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Rob Goldblatt ’23 takes streetwear to a new level of fashion

Rob Goldblatt ’23

When you first meet Rob Goldblatt, you can’t help but notice his sense of style. His dedication to clothing is visible through his personal sense of fashion, and also through his passion for sustainable streetwear. Goldblatt is a senior from San Francisco studying Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises (EEE) at the Whitman School of Business who wants to take his education and apply it to his own business.

He has always had a unique and thoughtful view of the world, the way he sees people, culture, clothes, fashion, and most importantly, the representation of everyone. In high school, he spent a lot of his time skateboarding and through this experience, he was able to meet and befriend people from all over the San Francisco Bay Area.

In addition to skateboarding, Goldblatt found a passion for hip-hop. He performed in the Bay Area, in high school, and along his journey made new friendships leading him to collaborate with other artists. He realized very early that his relationships with people were key to succeeding, and through these relationships enabled him bootstrap producing his own videos and implementing various guerilla marketing strategies.

As his interest in music grew, it slowly expanded into a different passion. After interning with music publishing and production companies, Goldblatt realized streetwear and hip-hop were ideas he could creatively bring together. Ultimately this led him to pursue his Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises major to redefine fashion.

Goldblatt isn’t creating just a streetwear brand, he’s adding meaning behind it. With the countless experiences he’s had, and his time abroad in Barcelona, Spain, he was able to see how big the world really is. “I want to make sure I’m keeping my brand authentic and my customers are well represented in the clothes I produce, and content I create.”

He says he cares about an individual’s personalities, not money or looks. He wants people to be able to wear his clothes and feel good about supporting a fashion brand that is in line with their value system, supporting ethical supply chain networks.

He wants to make a sustainable product and upcycle clothes, as well as be affordable for a wide range of customers. “I like street fashion, and growing up I was buying Supreme, but it wasn’t sustainable.” His goal is to use materials that are ethically and environmentally sustainable while making a “cool brand.” To exemplify the uniqueness of his company, he plans to develop a website of his own for his buyers, promoted through digital marketing efforts.

Rob’s business is still under development as he believes it’s important to have an understanding and respect for what you’re investing in because it’s important to the success of yourself as well as the customers. He has spent countless hours conducting research on his topic as well as taking entrepreneur classes to ensure the success of his clothing line. Rob also made sure to communicate that he knows he is only scratching the surface of learning what he needs to succeed in the highly competitive and complex fashion industry. After graduation, he is dedicated to learning through hard work and knows that getting his hands dirty in the daily grind of the business will be invaluable.

Goldblatt understands how important it is to maintain a solid brand identity for the clothing business. He feels, “If people don’t believe in you as an individual, your brand probably won’t make it in this industry. You have to be in tune with who you are and what you bring to the table.”

After college, he plans to work for a fashion brand that upholds the values he believes in and where he can learn about the inner workings of a clothing business. He wants to work for a company in LA or NYC that embraces diversity so one day he can start one for himself.

He says, “We overlook the resources we have the privilege of having” but hopes to make a positive change in the right direction with clothes, culture, fashion, streetwear, and style.

Story by Sydney Grosso, Blackstone LaunchPad Global Fellow; photo supplied  

Join Upstate Founders, a new network for student startups, with applications due by December 10

Imagine how much easier entrepreneurship would be if you could brainstorm ideas, get help when you feel stuck, meet others who are on the same journey, inspire each other to move ahead, be held accountable and share resources. Upstate Founders, catalyzed by Clarkson University and supported through upstate ecosystem partners including the LaunchPad, is bringing masterminds and resources to student startups through a free networking and micro credentialing program funded through New York State. Applications are being accepted through December 10, 2022.

Applicants need to be New York State residents and early-stage entrepreneurs — anywhere from “I have an idea” to being in business for up to three years.

Upstate Founders is creating a massive network of 400 entrepreneurs across Upstate NY. All participants will be given access to new resources, including the chance to join an entrepreneurship mastermind. Participants will also get access to online courses in entrepreneurship to earn credentials from Clarkson University.

It is completely free to participants — a value of $7,500, according to network organizers.

Join 400 other student founders and take the journey together. Apply by December 10

Participate in free online micro-credential courses from Clarkson University. Gain instant access to  information to start and grow your business. Listen and learn at your own pace. No exams.

