The power of ideas at Syracuse University Blackstone LaunchPad Ideas Festival

Adya Parida ’25 (ECS) and Ryan Brouchoud ’25 (Maxwell), Josephine Jenifer Fernando ’24 (iSchool), Thomas O’Brien ’25 (VPA), and Emma Platten ’24 (ECS).

Syracuse University Blackstone LaunchPad alumni Kelsey Davis ’19 G ’20, Founder and CEO of CLLCTVE, opened the Ideas Festival in Bird Library recently and shared her entrepreneurial journey of taking a vision of connecting creators to their next opportunity to a tech platform of over 3,000+ creators who are matched to brands based on their interests and experience. The thoughtful and inspiring advice provided innovative students who are just testing out first ideas insight.

Following the welcome remarks, more than 80 students presented ideas to solve challenges. Four winners were selected to receive cash prizes up to $1500. The winners will then have the opportunity to progress to a subsequent national round of the Blackstone Ideas Competition for a chance to win $10,000.

Syracuse University winners were:

“Deciding to pitch my idea, HydroSaver, was a combination of both determination and a belief in the impact it could make. The leap came when I recognized that a 60-second pitch could be the perfect platform to share this vision with a wider audience,” says Josephine Fernando. “When they announced the winner, I felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment, not just for myself but for the potential impact the idea could have on sustainability and water conservation.”

The competition was open to all Syracuse University and SUNY ESF students.

Syracuse University Blackstone LaunchPad Ideas Festival organizer Andrew Kim ’24 (Whitman) and alum Kelsey Davis ’19 G ’20, Founder and CEO of CLLCTVE

Techstars global accelerators now accepting applications for spring

Six Syracuse University student startups and one alum team have gone through Techstars accelerators to build impressive success stories.  Could you be next?  If you are a disciplined and driven startup, chat with the Syracuse LaunchPad about Techstars and explore accelerators now accepting applications.

Techstars accelerators have one goal: To help entrepreneurs succeed. During the immersive three-month accelerator programs, Techstars surrounds companies with the best mentors and an unrivaled network investors, corporate partners and alumni founders. It provides early stage startups with:

  • Bespoke accelerators with niche-specific education
  • Access to capital and unmatched fundraising opportunities
  • Small class sizes and tailored 1:1 mentorship
  • Our global network

Techstars is a proven model that’s helped build thousands of successful companies, all over the world. 

Interested? Applications are now open for the first Spring Term of this new schedule. The opportunities for dynamic entrepreneurs this term are immense: 

  • 20 programs in 15 cities across four countries. Three programs are fully remote so founders can participate virtually, from any location around the world. 
  • Six programs will be powered by Techstars corporate partners including Equitech, The Ohio State UniversityBuild in Tulsa, and several others, who bring industry-specific expertise to founders.
  • Six programs will run in partnership with J.P. Morgan through their Advancing Cities fund, focused on giving underrepresented entrepreneurs greater access to capital and opportunities. 

After applications close, Techstars will review applications for about seven weeks, and spend time getting to know even more about your team, market, progress and idea. The goal is to notify the final group of companies being accepted within eight weeks from the application closing date.

Check out Techstars accelerators accepting applications. 

Learn more about Techstars here.

Before you apply, be sure to chat with the LaunchPad team in Bird Library for advice on what makes for a successful Techstars candidate and for assistance with an application.

Syracuse student students who have gone through a Techstars program include:

  • Josh Aviv, Techstars Boston
  • AJ Damiano and Michael Paris, Techstars Atlanta
  • Kelsey Davis and Brendan O’Keeffe, Techstars LA
  • Shawn Gaetano, Techstars LA Music
  • and one more to be announced next week!

Syracuse alum Sandra Appiah Babu-Boateng recently completed Techstars Boston

Jack Rose ’24 named 2023-2024 LaunchPad Watson Scholar

Jack Rose ‘24, a business analytics major in the Martin J. Whitman School of Management, will be the Syracuse University Blackstone LaunchPad Watson Scholar for the 2023-24 academic year.

