Announcing the 2020 Impact Prize winners

This year’s $15,000 Impact Prize Competition featured 28 student teams pitching ideas with the potential to change the world.  The virtual competition sponsored by the Syracuse Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars. Teams were selected from applicants across campus to pitch products, services or technologies that are innovative and sustainable solutions to societal problems.  This year’s competition also featured teams from a new inclusive entrepreneurship program, jointly offered by VPA, InclusiveU and the LaunchPad, featuring innovations to support persons with intellectual disabilities.  The Impact Prize Competition opens Syracuse University’s annual Global Entrepreneurship Week.

Winners included:

  • $7,000, Justin Diaz, EcoBamboo Living, ’23 College of Engineering and Computer Science
  • $3,000, Sam Hollander, FSCL, ’22 Whitman School of Management and S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications
  • $3,000, Dana Immerso, ’20 and G ’21 You’re Not Alone, Arts and Sciences
  • $1,000, Jackson Ensley, Popcycle, ’22 Whitman School of Management
  • $500, Ben Ford, DoNation, ’23 Whitman School of Management

Winners of the Intelligence ++ Inclusive Entrepreneurship Room:

  • $500, Justin Diaz, Adaptive Xbox Controller, ’23 College of Engineering and Computer Science
  • $500, James Ruhlman, Inclusive Interactive Installation, ’22 College of Visual and Performing Arts

The teams that presented their ideas in the competition included:

  • Ben Ford, DoNation
  • Charis Asante-Agye, Yum Yum
  • Claire Chevalier, Cuapa Monde Conservation
  • Dana Immerso, You’re Not Alone
  • Hanna Seraji, Multi Hue Magazine
  • Jack Adler, Three Dollar Challenge
  • Jackson Ensley, Popcycle
  • Justin Diaz, EcoBamboo Living
  • Lauren Levin, vintageU
  • Mario Garcia, Pairinc
  • Mashundra Maclin, Juggernaut
  • Murray Lebovitz, Keep Coffee Casual
  • Patrick Prioletti, Your Perfect Dose
  • Raul Hernandez Guardans, Sonder Films
  • Russell Fearon, SugEx
  • Ryan Ondocin, Satellite
  • Sam Hollander, FSCL
  • Sardorek Askarov, Aphinity
  • Season Chowdhury, Field
  • Shawn Gaetano, Solace Vision

The inclusive entrepreneurship teams included:

  • Gokul Rishwanth Beeda, Inclusive and accessible education platform
  • Hannah Woodruff, Inclusive dining
  • James Richard Ruhlman, Inclusive interactive installation
  • Justin Diaz, Adaptive Xbox controller
  • Madison Reece Worden, Accessible dating app
  • Noah Hollander, Environmental Stimulus Reduction
  • Ricardo Sanchez, InclusiveU mentorship program

Judges for the Impact Prize were alumni who have either launched ventures or are in innovation careers, and who have come through the LaunchPad program.  They included:

  • Amanda Chou, Kaiser Permanente
  • Audrey Miller, Watson Institute
  • Dylan Gans, Good Uncle
  • Jack McCarthy, Prosek Partners
  • Jake deHahn, Breinify and Accessible
  • Josh Jackson, Promptous
  • Kate Beckman, Ripple Match
  • Kennedy Patlan, Ashoka
  • Phil McKnight, Promptous
  • Quinton Fletchall, Conifer Research
  • Ryan Williams, Good Life Foundation

Two special judges also joined the event: 

  • Megan McCann, Principal & CAO, Portfolio Operations at The Blackstone Group
  • Jill Rothstein, award-winning accessibility, inclusion and innovation advocate and chief librarian, Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library at The New York Public Library

LaunchPad students and alumni who assisted in producing the event included showrunners:

  • Claire Howard, LaunchPad Global Fellow
  • Emma Rothman, LaunchPad Rubin Family Innovation Mentor, Orange Ambassador and Hunter Brooks Watson Scholar
  • Kelly Davis, LaunchPad Global Fellow
  • Krishna Pamidi, LaunchPad Orange Ambassador
  • Nick Barba ‘20, LaunchPad project management consultant
  • Peter Hartsock ‘19, 410 Pictures
  • Quinn King ‘20, MedUX

This year’s competition included a $10,000 Dr. Gay Culverhouse Impact Award prize package through a gift from SU Libraries Advisory Board Member Carl Armani and his wife Marcy, made in honor of Dr. Gay Culverhouse.  Marcy Armani gave a very touching memorial reflection on Gay Culverhouse at the opening of the program.  Dr. Culverhouse and Marcy Armani were friends for more than 30 years, volunteering together, and focusing on philanthropy and social causes.  Dr. Culverhouse was a pioneer in education, sports and medicine, serving as president of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and an advocate for players with brain disorders, an issue she raised to the national level.  She was also an educator with a focus on intellectual disabilities research, an entrepreneur and former president of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. She passed away on July 1, 2020. 

The competition also included a $5,000 prize package through a gift from Dr. Gisela M. von Dran, director emerita of the iSchool’s MSLIS program, and who has a special interest in social entrepreneurship.  She is a retired member of the faculty at both the iSchool and the Whitman School of Management, and is the wife of Raymond von Dran, dean of the iSchool from 1995 until his death in 2007.  She was instrumental in establishing the Raymond F. von Dran Fund at the iSchool.

Syracuse University’s Inclusive Entrepreneurship program is supported through a generous gift from Gianfranco Zaccai through his Intelligence ++ Foundation.