Come to a final graduation party and networking event to meet in person with the Upstate Founders network. Meet mastermind peers, discover programs and resources to support you on your next steps, and celebrate your progress. All those who have completed the programwill receive a Professional Certificate of Completion from Clarkson University.

Learn more here.

Student innovators can access $25,000 in grant funding to bring big ideas to market through VentureWell

Do you have an idea that can change the world? Each year, VentureWell awards over $800,000 in non-dilutive E-Team grants to early-stage student innovation teams that develop scalable innovations which aim to solve large social, health, or environmental challenges.

If you are part of a student team developing an idea to solve large social, health, or environmental challenges, take a minute to check out the E-Team Program to discover how its training and grant funding can help you make your idea a reality. You’ll learn, along with a class of fellow innovators from across the country, what it takes to commercialize your innovation, from customer discovery to competitive analysis to developing a winning value proposition.

The E-Team Program, part of the VentureWell Accelerator, supports student ventures as they embark down the path they are likely to take as an innovator and entrepreneur. We help you advance student inventions through a powerful mix of up to $25,000 in grant funding, entrepreneurship training, mentorship by dedicated staff, national recognition, and networking with peers and industry experts. VentureWell team works closely with each venture to explore possible pathways for their innovations as they advance through an Early-Stage Innovator Training Program.

Key dates for the program:

Why apply?

Up to $25,000 in Grant Funding
Unlock up to $25,000 to launch your venture. Grants are competitive, recognized nationally as a source of non-dilutive funding, and empower innovators to explore commercialization.

Sponsored Training
Attend our fully funded training workshops and explore pathways for your venture. VentureWell has a bank of innovation curricula that combine lean startup principles with company building, professional development, and individual cultivation.

Networking & Mentorship
Tap into the VentureWell mentor and E-Team network, with the potential to connect with investors and strategic partners who can transform your venture.

National Exposure & Recognition
E-Team members have been named to the Time Magazine “Best Inventions” list and Forbes’ “30 Under 30”; appointed as an AAAS-Lemelson Invention Ambassador; and appeared in The New York TimesNational Geographic, and other publications.

Is Your Innovation a Good Fit?

  • Social/Environmental Impact: Inventions that will scale to address a pressing social, health, or environmental need. We fund innovations that can solve challenges including health, food security, energy, and climate change. See additional examples here.
  • Science- and Engineering-Based Inventions: An innovation that is different from other competing technologies.
  • Intent To Commercialize: A strong commitment to exploring commercialization of your innovation.
  • Student Team Identified: Teams that include two or more students and a faculty advisor.

VentureWell has trained over 1,400 entrepreneurs in 500+ E-Teams. Teams that have taken part in the E-Team Program have raised $740+ million in follow-on funding. E-Teams have launched 500+ ventures since taking part in our program.

Want to learn more about our program from past program graduates? Meet E-Teams here

If you are a founder who is focused full-time on your startup,Venture Well can also help you prepare to launch and scale your company through ASPIRE and our investor network. Learn how VentureWell startup programming can help secure your first round of equity funding.

The E-Team Grant program is presented through the generous support of The Lemelson Foundation, Qualcomm, and SBIR/STTR America’s Seed Fund.

We invite you to join us for a free, live info session on December 13 at 12:00pm ET to learn more about how we can help you take your invention from lab to market. We’ll share important details about the E-Team Program and answer your questions about eligibility and how to apply!

Register here.

Become a NYBPC student ambassador for Upstate Capital

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Syracuse LaunchPad students at a previous NYBPC competition

Upstate Capital is looking for the top entrepreneurial students at each college and university across New York State to become New York Business Plan Competition (NYBPC) student ambassadors. 

Being selected as an ambassador means:

  • Being seen as a young leader in the NYS innovation ecosystem
  • Spreading the word about the NYBPC and entrepreneurial resources with fellow students
  • Building your network and expanding your influence on campus
  • Gaining valuable skills including:
    • Developing and managing relationships
    • Public speaking and content creation
    • Recruiting and training volunteers
    • Event organization
  • Getting all the resources you need to succeed and some merch from the NYBPC

Ambassadors are influencers on campus who are sharing entrepreneurial resources and spreading the word about the NYBPC.