Rose is a dedicated student and passionate storyteller. When he is not writing for the LaunchPad, he writes fiction and short-form content. You can read his latest work, “Flowers of Eden,” on his Wattpad account (@jackroseauthor). You will likely run into Rose working in the LaunchPad on his entrepreneurial projects, or mentoring other student innovators with specific copywriting and presentation skills. Rose is a great teacher as he is patient and diligent when working with students.

Throughout his time as an entrepreneur and creative on campus, Rose knew he wanted to help others make an impact in the writing community. His latest project explores some “… incredibly topical yet taboo issues that I care deeply about…Now, I hope to use my knowledge to tell a story that’s both entertaining and thought-provoking for readers.” Rose’s work has helped his mentees overcome “imposter syndrome” and find confidence within themselves to persevere through challenges, which led him to apply for the Watson Scholar Position.

Inspired by Syracuse University’s Remembrance Scholar program to honor the spirit and lives of those lost in the Pan Am Flight 103 disaster, the Watson Scholar program is a way to honor the life and entrepreneurial spirit of Hunter Brooks Watson, a Syracuse University student who passed away after injuries suffered in a tragic 2016 car accident. Watson was a rising junior majoring in Information Management and Technology at the iSchool. He was a passionate entrepreneur interested in music, (playing multiple instruments, performing, recording, and producing music videos), sports, and technology. He was especially interested in the emerging field of big data and had been working on new ventures related to predictive data.

This Honorary scholarship is gifted annually to a student at the Blackstone LaunchPad who upholds the memory of Hunter Brooks Watson. It is funded through a generous gift to Syracuse University Libraries from the Hunter Brooks Watson Memorial Fund with the intention for the Scholar to honor the life, passion, and entrepreneurial spirit of Hunter Brooks Watson.

As Rose puts it, “I’ve decided for myself that living inauthentically is pretty lame, and I don’t want to waste another second of my life being too afraid to chase literally the one and only thing I’ve ever wanted to do since I was little, all because it’s “impractical,” or because I’m worried that other people might think my ideas are dumb.” The LaunchPad is constantly impressed by Rose’s disciplined approach to goal setting and accountability, and we are so excited to see what ideas will come about from his spectacular mind throughout the rest of the academic year.

Story by Renee Giselle Kurie, Blackstone LaunchPad Global Fellow; photo supplied  

Applications are now open for SOURCE grants and Honors Program Awards

Photo of a glass office

Application for faculty-mentored independent project funding is now available through SOURCE grants and Honors Program Awards.  An intent to apply by September 28, 2023, with complete applications due October 19, 2023.

Syracuse University undergraduate students can apply for SOURCE funding to support their research and creative projects.  Participants in the Renée Crown University Honors Program are also eligible to apply for Honors program awards to cover the cost of their thesis research and creative projects, as well as pre-thesis research related activities. Learn more here.

Timeline and budget may include:

  • Summer 2024 only (up to $3000)
  • Academic Year 2024-25 (up to $5000)
  • Summer 2024 + Academic Year 2024-25 (up to $4500 for Academic Year + up to $3000 for Summer)

*Graduating Seniors are not eligible to apply for funding in the spring cycle.

Program details and eligibility requirements, along the application, are here.

Kelsey Davis ’19 G’20, takes the stage at Syracuse University Blackstone LaunchPad Ideas Festival on Sept 15

Photograph of Kelsey Davis by @jdthecombo for @hellobeautiful x @madamenoire.

Syracuse University LaunchPad alumni Kelsey Davis ’19 G ’20, Founder and CEO of CLLCTVE, is visiting from Tulsa, Oklahoma, and will give welcome remarks to kick off the Ideas Festival, a 60-second fast pitch fest designed for innovative students who are just testing out first ideas. Join the live event on Friday, September 15 at 12:00 p.m. in Peter Graham (Room 114), or register to pitch here.

