Apply by March 15 for $50,000 in funding through the Raymond von Dran (RvD) iPrize and the Hunter Brooks Watson Spirit of Entrepreneurship competitions

Applications are open through March 15 for the Raymond von Dran (RvD) iPrize pitch competition and the Hunter Brooks Watson Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award.  The concurrent competitions are open to all full and part-time undergraduate and graduate students at Syracuse University.  The combined event will be held Friday afternoon, March 25 at Bird Library from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.  The RvD iPrize and Hunter Brooks Watson competitions are sponsored by the iSchool and coordinated by the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University Libraries.

Apply now through a simple common app which requires a one-page executive summary of a proposed product, service, technology or creative venture that could become a for-profit or non-profit impact enterprise.  The LaunchPad mentor team will work with applicants on how to formulate their five-minute pitch and prepare to answer four minutes of Q&A from a distinguished panel of judges. A pitch workshop is planned for March 4.

Prizes totaling $40,000 will be awarded to top performing Syracuse University students across various categories through the RvD Fund, and an additional $10,000 will be awarded to Syracuse University student teams through the Hunter Brooks Watson Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award.  Top place winners will also be able to move on to the New York State Business Plan competition.

The RvD Fund is named after former iSchool dean Raymond Von Dran, who served from 1995 until his passing in 2007. Von Dran was a longtime academic entrepreneur and staunch supporter of student innovation. He started several innovative programs in higher education. To honor his memory and ensure that her husband’s infectious spirit for innovation continued, his wife Gisela generously created the RvD Fund.

The Hunter Brooks Watson Spirit of Entrepreneurship Awards are funded through a ift to the iSchool from the Hunter Brooks Watson Memorial Fund to celebrate the life of Hunter Brooks Watson.  Hunter was a Syracuse student studying information management at the iSchool who tragically lost his life as a passenger in a distracted driver automobile accident in 2016. Hunter demonstrated a strong gift and enthusiasm in music – having a music video reach millions of hits, computer technology, performance art and entrepreneurship. The awards recognize students who have passionate interests in areas comparable to those that motivated Hunter, but who may not have the financial means to bring their ideas to life.

“Each year the excitement around these entrepreneurial and innovation competitions grows, and the caliber of applications is always impressive,” says David Seaman, dean of Syracuse University Libraries. “Cross-campus partnerships, like our strong collaboration with the iSchool, is what makes the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University Libraries such a successful program.”  

“We’re proud to support this competition as part of our ongoing investment in innovation and student entrepreneurship,” says Raj Dewan, dean of the iSchool. “This program is an excellent reflection of dean Von Dran’s legacy, and we look forward to seeing what exciting ventures come out of this year’s class.”

“Hunter’s interest and ability to foresee the developing trends of his age can be found in the many kids like Hunter,” said his father Jerry Watson who launched the Hunter Brooks Watson Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award program. “This fund seeks to support with their ideas, enthusiasm and dreams.”

For more information or to schedule coaching, e-mail