If you want to be considered as a NYBPC student ambassador, please APPLY NOW.  NYBPC will announce decisions by Friday, December 9. 

Applications open for the iSchool’s RvD iPrize featuring $20,000 in prizes

Student competition photo

The School of Information Studies (iSchool), with the support of Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University Libraries, is now accepting applications for the Raymond von Dran (RvD) iPrize Competition and the Hunter Brooks Watson Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award. The concurrent competitions, hosted by the LaunchPad, are open to all full and part-time undergraduate and graduate students at Syracuse University. The joint event will be held on Friday March 24 at Bird Library from 2 to 5 p.m.

Students can now apply through a simple Common Application which includes a one-page executive summary for a proposed product, service, technology, or creative enterprise that may become a for-profit or non-profit enterprise. A total of $20,000 is expected to be awarded through the RvD Fund to the top performing students in various categories.

LaunchPad mentors are available to work with applicants to prepare for a five-minute pitch and five minute Q&A session with an elite panel of judges. The LaunchPad will offer offer coaching workshops during the spring semester to prepare for the competition.

The RvD fund is named after former iSchool dean Raymond von Dran, who served from 1995 until his death in 2007. He was a longtime academic entrepreneur and a staunch supporter of student innovation and started many 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 runs concurrently with the RvD iPrize and are funded through a gift to iSchool from the Hunter Brooks Watson Memorial Fund to celebrate the life of Hunter Brooks Watson. Watson was a Syracuse student studying information management at iSchool who tragically lost his life as a passenger in a distracted driver automobile accident in 2016. Watson demonstrated a strong gift and enthusiasm in music, computer technology, the performing arts, and entrepreneurship. The awards recognize students who have passionate interests but may not have the financial means to bring his ideas to life.

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

Apply here by March 10, 2023: https://bit.ly/iprize23

For more information or to schedule coaching, email LaunchPad@syr.edu

Legendary Popcycle pop up returns to the LaunchPad on the last day of classes, December 9, just in time to wrap up the semester in style

Need a last day of class pick me up?  How about some new pieces of fashion in your closet for the holidays and winter break? Visit the legendary Popcycle pop up featuring the best curated Syracuse University start-up brands and exclusive clothing by student designers. The fashion collective will pop up Friday, December 9 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the LaunchPad, first floor of Bird Library. Stop by to see unique, one-of-a-kind fashions by student designers that can’t be found anywhere else.  It is a chance to get a first look at emerging designers before they become household names. 

The end of the semester event is more than a traditional pop-up, It’s “retail therapy” featuring young, fun fashions that pop.

Jackson Ensley ’22, a Whitman and LaunchPad alum, started the venture because he saw so many young creatives on campus producing incredible quality products, but having a hard time getting discovered.  “We give young and hungry brands the chance to experience the retail world in a way that they can’t with a big retail store as a startup,” he says.  “This creates a venue for them to pop out clothing brands in a scalable way. There are so many young designers on campuses across the country, and our goal is to help them get discovered.”

Ensley was an active member of the LaunchPad, curating many successful pop ups across campus as a student as he also created several other businesses ventures as a student. He was also a Rubin Family Innovation Mentor at the LaunchPad.

Joining him in creating this semester’s pop up experience is Aidan Turner ’24, an architecture major who is founder of the clothing line Grater Things.  Turner also recently curated a highly successful pop up of his own brand at the LaunchPad, and is now spearheading this event for Popcycle. He is a creative who blends elements of architecture in his trendy brand which he worked with Ensley to help develop. Now he is working with Ensley to continue the Popcycle legacy.

Stop by the LaunchPad Friday, December 9 and celebrate the last day of classes with style.

@popcycle.cuse

@graterthings

Tech visionary Sai Krishna Bolla G ’23 drives innovation through intellectual and entrepreneurial passion

Sai Krishna Bolla at the LaunchPad’s Startup in a Day competition

Sai Krishna Bolla G ’23 is a serial entrepreneur who has been nominated as one of the Top 50 Tech Visionaries in the World, and is the published author with four books. He is an obsessed learner with 18 different academic degrees and certifications. He is now pursuing a master’s degree in information systems, with a data science major, at Syracuse University’s iSchool. He is also enrolled in a Supply Chain MicroMaster’s program, which upon completion, would make him a semester away from graduating from MIT.  He’s actively working on new venture ideas as a frequent visitor to the LaunchPad where he participated in the recent Startup in A Day competition, as well as the Impact Prize.

