Applications now open for Whitman’s Orange Tank competition

group of people holding prize checks
Last year’s Orange Tank Winners: Jack Adler and Sam Holland, Out2Win; Bruno Hauger- Gonzalez, Ambassadoor; Selim Dangoor, Munch Jerky

The Martin J. Whitman School of Management is accepting applications by September 11 for this year’s Orange Tank Competition, to be held September 30 at 2 p.m. Current students and alumni entrepreneurs from the Whitman School can apply for a chance to pitch their business venture to a panel of accomplished judges and vie for part of the $42,000 in cash prizes. Monetary awards will be given to the ventures finishing in first ($5,000), second ($2,500) and third ($1,000) place in both the student and alumni categories. A grand prize of $25,000 will be awarded to the competition’s top overall finisher among the two first-place ventures, so contestants will be competing for as much as $30,000.

Three alumni and three student ventures will be selected from the applicants to pitch at the competition. Those chosen will have five minutes to pitch, followed by five minutes of Q&A from the judges, who will be looking for:

  • Market potential
  • Differentiation and economic feasibility
  • Ability to protect intellectual property, technology
  • Sound execution strategy
  • Scalability of the business
  • Proposed use of finances
  • Expertise and abilities of the founder(s)
  • Quality of pitch

All applicants must submit an executive summary using the application form linked below to Todd Moss at by the deadline. The application can be up to three pages of content to identify your project. All ventures must have a Whitman alumni or student founder or co-founder to apply. Finalists selected to pitch will be notified by Sept. 16, 2022.

Questions should be directed to Todd Moss at

Application Form
Read more here.

Josh Aviv ’15 G’17 speaks at White House signing of the CHIPS and Science Act

Josh Aviv and President Joe Biden share an Orange moment in the Rose Garden

Syracuse University alum Josh Aviv, founder of SparkCharge, was the featured speaker at the White House this month as part of the signing ceremony for the CHIPS and Science Art bill. He introduced another proud Syracuse grad, President Joe Biden, who relished the connection. Aviv spoke passionatelyabout his journey, starting as a child in Washington, DC, inspired by his entrepreneur grandfather, and then as a student at Syracuse University where he first conceived of an EV ultra fast charging solution. He worked with the Syracuse Blackstone LaunchPad on both his product and business roadmap, and secured initial funding to incubate and build his first prototype at the Syracuse Center Excellence. He is now a national leader in the clean tech and EV industry, and has gone on to raise $30 million in funding to support engineering, sales, service and manufacturing locations around the country. He remains deeply engaged as an Alumni Entrepreneur in Residence and mentor for current LaunchPad students and as a Syracuse University Libraries advisory council member. Read the full SU news story here about Aviv and the many Orange connections that were part of the event.

Applications open for SOURCE 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 29, with complete applications due October 13. 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.

The timeline and budget may include: Spring 2023 only (up to $5000) or Spring and Summer 2023 (up to $4500 for Spring + up to $3000 for Summer).  Graduating Seniors may only apply for Spring 2023 funding (up to $5000). May 2023 graduates are not eligible for summer funding.

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

New this fall at the LaunchPad

Enjoy our brand new on-line brochure to learn more about exciting programs and services at the LaunchPad. Share with friends and colleagues. We are looking forward to welcoming new members to the LaunchPad community this coming 2022 – 2023 academic year!

Brochure cover. Open here to read the full brochure.

LaunchPad summer

Syracuse students are busy this summer working at internships, summer jobs, or building their ventures with virtual mentoring.  The LaunchPad has also been a hotbed of activity for visitors to the Syracuse campus from around the world.  We have been honored to conduct training programs and workshops in the LaunchPad this summer for these groups:

Veteran entrepreneurship

Some members of the Warrior Scholar Program at the LaunchPad

Blackstone LaunchPad Executive Director Linda Hartsock recently conducted training workshops on Innovation, Design Thinking and Value Creation for two programs hosted by Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF).

She taught an academic and experiential training unit as part of the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) Accelerate, an intensive dive into strategic planning.  The intensive residency program is designed for active-duty members with honorable discharge who come to the Syracuse campus from across the country. It is considered a first-of-its kind initiative to turn veterans into entrepreneurs.

Additionally, she taught another unit with similar topics to IVMF’s Warrior Scholar Project (WSP), a week-long on-campus “bootcamp” to give veterans a taste of the college student experience – living in the dorms, eating at the cafeteria, exploring various academic offerings, and meeting with university officials. The 15 veterans in WSP experience similar course instruction to EBV participants, but WSP attendees work in small groups to identify, define, and validate a problem that represents an opportunity for innovation. Students learn how to identify why a problem represents an opportunity for innovation, define an unmet need for a user segment, and conduct a current solutions analysis.

The LaunchPad also hosted a summer workshop for the Defense Comptrollership Program (DCP), a joint, premier program with the Department of Defense through the Martin J. Whitman School of Management and Maxwell School of Citizenship. The graduate program positions military and contracting leaders to deal with complex fiscal challenges at both operational and strategic levels. The workshop taught venture creation and presentation skills around product and business model development.

