AlterNative Project and Scale Sense win student startup Syracuse University Impact Prize

three students with prize checks
Ethan Tyo, Oliver Raycroft and Adya Parida

Ethan Tyo ’17 G’22, founder of The AlterNative Project, captured the $10,000 grand prize and Adya Parida and Oliver Raycroft, co-founders of Scale Sense, earned the $5,000 second place award at the recent Impact Prize competition, hosted by the LaunchPad at SU Libraries. One of the largest cohorts ever, 33 student teams competed in the event that is designed to catalyze social impact entrepreneurship. It was open to all Syracuse students presenting business models for products, projects, services, or technologies that are practical, innovative, and sustainable solutions to societal problems.

The AlterNative Project’s goal is to change the way people think about Indigenous foods and Tribal food systems across North America. By combining experiential education sites, community-supported agriculture programming, and food business development, it helps empower Tribal communities to restore cultural foods and food sovereignty.

One of four people live with food security in Tribal Nations throughout the United States. Decades of land degradation and environmental damage by external polluters have left land infertile. Along with that, cultural erasure has affected the ability to pass down traditions and many Indigenous people feel a sense of both cultural and community loss. Ethan’s solution is based around food sovereignty, land remediation, cultural restoration, and nation-building.

He plans to work with Tribal Nation communities – there are 574 federally recognized Tribes with 6.8 million Indigenous Americans. His other focus is academic institutions and museums with Indigenous American collections. He will use his winnings to create a project with the Adirondack Experience Museum in Blue Mountain Lake and to build an educational website.

Scale Sense is a product that helps firefighters more easily orient themselves when they perform large area search and rescue operations. The project is easily attached to a firefighter’s rope and can show direction in a tactile way. It was developed by Adya Parida and Oliver Raycroft as part of Invent@SU. The team intends to file for patent and license it to a strategic partner in the fire apparatus safety sector who can bring it to market.

Of the 33 teams that pitched in the event, judges selected the “elite eight” teams were selected to go on to the final round. They were:

  • Continual
  • Happy Loose Leaf Tea
  • Moody Mag
  • Papex
  • Polititag
  • Scale Sense
  • The AlterNative Project
  • Vanir Meads

Competing in the event were the following idea champions and teams:

  • Adya Parida and Oliver Raycroft, Scale Sense
  • Alan Jos, Citron Solutions
  • Anand Benegal, Spatika: 4D News
  • Ben Ford, Fundwurx
  • Bowen MacLennan, UVT
  • Brandon Henry, Beyond the Box
  • Cem Taviloglu, Vanir Meads
  • Cherry Kim, Conformabelt
  • Claire Chevalier, CMC
  • Drew Bartelstein, Purescan
  • Emma Lueders, Moody Mag
  • Eric Hong, Scout
  • Ethan Tyo, The AlterNative Project
    Frank Marin, Marhold Space Systems
  • Frederick Pollard, Oasis
  • Ian Storrs, ConCurrent
  • James Barbato, Eudaimona
  • Jan Tomasz Szuminski, Szuminski Solo Sound
  • Jared Anderson, The Emergency Preparedness Project
  • Jeremy Shinder, Jere Bear Films
  • Katy Arons, Continual
  • Lexi Cianfarani, ClubMATCH
  • Manya Gadhok, Period.
  • Mauricio Luna, Luna College Consulting
  • Motolani Oladitan, E-Vend
  • Nicolas Courbage, Paypex
  • Noah Mechnig-Giordano, Happy Loose Leaf Tea
  • Payton Dunn, Absurdist
  • Ryan Peters, Polititag
  • Sai Krishna Bolla, TelMeNot
  • Siraj Dahal, Private Route Aggregator
  • Ud Joseph, Mentorship for Young Immigrants
  • Zirui Wang, Public Opinion

Judges were:

Examples of impact ventures included business models or projects around:

  • Agriculture
  • Arts and culture
  • Community revitalization
  • Disability and accessibility
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Employment and training
  • Energy and climate change
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Food access and nutrition
  • Health and mental health
  • Historic preservation
  • Literacy and education
  • Poverty
  • Sustainability
  • Transportation and mobility
  • Underserved populations
  • Youth leadership and empowerment
  • Other public policy challenges

This year’s competition was supported through a $15,000 gift from SU Libraries Advisory Board Member Carl Armani and his wife Marcy, in honor of Linda Dickerson-Hartsock, retiring LaunchPad executive director, who created the Impact Prize. This is the sixth annual competition, designed to help see the greater good and make a difference in the lives of people around them. Social impact is a mission that Linda personally and professionally championed through her career and at the LaunchPad.

The Impact Prize is also a gateway to spring competitions like the ACC InVenture Prize, RvD iPrize, Hunter Brooks Watson Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award and the Panasci Business Plan Competition.