminary round on April 16th, and five finalists were chosen to advance to the final round on April 17th. King and Gillinder were selected to participate in a final round against DeLive (Notre Dame), Ethos Medical (Georgia Tech), InnoHealth Diagnostics (FSU), and MIST (UVA).

In the four-year old competition, this is the second time a Syracuse University team has made it to the final five ACC InVenture Prize Competition. Kate Beckman ’17, G’18 (Newhouse), founder of FreshU, made it to the final five in 2017.

About the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars at Syracuse University Libraries:

The Blackstone LaunchPad in Bird Library is Syracuse University’s innovation hub, connecting the entire University’s resource-rich ecosystem with a global network that provides support for aspiring entrepreneurs, inventors and creators. The program serves faculty, staff, students, and alumni across disciplines who are interested in venture creation and taking ideas for products, services or technologies from concept to commercialization. The program prepares participants to be trailblazers in an entrepreneurial world.

Syracuse University Teams Continue Winning Streak at 2019 New York Business Plan Competition

Syracuse University students and alumni attending the New York Business Plan Competition in Albany on April 26, 2019.

Syracuse University teams sustain highest level of success in the history of the state competition

Syracuse University student teams competed in the 10th annual New York Business Plan Competition (NYBPC) organized by Upstate Capital Association of New York on April 26 in Albany and came home with five prizes. This is the most of any university at the 2019 event.  Syracuse University teams captured five awards in 2018, and in the 2017 competition S.U. 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.

This year’s competition featured nearly 100 student-led teams at the event on Friday, April 26. 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.

Syracuse University winners included:

  • $10,000 first place in technology and entertainment category: Our Song, , a company that writes custom songs for couples who want unique wedding songs based on their story, Molly D’Agostino (College of Law ‘19);
  • $2,500 second place in ag-tech and food category: FEI Technology, an online food platform focused primarily on Asian cuisine, Chenghao Zhang (Whitman ’21), Yongqian Wen (iSchool ’22), Yijie Huang (Whitman ’21), Yangdi Jiang (Whitman ’21), and Tianni Xu (Whitman ’20);
  • $1,000 third place in technology and entertainment category: CLLCTVE, a platform that develops college creatives and delivers creative solutions to brands, Kelsey Davis (Newhouse ’19) 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 (Whitman ’20) and Brianna Howard (Falk ’20).

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,” said 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.”

For more information about the NYBPC:

Blackstone LaunchPad, VPA and InclusiveU team up to create Micro-Short Film

A creative micro-short film, “Third Shift,” co-produced by the Blackstone LaunchPad, InclusiveU, and VPA film and design students, will have its world premiere, Friday, April 26 at 1 p.m. at a year-end celebration in Huntington Hall Commons. All are welcome to attend.

The project hatched last fall when The Blackstone LaunchPad at SU Libraries sponsored an inclusive entrepreneurship workshop with students in the InclusiveU program as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week. InclusiveU is an initiative of the Taishoff Center for Inclusive Higher Education, committed to individualized and inclusive higher educational opportunities for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The workshop was facilitated by Jake deHahn ’19, a VPA industrial and interaction design student and Blackstone LaunchPad Global Media Fellow. A student entrepreneur, deHahn is the founder of Bowtie Boulevard, and interested in inclusive design for people of all abilities.  That is also the topic of research for his 5th year design thesis, also set to debut this month.  Born profoundly deaf, he is an unilateral cochlear implant user who proudly shares his personal story at conferences around the nation.  He was recently a featured speaker at Syracuse University’s Human Library, with the message that a disability shouldn’t stop anyone from defying stigmas and dreaming big.

deHahn says his passion as a designer drives him to make the world a more accessible place. “Having a disability makes you see the world in a different, unique way.” Whenever he can, he tries to immerse himself among those with different abilities. “InclusiveU is a wonderful community of creative, intelligent, and caring people.”

At the fall inclusive entrepreneurship workshop, the students discussed what they were passionate about. The group quickly came to a consensus that a startup film company would be a great way to learn entrepreneurship, and so InclusiveU Productions was launched. Through early spring, InclusiveU students worked with the Blackstone LaunchPad, and VPA film students to learn how to create and produce a movie.

InclusiveU students conceived of the story, wrote the script, starred in the movie, and assisted in all aspects of production planning.

deHahn helped as production designer, while Peter Hartsock ’19, a VPA film student and co-founder of student startup 410 Pictures, was the cinematographer and editor. Janie Kahan ’19, a VPA film student who is an advocate for those with disabilities, directed the movie. Kahan has a special interest in inclusive education, promoting the use of American Sign Language in children’s media while interning for DreamWorks. She says, “Growing up using American Sign Language in my home, deaf culture has become a large influence in my life. Using my experience and a new connection with the National Association of the Deaf, I was able to educate the DreamWorks executives on the culture, linguistics, and how to properly represent a deaf character in a children’s television show. I plan to advocate for disability representation in my film and tv career.”