Davis studied television, radio, and film at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and earned an M.S. in entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises from the Martin J. Whitman School of Management. She is the founder and CEO of CLLCTVE, a portfolio platform connecting creators, and was involved with Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University Libraries. Her impressive startup experiences got her featured as a GenZ leader in Forbes 30 Under 30, Adweek, and The New York Times. and more. She was also named one of 2022’s Influential Leaders by AACSB International, the accrediting body of business schools.

It is being organized by Innovation Mentor Andrew Kim ’24 (Whitman). “Kelsey has always been a celebrity name in the LaunchPad ever since I stepped foot in the glass box. I am very excited to have her speak at the Ideas Festival, especially in front of new and aspiring entrepreneurs potentially taking on their first competition ever. Kelsey has years of experience in the start-up space and her knowledge is truly valuable. Even if students don’t compete, coming to the event to see and learn from Kelsey is well worth the time,” says Kim.

Kim has dedicated his time at the LaunchPad to engage students from across campus, particularly those from underrepresented groups, to feel welcome taking the first step and exploring the realm of innovation, ideation, and team-building.

Participating teams will have the opportunity to win $500 in cash prizes. Winners of the on-campus competition with have the opportunity to participate in the national round of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation’s IDEAS Competition with a grand prize of $10,000.

All are welcome to attend and hear from Kelsey Davis or support the student teams.

Meet the 2023-2024 LaunchPad Team

A few new LaunchPad team members, Jacob Tilem, Kishan Rathor, Sai Bolla, and Brandon Gilbert.

Welcome to another exciting year of entrepreneurship and innovation brought to you by a dynamic new team at the Syracuse University Blackstone LaunchPad. Thanks to generous donor gifts to SU Libraries, this year’s student team includes roles as mentors, subject matter experts, outreach and engagement specialists, and ambassadors for diversity and inclusion. Meet the new 2023 – 2024 student team here.

This year’s team includes Global Fellows, Innovation Mentors, Innovators in Residence, Todd B. Rubin Diversity and Inclusion Scholars, a Hunter Brooks Watson Scholar, and a Hult Prize Campus Ambassador.

2023 – 2024 Innovation Mentors

Innovation Mentors serve as peer advisors to a portfolio of student startups, coaching them on strategy and venture development. They are funded through a generous gift from the Rubin Family Foundation. They include:

  • Andrew Kim, ’24, Whitman, Marketing Management and Finance
  • Natasha Lauren Brao ’23 G’24, Whitman, Marketing
  • Alan Malekar G’24 School of Information Studies, Information Systems
  • Sai Bolla G’24, School of Information Studies, Information Systems
  • Aiden Turner ’25, School of Architecture, Minoring in Real Estate at Whitman School of Management

2023 – 2024 LaunchPad Global Fellows

LaunchPad Global Fellows are subject matter experts in various disciplines such as engineering, software and data management, industrial and interaction design and product development, graphic design, web design, UX-UI, all forms of digital media and content development, as well as marketing, sales, and finance. They include:

  • Renee Kurie ’26, Maxwell, Economics and Arts and Sciences, Writing and Rhetoric
  • Christy Liu ’24, Maxwell, Policy Studies, and Newhouse; Advertising
  • Priscilla Cruz ’24, School of Information Studies, Information Technology, and Innovation, Design, and Start-ups.
  • Kishan Rathor G ’24, School of Information Studies, Data Science
  • Sarah Schreiber ’26, Maxwell, International Relations and Psychology

2023 – 2024 Blackstone LaunchPad Community Managers

The Blackstone LaunchPad is composed of students who are talented in the areas of finance, business analytics, and marketing. They are available to help student ventures and manage the backend operations of the LaunchPad and. They include:

  • Sam Schreiber ’25; Maxwell, Economics, and Whitman; Finance
  • Jacob Tilem ’25, Falk, Sport Management
  • Brandon Gilbert ’25, Falk, Sport Management
  • Di Wang G’24, Whitman, Business Analysis