He juggles all that with also serving as a research assistant at the iSchool and a technology commercialization research assistant with the New York State Science and Technology Center at the Innovation Law Center at Syracuse’s College of Law.

In short, he has a zest for knowledge, along with a contagious sense of good cheer.

Over the past decade, he has had experience deploying 150+ small to medium-scale tech projects and pursued close to 100 certifications and 18 diplomas in subjects ranging from computer science to business to psychology. He owns and operates eight organizations with thousands of customers in six countries across the globe, for which he was nominated as “Top 50 Tech Visionaries.” He has also published four books and is presently commissioned to write a data science book by a New York state-backed organization.

“I am a small-town boy from a third-world developing country,” he says. “For two-thirds of the time doing above mentioned things, all I had was a $150 computer and access to dial-up internet. The obsessive passion for building better products with a bigger impact – the why – has led me on this journey. Everything I have done to date and am doing now is to realize that vision of building products and processes that could push the human race forward.”

To that end, “I am building my knowledge and expertise at the intersection of business, technology, law, and policy to build privacy-first data-driven products for the future,” he adds.

He was the subject of a recent digital story in the digital version of The New York News. Read the fireside chat with Sai Krishna Bolla – The New York News.

Emma Lueders ’24 and Jennie Bull ’24 Are “In the Mood” to Spread the Message of Self-Love and Sex Positivity

Emma Lueders ’24 and Jennie Bull ’24

“This is bold, raw, and a little bit audacious…but I kind of love it.” That isn’t a thought I ever imagined that looking over a PowerPoint pitch deck could possibly invoke in my mind. Yet, that was my exact reaction when I first found out about Moody Magazine, the lovingly curated, playfully risqué brainchild of founders Jennie Bull ’24 and Emma Lueders ’24.

Jennie, a dual major in marketing and retail management at the Whitman School of Management, and Emma, a fashion design major at the College of Visual and Performing Arts with a minor in information technology design from the I-School, first showed up on the Blackstone LaunchPad radar for the LaunchPad x Deloitte Digital Innovation Sprint which took place earlier in September. At this event, student teams were tasked with creating a proof-of-concept to address a digital challenge in the world of enterprise. With the help of their new friends Margil Gandhi ’23 and Ruzan Pithawala ’22, Jennie and Emma brought their infectious combined energy to the stage to pitch their passion project for the first time. Here’s what it’s all about:

Moody Magazine—or just “Moody,” as Jennie and Emma affectionately call it for short—is a self-education and self-love publication that was born from the founders’ frustration with the lack of transparency surrounding topics of sex-positivity and self-love. The two have recognized that there are few safe spaces to connect and guide people through these traditionally taboo topics, which is why they’re so passionate about initiating the conversations around them. With aims to develop a fully-fledged online platform in the future, the publication currently boasts a team of writers, public relations specialists, photographers, graphic designers, stylists, and web developers that sits at about a hundred people strong worldwide. Moody’s first issue released last April, with the next slated to be released in early December. It’s possible that you may have already seen this first issue—featuring Jennie’s shiny, cherry red stiletto boots—in circulation around campus.

The Moody team ended up securing first prize at the Deloitte Digital Innovation Sprint, walking away with a $500 award and the opportunity for further mentoring from a Deloitte PPMD. This created a ripple effect within the LaunchPad, mostly because the nature of Jennie and Emma’s venture is somewhat taboo in-and-of itself, and not in negative connotation either. We simply haven’t seen anything else quite like it come through the LaunchPad doors before, so it was only natural that peer entrepreneurs hearing about it for the first time were curious to know more.

I learned more about Moody while I was combing through the pitch decks of the winning teams to write a brief article on the results of the event, and their slides intrigued me enough to reach out.

I was able to meet with Jennie and Emma in person to learn more about their story. I must say, it was well worth the wait. Before I share the genesis of Moody though, I want to focus the spotlight directly on the founders themselves for a moment, because they are two of the most interesting, carefree personalities that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting at Syracuse University.