“Third Shift,” stars InclusiveU students Delvon Waller, Gabriella Iannotti, and Ryan Gorke. The film would not have been possible without the InclusiveU student crew who played key production roles as well — Delvon Waller as screenwriter, Jon Rushmore as art, production, effects and food services, Anthony Canestrare as music consultant, and Xavier Jefferson on pre-production and planning.

Waller said, “I was really excited to see what I wrote to come to life. Throughout hard work and determination, you can accomplish anything. No matter what people think or tell you!”

Those who were a part of the project are very proud of the final result. deHahn noted, “All the actors, behind the scenes folks, and students brought their own unique twist to the film. Delvon, the main character, curated a funny and clever screenplay, and it was exciting to see his idea come to life.  But more importantly, it was wonderful to be witness to such a passionate collaboration.”

“Third Shift” was filmed in the spooky basement of Huntington Hall and is a suspenseful comedy horror short, with a surprise ending. The cast and crew invites the campus community to see the first InclusiveU production at Syracuse University.  The film starts promptly at 1 p.m., and is a micro-short, so don’t be late.

Celebrate Women’s History Month with distinguished SU alumna and author, Dr. Kimberly Townsend

The Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars is celebrating Women’s History Month with a dynamic, speaker, Dr. Kimberly Townsend, who will share her story, along with lessons from her new book, Lifecircle Leadership: How Exceptional People Make Every Day Extraordinary, on Friday, March 22 at noon in the Peter Graham Scholarly Commons, Bird Library.

The event is free and open to the entire campus community.

Dr. Townsend is an exceptional SU alumna, with four degrees — a BS in accounting and MBA from the Whitman School of Management, an executive masters of public administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, and a JD from the Syracuse University College of Law.  She also holds a EdD from St. John Fisher College.

A prolific speaker and writer whose work has been published in industry journals and business publications, her book was released by Advantage Media Group in Fall, 2018.  In it, she explores how to increase the bottom line, and succeed personally and professionally, while making lives better for the people around us. Lifecircle Leadership is more than a leadership style, according to Dr. Townsend.  It is a philosophy based on how pragmatic altruism can make profound change.

Dr. Townsend worked her way from being a 35-year-old single mother with a high school diploma to President and CEO of a multi-million-dollar company.  She is a role model for anyone who wants to make positive change in the world. Like many women, she juggles the demands of family and the pressures of a full-time job as President & CEO of Loretto, while still finding time to volunteer and better the community.

Her personal story is inspiring.  Growing up in Windham, NH, near Boston, Dr. Townsend went to Boston University for two years before leaving school to marry and have a family. After several years as a stay-at-home mom, she decided it was time to act on her dream. Dr. Townsend went back to school in her early 30s. Her passion for learning led her to earn five degrees. She worked throughout her schooling, supporting her children, sometimes as a single mother. She has since remarried and is now a mother of six and grandmother of three.

Before joining Loretto, Dr. Townsend spent 13 years at Welch Allyn, a medical devices and software company, working her way from Attorney to Associate General Counsel to Senior Director of Government Affairs. Previous work includes positions at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and Ernst & Young LLP.  In addition to being an attorney admitted to the New York, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. Bars, Dr. Townsend is a Certified Public Accountant and is SHRM-certified in Global Professional Human Resources. She was Adjunct Professor at Syracuse University from 2001-2011, and was the recipient of the 2010 President’s Award-Customer First at Welch Allyn, Inc.

Dr. Townsend is passionate about living a purposeful, connected life. She is driven by a deep desire to improve herself personally, her company, and her community, through her philosophy of Lifecircle Leadership and pragmatic altruism. She invites others to reconsider their approach to business and life, and hopes they discover, as she did, that being and doing good is good for business.

Refreshments will be served, and reservations are requested by e-mailing

VPA School of Design Students win Syracuse University ACC InVenture Prize

A group of prominent judges, including investors, technologists, funders, and successful entrepreneurs, selected College of Visual and Performing Arts School of Design students Quinn King (left) and Alec Gillinder (right) as winners of the prestigious ACC InVenture Prize at Syracuse University.  The senior industrial and interaction design students won the award for an invention developed by MedUX, a medical product design and research firm they founded to create innovative solutions for inpatient, at home, and mobile care. Their first invention, a lightweight, wearable, portable IV system will allow patients to receive intravenous treatment quickly and efficiently while still keeping them mobile.  It is very useful in hospital settings, stand-alone infusion centers, and home palliative care where a patient might need intravenous delivery and wants to be mobile.

They initially conceived the concept and first prototype in Invent@SU, where they won first place in summer 2018.  Over this academic year, they further developed the product and business model working with the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars at Syracuse University Libraries, along with mentors and industry experts.  After being selected “SU’s top innovators” in the campus competition, they will now be competing against student teams from other ACC member institutions, “Shark Tank,” style in the finals of the 4th annual ACC Inventure Prize Competition April 16-17 in Raleigh, North Carolina.

“Medical products are often only designed for function and lack the consideration for the users’ needs,” says King. “The medical field is always evolving, and there is a need for better designed and considered products. Our company is flipping the approach of how to consider medical healthcare design.”

“Healthcare needs to consider patients as customers,” adds Gillinder. “Patients want mobility, more personal control, and health care providers want more innovative solutions.”

