The usual entrepreneurial story goes something like this. A user is passionate about something, a product, service or technology. A user then spends some time getting familiar with the ins and outs of the ‘thing’ that they are passionate about. A user finds a glaring inefficiency in the process of making or distributing that ‘thing’ and then creates a way, either by a new product or service in order to close the gap. While this may not be every entrepreneur’s journey, but it is safe to say that many follow a similar journey to varying degrees. Case in point: Neil Blumenthal & Dave Gilboa of Warby Parker, Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines, Chip Wilson of Lululemon etc. One other thing that some of these entrepreneurs have in common is that they started exploring entrepreneurship around college at the earliest. Alexandra Cianfarani ’22 has a slightly different story to share.
Cianfarani studies information studies at the School of Information Studies (iSchool) with a minor in EEE program at the Martin J. Whitman School of Management, and is a member of the Blackstone LaunchPad. She is also the president of the Syracuse University Entrepreneurship Club.
She started in high school selling glow necklaces at the Massachusetts firework events. “I would buy glow necklaces in bulk and travel to Massachusetts events and sell them, particularly around the 4th of July.” She realized that there was a market for them and saw expanded demand.
While at Syracuse University, she was first exposed to formal entrepreneurship training, when she represented Syracuse University at a Tech Stars Startup Weekend In Los Angeles. From there, she came back and helped create the first ever Syracuse LaunchPad Startup Week in fall 2019. “Startup Weekend is basically a weekend long competition to build a team, and design and pitch a product to pitch to a panel of judges.” She describes this event as ‘educating.’
Cianfarani’s first idea came to her during the fall of 2019. After interning at CORE Higher Education Group, and spending her time curating educational modules for pharmacy school students, Cianfarani came up with a similar idea but for the business/entrepreneurship student demographic. She pitched the idea, but due to a mismatch of markets for CORE, she could not pursue the idea just yet. She did, however, spend her own time designing and developing an idea. “I added small entrepreneurship videos around three minutes about how to run a meeting, or how to create a pitchbook, and so on.” She spent her time modelling her platform on the CORE structure but because of various barriers, was forced to shelve the idea.
Entrepreneurs turn every experience into a new path forward. So Cianfarani’s next idea ‘Clubmatch’ is her new venture. Clubmatch is essentially designed to be a platform that pairs students with countless clubs and extra-curricular initiatives on any campus. She had initially come up with the idea during her freshman involvement fair at Syracuse University. “There are only about 100 clubs present, but there are over 600 other clubs on campus which aren’t event present at the Involvement fair.” This forced Cianfarani to develop a platform that would use software to match student candidates and their interests to specific clubs that could best cater their interests. The goal is an incredibly effective service that Clubmatch is. With over 3,800 freshman students admitted each year, it is quite baffling how a service like Clubmatch doesn’t yet exist.
Cianfarani is working with one other team member to design the platform and expects to launch a prototype by the end of summer 2020. “The plan would be to start here with a beta test, and then expand to other colleges.”
Cianfarani is passionate about software. Having spent most of her time after school in her father’s software company, she has developed a genuine interest and appreciation for software and wants to open her own company one day. “I think it’s so cool that you can start and scale more quickly than developing hardware where it is much harder.”
Although not committed to a single idea, she intends to continue pursuing software design, taking this time as an entrepreneur to explore. When asked about her role models, she says,” I want to be just like my mom and dad. It’s kind of cool to look up to them you know. I want to have their career.” She appreciated her parents and views them as hard workers who have shaped her to be what she is today.
Cianfarani also notes how the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars at Syracuse University contributes to her journey as an entrepreneur. Having gone through the Startup Weekend experience, she notes how she has learned so much about the challenges and of entrepreneurship.
Story by Blackstone Global Media Fellow Krishna Pamidi ’21