2023 – 2024 Todd R. Rubin Diversity and Inclusion Scholars

Todd B. Rubin Diversity and Inclusion Scholars, funded through a generous gift from Todd B. Rubin ’04, Architecture, work to broaden diversity and inclusion outreach and programming, expand participation in entrepreneurship by underrepresented groups, and support the University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. They include:

  • Ud Joseph, ’24, School of Information Studies, Information Security
  • Motolani Oladitan, ’24, College of Arts and Sciences, Psychology, and School of Information Studies; Innovation, Design and Startups.

2023 – 2024 Hunter Brooks Watson Scholar

Hunter Brooks Watson Scholars are supported through a generous gift from the Hunter Watson Memorial Fund. It is Inspired by Syracuse University’s Remembrance Scholar program and was established to honor the life and entrepreneurial spirit of Hunter Brooks Watson, a Syracuse University student who passed away after injuries suffered in a tragic 2016 distracted driving car accident. The Syracuse University Hunter Brooks Watson Scholar mentors students and builds a pipeline of innovative students who exemplify the “spirit of entrepreneurship.”  This year’s Scholar is:

  • Jack Rose ’23, Whitman, Business Administration

2023 – 2024 Syracuse University Hult Prize Campus Ambassadors

The Syracuse University Hult Prize Campus Ambassador helps organize the campus Hult Prize competition at Syracuse University. It is part of a global competition that is often referred to as the “Nobel Prize” of student impact entrepreneurship.

  • Sarah Schreiber ’26, Maxwell, International Relations and Psychology

2023 – 2024 Innovators in Residence

The LaunchPad’s Innovators in Residence are talented entrepreneurs who are incubating in the LaunchPad while providing technical assistance and mentoring to LaunchPad student ventures. They are multi-talented subject matter experts who provide guidance for students who are building ventures from the ground up. They include:

  • Jack Adler ’23, Whitman, Business Administration
  • Karla Lellis ’25, College of Law, Doctor of Judicial Science (S.J.D)

Together, the LaunchPad team provides multi-disciplinary skill sets and expansive services to help all members of the Syracuse University community explore innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship, and building professional and personal skill sets to succeed.

“The Libraries are grateful to SU Libraries donors for continued support for Syracuse University’s innovation community and encouraging diversity and inclusion,” said David Seaman, Dean of Syracuse University Libraries and University Librarian. “The LaunchPad is an incubation environment for students from 134 countries around the world to grow and flourish. It provides experiential opportunities for innovative students and significantly compliments what they learn in a classroom, helping them understand how to become thoughtful and engaged citizens and change-makers.”

Office Hours with Business Librarian Steph McReynolds in the LaunchPad

Interested in business research databases for your business idea, project, or paper? Starting September 13, 2023, drop by the LaunchPad in Bird Library on Wednesdays from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm to meet with Librarian for Business, Management, and Entrepreneurship, Steph McReynolds. Students, staff, and faculty are welcome to stop by and ask questions or just say “Hello!” Drop-in office hours will be held September 8 throughout Spring 2024.

Karla Lellis offers data privacy office hours in the LaunchPad

The Syracuse University Blackstone LaunchPad is pleased to welcome Karla Lellis ’25, Doctor of Judicial Science (S.J.D) at the College of Law, as an Innovator-in-Residence. Karla will offer seven office hours on Fridays starting September 8 through December 1, 2023 at 1 p.m. in the LaunchPad in Bird Library.

Data Privacy Office Hours Schedule

  • September 8, 2023, from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm
  • September 22, 2023, from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm
  • October 6, 2023, from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm
  • October 20, 2023, from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm
  • October 27, 2023, from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm
  • November 17, 2023, from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm
  • December 1, 2023, from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm

Karla has been an active member of the LaunchPad. Her office hours will provide startups with a foundational understanding of data protection principles, regulations, and best practices for small and medium-sized companies (SBS). in New York.