The team hopes to put their UX perspective as design students to work designing develop a line of products that are considerate of the user, ergonomics, and effective function.  “We will be delivering products to our target market that help solve user needs,” says King. “Our company will accomplish this through extensive customer discovery with medical staff and patients to understand the problem and devise optimal solutions.”

The team is pursuing milestones that include completing patent work, and seeking strategic partners.  They are already working with top experts and inventors in the medical device field on piloting their concept.  They are also being mentored by other experts, including VPA alumnus Gianfranco Zaccai, co-founder of Continuum, who is a design pioneer who is known for championing a holistic and highly integrated approach to innovation research, design, and development.

The ACC InVenture Prize is coordinated at Syracuse University by the Blackstone LaunchPad.  Last week’s campus competition featured top Syracuse University inventors, including (in alphabetical order):  Alec Gillinder and Quinn King, MedUX; Angelica O’Hare, Prioritage; Brianna Howard and Nikita Chatterjee, Paani; Caleb Obiagwu, SYRE Tech LLC; Daniel McMurray, SWIP; Emma Sargent, C29; Jaclyn Hingre, Halo; Jianqiu Jiang, Watson FitPet; Josh Jackson, Promptous; Matt Shumer, OptechVR; Michael Yacubov, Compress-Aid; Patrick Riolo, Artemis Wand; Peter Mignacca, TowelVAC; and Teodoro Delellis, GiraTech.

Judges included:  Dan Rickman, U.S. Small Business Administration; Danielle Taana Smith, Renee Crown Honors Program; James Capparelli, Gardner and Capparelli CPAs; John Sangardten, M&T Bank; John Spatola, Lake Effect Applications; Lisa Spatola, Lake Effect Applications; Matt Gardner, Gardner and Capparelli CPAs; Ryan York, Pinnacle Investments; Scott Henry, Motion Leap; and Somak Chattopadhyay , Armory Square Ventures.

Prioritage was selected by the judges as the 2019 Syracuse University first alternate.

The MedUX team will be traveling to the championship finals with its Syracuse University coach, Linda Dickerson Hartsock, executive director of the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars.  They will compete against teams from Boston College, Clemson University, Duke University, Georgia Institute of Technology, North Carolina State University, the University of Louisville, the University of Miami, the University of North Carolina, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Virginia, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and Wake Forest University.

During the two rounds of the competition at NC State, judges will evaluate each team on their quality of idea, business model, entrepreneurship and probability of success. The final round will be broadcast live by PBS affiliates along the East Coast. While in Raleigh, student participants will engage in a variety of innovation and startup activities and will present their work following the final competition to audience members, the public and potential investors.

To learn more about the ACC InVenture Prize, visit

Game Jam coming to Bird Library January 25 – 27, 2019

Do you love games?  Jammers who are interested in video games and streaming, web-based, or iOS / Android games, board games or card games, can compete for free in a worldwide challenge to design innovative game concepts over a food-fueled weekend.  Syracuse University’s Bird Library will host Global Game Jam® (#SUGGJ19), the world’s largest game jam/game creation event, over the weekend of January 25- 27, 2019. University and community members are invited to create and pitch new game ideas to the global community in a hackathon-style environment. Syracuse University is expected to join more than 700 locations in 95 countries.  The event launches Friday late afternoon in the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars in Bird Library, which will serve as the hospitality suite. The kick-off will include a short video keynote and the announcement of this year’s theme.

Game Jam open hours in the Blackstone LaunchPad at Bird Library will be:

  • Friday, January 25 from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Saturday, January 26 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Sunday, January 27 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with final pitches that afternoon to game industry experts

Prototyping materials, software and other tools like 3D printing will be available, but participants are encouraged to bring their laptops. No coding or computer skills are required to participate, only an interest in making games.  Basic design and software skills can be helpful, but are not necessary.

Learn more about the #SUGGJ19 event at

SU Libraries and two of its programs — the Digital Scholarship Space (DSS) and the Blackstone LaunchPad — are among the co-sponsors of the event.  It is also sponsored by Computer Art and Animation in the Department of Transmedia, the Department of English, and the Department of Writing Studies, Rhetoric, and Composition.

DSS is a project by Syracuse University ITS that provides students and faculty access to a variety of technologies for software design, gaming, data visualization, digital humanities projects, and digital mapping.  Located in Bird Library, DSS serves both students and scholars.  It features a computer lab to facilitate the development of interactive, immersive, and mobile applications, projects, and games on emerging technologies and systems including virtual, mixed, and augmented reality platforms. It is home of the Game Lab to support courses and research on digital and analog games, both for in-class usage and to be available during “open lab” hours for students, faculty, and staff. It is accessible and available to faculty, students, and staff from all departments, colleges, and schools across Syracuse University campus, and staffed by graduate students.

The Blackstone LaunchPad is Syracuse University’s innovation hub, connecting creatives, inventors and entrepreneurs with campus resources and global network.  The LaunchPad offers one-stop connections, coaching and mentoring, along with specialized programs and tools to help take ideas from concept to creation.

More information about the global activities can be found at