Syracuse student founders journey to Blackstone annual conference, Startup Grind and TechCrunch Early Stage in the Silicon Valley

Dayanna Torres ’06, G’09, Director Blackstone Charitable Foundation, with Syracuse University student startups Bruno Gonzalez-Hauger ’21 G’ 22, Jackson Ensley ’22, Jack Adler ’23 and Justin Monaco ’21 G’22 at the Blackstone LaunchPad annual conference

Syracuse University student founders had the opportunity to participate this week in the Blackstone LaunchPad annual conference, Startup Grind and TechCrunch Early Stage, all in the Silicon Valley. Students were selected from across all 46 campuses in the network to attend and engage with world class speakers who are top-name startups, thought leaders and investors. The Blackstone LaunchPad annual conference was sponsored by the Blackstone Charitable Foundation.

Four Syracuse LaunchPad students were selected though competitive pitches to attend in-person, but all students in the 46-campus network had the opportunity to participate virtually and live stream the Blackstone conference presentations, as well as attend the two-day Startup Grind event free and virtually.

Representing Syracuse at the Blackstone annual conference, Startup Grind and at TechCrunch were (left to right) Out2Win Sports founder Jack Adler, Illumenar co-founders Justin Monaco and Bruno Gonzalez-Hauger, and Popcycle founder Jackson Ensley.

LaunchPad alumni entrepreneur in Residence, Kelsey Davis ’19 G’20, co-founder of CLLCTVE, was one of the luncheon keynote panelists on opening day of the Blackstone annual conference.

LaunchPad executive director Linda Dickerson Hartsock also spoke at the conference and led a panel on “Preparing for Innovation Careers” with Jacques Chirazi, Director of Student Entrepreneurship and Blackstone LaunchPad, University of California San Diego, Nadine Bentis, Program Manager, Blackstone LaunchPad, University of Nevada – Las Vegas, De-Ann Abraham, Programs Manager, Entrepreneurial Institute and Blackstone LaunchPad, NYU, and Dresden Goldberg, Campus Director, Blackstone LaunchPad, University of Texas at Dallas.

The panel focused on:  When it comes to helping students acquire entrepreneurial skills to blaze innovation careers, what constitutes success? What kinds of programs help students with innovation career readiness? What are the most effective communications and outreach tools to work with faculty and students from across disciplines? How can campuses engage students in building a LaunchPad’s overall innovation strategy? How can universities ensure that diverse stakeholders are included in the process? Best campuses from Syracuse were on display along with programs from the other campuses on the panel.

The Syracuse teams that attended were immensely grateful to the Blackstone Charitable Foundation for supporting their participation in the national event, as were all the students who attended from across the country. For many of the students, including some of our Syracuse founders, this was their first-ever business trip and they found it personally and professionally rewarding.

While in the Silicon Valley they had a chance to hear from the founders of companies like Expensify, Figma, FTX, OpenSea, Black Girls CODE, Scale AI, thought leaders like Andrew Chen, general managers of investment firms like Sequoia, Andreesen Horowitz, and managing directors of Y Combinator. At the sold-out TechCrunch Early-Stage Founder Summit, they met other startups that are in first stages of growing companies, and had the opportunity to connect to find resources from truly world class early stage investors.

After the conference, another unexpected highlight of the trip was a visit to the legendary Y Combinator for an up-close look at the accelerator. (photo available upon request)