If I were only allowed to choose one word to characterize them both, that word would be armorless. Utterly, astonishingly armorless. I couldn’t tell you the last time I was greeted with an open embrace from two people I’d only just met for the first time, and as we walked down Marshall Street looking for a spot in the sun to sit down and enjoy our coffee, the way they spoke with each other was cheerfully chaotic and without pause. It was like listening to a brain that could literally think out loud, buzzing with electrical energy; Jennie as the left hemisphere, Emma as the right, finishing each other’s sentences. Then, once we settled down at an open café-style table just outside of J-Michael Shoes, the two of them periodically greeted passersby on the sidewalk, complimenting their outfits and striking up brief but friendly conversations with them.

Based on this, it was apparent to me almost immediately that Jennie and Emma are unabashedly comfortable in their own skin, and in such a way that can bring forth a similar confidence in even the shyest of people they meet. More than that, the bond the two of them share is incredibly deep. Jennie, originally a Chicago native, and Emma, hailing from Wayne, Pennsylvania, first met as sisters of Kappa Kappa Gamma, and then became attached at the hip due to their shared interest in fashion. In fact, they both currently work as fashion stylists for Zipped Magazine, the premier fashion and trends publication at Syracuse University, where they learned a great deal about the photoshoot direction skills they now employ for making Moody Magazine.

“The idea for Moody first came up when we were driving home from the thrift store,” Jennie told me. “We were making some stops on our way back from a Zipped shoot that day when we passed by an Adult World and started talking about sex stuff on the ride home.”

Then, Emma added, “These are conversations we feel comfortable having with each other and with our friends in KKG, and I know that other people have likely had these conversations with their friends too. In that moment, I think it really dawned on me and Jennie: why are these conversations that all of us have spoken about at one point or another not discussed more openly?”

Prior to this seed being planted, Jennie had ideas about creating a magazine on topics of sex-positivity to shed a non-judgmental light on the sexual experiences of young adults, while Emma had considered starting a magazine to help young adults understand the importance of self-love, having struggled with such issues herself in the past. “We kind of just looked at each other right then and there and said, do you want to make a magazine together? And that’s how it all started.”

Emma continued to describe to me the process that went into choosing the name of their new publication. “We wanted to pick something that sounded right for what we were going for; a name that could be both playful and a little bit naughty, but also not too raunchy. Originally, we were thinking ‘Sassy,’ or even ‘Spicy,’ but as soon as Jennie said ‘Moody,’ we knew that was the one. I remember the first words that came out of my mouth were, ‘Are you in the mood?’ That became our tagline from that day forward. We totally fell in love with it.”

But Jennie and Emma also knew that publishing their own magazine wasn’t a task they could feasibly tackle by themselves. So, they started to spread the word about their vision for Moody by creating an Instagram page and posting flyers in their sorority house and around campus. These flyers led to an application link via Google Forms which interested parties could fill out.

“At first, we were kind of just giggling about this idea of ours,” Jennie said. “We didn’t know if it would be something that people would even resonate with, but then once people heard, we got like eighty volunteer applicants in the span of a week. It totally floored me and Emma. It was just that sudden feeling of, ‘Whoa, so I guess this is actually happening now, huh?’”

Overall, the founders and team have been pleased with the work they’ve put into their publication, as well as humbled by the reception to their first issue. “It warms my heart whenever we have people send us little messages talking about how much they love Moody and what it’s been able to do for them personally,” Emma gushed. “Because the thing Jennie and I really want skeptics to understand about us is that we aren’t making an adult magazine. It might seem that way on the surface, but if those people were to pick up a copy and read it, then they’ll quickly realize that there’s way more to it than that. Moody has become an outlet for people to share their experiences on difficult topics that they might be scared to talk about otherwise, like sexual abuse, drug abuse, toxic relationships, self-expression, self-love, and so much more.”

“It also makes me happy to see that the guys are talking about Moody too,” Jennie interjected. “Especially when you consider that men are traditionally pressured to stay guarded about these kinds of things. But since we published our first issue, I’ve been out to frat houses and had guys approach me like, ‘Yo! You’re Jennie Bull from Moody Magazine.’ Some of them have told me that because of the context we’ve created, they’ve been able to have more open conversations with their other male friends and improve the intimacy and satisfaction in their romantic relationships.”