Karla Lellis is a Brazilian lawyer and professor specializing in Compliance, Data Privacy, and Cybersecurity, with a strong passion for technology. She is dedicated to assisting companies and individuals in implementing effective data protection measures to safeguard their privacy. Her Compliance and Technology Law expertise has guided organizations in meeting regulatory requirements and ensuring ethical practices. As a Data Privacy Advocate, she offers risk management advice on cybersecurity implications.

Her professional philosophy revolves around empowering individuals and organizations to embrace data protection as a fundamental right. As Innovator-in-Residence, she has developed the “DataSafe for Startups” workshop series to bridge the gap between data privacy regulations and emerging businesses, which is focused on equipping startups with the necessary tools to implement comprehensive privacy strategies. Learn more.

All students, staff, and faculty are welcome to stop by and ask questions or just say “Hello!”

Applications are now open for Ideas Fest

Do you have a business idea somewhere in your notebook? Have you plotted out a great idea with a friend, but find yourself stuck on what to do next? Syracuse University Blackstone LaunchPad Ideas Fest on Friday, September 15th at 12:00 p.m. in Bird Library could give you a chance to win up to $500 and support you in turning that idea into something bigger. Go to this link to apply before September 13, 2023.

The event will be a 60-second fast pitch fest designed for students who are just testing out first ideas and aren’t yet ready for prime-time business plan competitions.  You don’t need a business plan, or a pitch deck, or a polished pitch.  But you have to be “in it to win it.” 

The format is simple:  What is the problem or opportunity you are working on, and what is your idea?  Refreshments will be served, and fun prizes will be awarded for best idea and audience choice. Each entrant will win a free personal consultation on their idea with the Blackstone LaunchPad in Bird Library. 


  • Applicants must be current students (undergraduate or graduate-level) in the earliest stage of their entrepreneurial journey.
  • Applicants must be the founder or co-founder (i.e., the person with the original idea), and may apply individually or in teams of two.

With a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, the IdeasFest especially encourages students from underrepresented and under-resourced communities, from all majors offered on campus, and students who represent multiple genders and ethnicities.

The event is being organized by Innovation Mentor, Andrew Kim ’24 (Whitman).  For more info, e-mail:

Fall opportunities at the LaunchPad

four people standing together

We are looking forward to welcoming new and returning members to Syracuse University Blackstone LaunchPad, located on the first floor of Bird Library, this coming 2023 – 2024 academic year! This fall features a series of events with amazing guest speakers.

Syracuse University Blackstone LaunchPad offers collaborative space, mentorship, programing, and more, all of which is open to all Syracuse University students, alumni, and staff, with more details below.

Collaborative Space
Flexible and accessible space at Bird Library for ideation activities, co-working, team meetings, workshops, classes, training sessions and more.

Personalized coaching from an expansive and diverse network of peers, alumni and subject matter experts who can help you build personal and professional development skills, as well as shape your path to venture creation.

Technical assistance workshops, guest speakers, professional service providers, demonstration days, talent recruitment fairs, networking events, innovation challenges with leading companies, idea festivals, pitch competitions, innovation grant programs and more. View events calendar

Personnel Changes
Welcome Traci Geisler ’90, MBA/JD, the LaunchPad’s new director, who joined in March 2023. Traci has 25+ years of business and legal experience with expertise in assisting start-ups and entrepreneurs with venture development.

About Syracuse University Blackstone LaunchPad

The Blackstone LaunchPad connects Syracuse University’s resource-rich ecosystem with a global network. We provide technical assistance, programming and personalized mentoring within a supportive community for aspiring creators, inventors and entrepreneurs. The LaunchPad serves faculty, staff, students and recent alumni from every academic discipline interested in research and discovery, building innovation career pathways and learning principles of venture creation. The multi-disciplinary and multi-cultural program inspires and empowers future global innovation leaders who want to be trailblazers in an entrepreneurial world.