“And that’s really what it’s all about,” Emma concluded. “Through what we’re doing with Moody, we want to motivate the people who read it to start these same conversations in their own circles if they aren’t having them already. No one should have to feel ashamed to talk with others about difficult experiences they’ve been through, or to feel afraid to speak up about their personal boundaries and preferences with their romantic partners. We hope that Moody can provide an open floor and an emotional release for our readers in the same way it has for me, Jennie, and the rest of our team.”

Story by Jack Rose ’24, Blackstone LaunchPad Global Media Fellow; photo supplied  

Katy Arons ’24 is developing two award-winning venture platforms

Dedicated to improving the communities around her, Katy Arons is currently working on two startups that facilitate safer connections between people.

Katy is majoring in Information Management and Technology with a minor in Information Technology, Design, and Startups (IDS) through Syracuse University’s iSchool.

Katy is working on her first startup with team members Jada Knight, Ben Simpson, and Souurabh Gavhane. CommUnity is a peer-to-peer platform for on-campus reselling of goods and services by students, and the app idea placed first in its category for SU’s Blackstone LaunchPad x Deloitte Digital’s Innovation Sprint. The idea behind CommUnity is like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, but safer for students since it requires people to verify enrollment at their university.

Katy was inspired to pursue the idea her first year, when the semester was ending and she noticed the trash rooms were filled to the brim with gently used items students discarded, such as headboards, bean bags, and even a flat screen TV.

“It was a lot of waste from products that students didn’t need any more or have space to keep for next year,” Katy lamented.

With CommUnity, students can sell these items to their peers, building on the ease of finding items are all within walking distance on campus. The app will also provide an opportunity for students to advertise services of their own, such as cutting hair or doing nails, which can be a more affordable alternative for students who cannot drive off-campus to receive such services.

Currently, the team is receiving mentorship from Deloitte to develop target market analytics, generate interest for an initial baseline of SU users, and plan for the next stages of their product development. The team recently created a profile on Instagram, @mysucommunity, and will be posting more actively in coming weeks.

Aside from this, Katy is also working on Continual, a relationship health and safety platform focused on innovating conversation around consent and intimacy. The app would be centered around a user profile, where identity and health information are verified within the platform, which provides privacy for an individual’s personal information. For example, users can receive a check mark on their profile if they are on birth control or they might indicate the last date they received an STI test without disclosing the particulars of the confidential medical information. Users can connect to each other to send their profile but customize at their discretion what is displayed depending on the context and the level of anonymity they want to maintain.

“College students can sometimes drink too much, and there is nothing to facilitate important conversations around consent. And imagine you meet someone in a bar — it’s tricky to have conversations around sexual health and boundaries when you meet someone for the first time. We need tools like this to provide a less awkward way to check in with a potential sexual partner,” Katy explained.

The application will also feature safety functions, such as emergency contacts for when you’re going on a date. “You can notify a friend of an approximate location, and if you hit a panic button, it will send the exact location,” Katy said.

Katy’s idea placed first in the Health and Life Sciences category in the on-campus qualifier for Blackstone Charitable Foundation’s IDEAS Competition. Continual also advanced to the final round of the Impact Prize competition, hosted by the Blackstone LaunchPad at SU Libraries.

Along her journey, Katy is learning about herself and business development.

“One thing I’m continuing to learn is how to narrow my ideas down by honing them down to a core value proposition. Ideas should be built up initial seeds, not developed all at once,” she reflected. She added that having people with previous experience on similar projects is extremely valuable in doing this because it can be overwhelming to narrow down immediate next steps. Likewise, structure — whether it is through mentorship or through a class with deadlines — is incredibly helpful as well.

As Katy works with different teams, she ponders the meaning of teamwork. “Teamwork is collaboration. It’s knowing people’s strengths and weakness and how they work in conjunction to produce a result we are all happy with. It is understanding that we are all human and that it’s important to make exceptions for that, so you all support each other.”

Something Katy has been grappling with is the difficulty in reinventing the wheel in the tech world. “How do you leave your mark?” she wonders when it seems like there is already an expansive amount of technology and a handful of large companies dominate the field.

When considering what it means to be an innovator, Katy offers an analogy she once heard that stuck with her: “Thomas Edison didn’t invent the lightbulb by designing candle 2.0. Innovation is about producing something entirely new and creative to improve the world. That’s what the iPhone was — it was a lightbulb, not candle 2.0. We can’t even envision what the next computer will look like because it won’t be like the one in front of us today.”

Anyone interested in Katy Arons’s startups can reach out to her at kharons@syr.edu or on her LinkedIn.

Story by Sasha Temerte ’23, LaunchPad Global Fellow; photo supplied

Ud Joseph ’25 creates a mentoring network to support youth and build communities

Posse Scholar and Syracuse student Ud Joseph ’25, studying Information Management and Technology in the School of Information Studies, is committed to creating connected and uplifting community. 

Born in Arcahaie, Haiti and raised in Miami in a family of immigrants, Joseph knew what it felt like to struggle to build success. Being the oldest child of a janitor and an Uber driver suffering from health issues, the pressure to be “the best” was tough. Living in a lower-income neighborhood in Miami, Joseph witnessed young immigrants who grew up fall victim to some of the rampant drug and violence surrounding his community. “In Miami we were in a low-income part with drugs and violence, and a lot of immigrants feel like a victim there”, said Joseph.

In high school, Joseph devoted himself to his studies and work. Confirmation for all his hard work came in being selected as one 1,400 nominees to be a recipient of the Posse Foundation Scholarship. Posse is a program that carefully selects a small group of diverse, talented, and academically excellent leaders to receive a full-tuition scholarship to a university of their choice.

Coming to Syracuse University, Joseph decided to pursue a highly technical degree in the field of cyber security and technology with plans to study abroad in Korea. Joseph did not want to forget his roots and wanted to find a way to help the community.

Hoping to do something to lift up communities like his, Joseph began to dream of ways he could meaningfully give back to his community and impact others towards success.  As he dove further into his degree and studied the technology he was so passionate about, he began to search for a way to combine his studies with social impact and utilize his passion for giving back to community.

When Joseph was a sophomore, he decided to step outside of his comfort zone and challenge himself to take classes that would push him and fuse his passions for technology and innovation with his desire to contribute to his community. He took the IDS 301 “Big Ideas” course in the iSchool, which challenges students to develop various innovative ideas and pitch them to business leaders and innovators in the Syracuse community. His time in the class also introduced Joseph to the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse, where he found a collaborative community and encouraging space to further pursue his dreams of giving back to his community.

Joseph has participated in Blackstone Launchpad competitions like the Ideas Competition, Deloitte Digital Innovation Sprint, and most recently the Impact Prize. Through Blackstone Launchpad, Joseph was invited to be a panelist for GenZSpeaks hosted by RippleMatch where he and other college students discussed Diversity and Inclusion within the current job atmosphere in front of Executive Leaders and Recruiters.

Reflecting on his time growing up, Joseph realized something that is essential to his and many individuals’ success is the power of positive role models and supportive mentors. “Being a first-generation college student, I always felt lost and didn’t have anyone to turn to,” reflected Joseph. “I always knew I needed a program that aligned with my passions. I am happy the iSchool and Blackstone Launchpad helped me find that avenue.”

With this in mind, Joseph set out to create his own nonprofit mentoring immigrant communities of children and teens. He hopes with support and encouragement to pursue ideas and dreams with practical advice to do so, that children growing up in areas with lack of access to opportunities or external support will feel more supported  to pursue education and enriching careers.

Joseph is currently implementing his venture idea in Syracuse. He’s involved in ongoing conversations with the Mayor of Syracuse’s office, identifying community partnerships and Syracuse neighborhoods to launch a mentorship program. Particularly with Syracuse as a diverse city with particularly high rates of income inequality, Joseph’s program has the potential to impact immigrant youth towards a future filled with opportunities.

In thinking about the motivation for starting his nonprofit, Joseph thinks first of his family. “My parents played a big part in my education and career journey. Seeing how hard they work and the amount of effort they do for their children makes me feel like everything I’m doing has to mean something. “ For Joseph, the meaning doesn’t just lie in his own personal success but in using his success as a catalyst for those around him.

Story by Claire Howard ’23, Global Fellow.