Scholars from around the world

Mandela Fellows Young African Leaders at the LaunchPad

The LaunchPad hosted business, government, civic and community innovators from across Africa visiting campus through the Maxwell School as part of the Mandela Fellows Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). Linda conducted a workshop on innovation and then spent a week working with them on ideas for projects that can address pressing problems in their home countries. The LaunchPad was honored to work with these changemakers from across Africa, and incredibly impressed by their commitment to finding innovative solutions to wicked problems ranging from equity to poverty, literacy, access to basic services such as food and education, mental health, government reform, and more.

Fulbright students at the LaunchPad with David Lind, director of International Programs at Syracuse University

Thirty-two Fulbright students from around the world also visited the LaunchPad through the Fulbright Graduate Studies Program at Syracuse University’s English Language Institute (ELI). This activity is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs as part of its Fulbright Program, the U.S. government’s flagship international exchange program supported by the people of the United States and partner countries around the world, and administered by the Institute of International Education (IIE). Fulbright grantees attending a 4-week virtual pre-academic experience through the English Language Institute in preparation for their graduate studies or research opportunities at various American institutions.  Linda led a session that taught them about innovation ecosystems in the United States, and how to use principles of discovery to drive innovation. She also offered guidance for grantees on how to connect with university and community resources to advance their projects, and then met with individual students to assist in framing their ideas and projects. Many are already successful entrepreneurs in their home countries. The goal of the Fulbright Graduate Studies Program at Syracuse University’s ELI program is to help grantees understand the demands of graduate work at a U.S. institution.

High school student entrepreneurs

iSchool students

students in front of the launchpad
Bruce Kingma’s iSchool summer class in Innovation and Startups visit the LaunchPad

Forty-nine High school students interested in creativity, innovative, or entrepreneurial high school student who are part of Summer College class in Innovation and Startups taught by Bruce Kingma were part of a short workshop by the LaunchPad to expose them to Syracuse University’s entrepreneurship programs in digital media, law and innovation, industrial design, engineering, social entrepreneurship, and information technology. Dickerson-Hartsock led a workshop on the process that the LaunchPad uses to help students create products, services, and technologies that can become businesses, and nonprofit organizations. The iSchool offers IDS courses and minor work in partnership with the Blackstone LaunchPad. Linda also talked about Syracuse University’s collaborative approach to innovation and entrepreneurship. The students continued to use the LaunchPad for team workspace, working with Linda, leading up to their final project presentations. Final pitches are being judged by LaunchPad peer mentors and LaunchPad alumni entrepreneurs in residence.

Biotechnology students

The LaunchPad hosted 24 high school science students exploring career pathways in biotechnology through Syracuse University’s Summer College program. Linda led a workshop on the fusion of the scientific method, innovation, and entrepreneurship.  The workshop culminated in a “Science Shark Tank” where students formed eight teams of three members, rapidly ideated problems and solutions, and created value proposition statements to make lighting pitches. Playing “Science Sharks,” they used peer evaluations to make “investments” from a pool of $25 million “Launch Dollars” to seed the best ideas for further research and development. It was fun and entertaining way for students learn the steps involved in commercializing research. Linda also serves on the Biotech Advisory Committee for the Biotechnology Program in the Biology Department, working with Professor Surabhi Raina who is director of that program.

Innovation sprints and lighting pitches with Syracuse University Summer College high school students

Out of the “glass box” – LaunchPad on the road

The LaunchPad was on a road show this summer with LaunchPad alumni and students at two major events this summer.

four people standing together
Josh Aviv, Kelsey Davis, Shawn Gaetano and Zebedayo Masongo speak at Juneteenth in Tulsa

The Blackstone Charitable Foundation and the Syracuse LaunchPad sponsored and led a panel on Black Tech Entrepreneurship coordinated by CLLCTVE at Tulsa’s Juneteenth Festival. The event is the largest of its kind in the country, attracting 50,000 people over the course of the June 17-19 weekend. Lead sponsor Atento Capital was lead sponsor of the event and hosted it at their headquarters in the original historic Greenwood district, home of the original Black Wall Street. Linda gave keynote remarks and moderated the panel, which included Syracuse LaunchPad alumni Kelsey Davis ’19 G’20 (founder of CLLCTVE), Josh Aviv ’15 G’17 (founder of SparkCharge) Shawn Gaetano ’21 (founder of Solace Vision). Zebedayo Masongo L’23 (founder of Grnwood), also joined the conversation. The panel focused on ways to catalyze Black entrepreneurship, empowerment and community revitalization.

Linda Dickerson-Hartsock with Samadhi and Josh Aviv at Startupfest

Josh and Linda were also peakers and mentors for Startupfest in Montreal this July, which is Canada’s largest startup gathering of founders, funders, educators, and innovation experts. Josh was the closing keynote speaker, sharing the story of his student startup journey and how he went on to raise $30 million in equity funding and scale his company to nearly 50 employees with operations across the United States. Josh won the $100,000 Best of the Fest Award in 2019, which helped provide seed capital for his venture. This was the first in-person Startupfest since 2019. Lindawas invited by the Startupfest team to serve as a featured mentor and shar best practices for supporting innovation ecosystems. She has continued to mentor startups in the program following the event.

Sam Hollander ’21 and James LePage ’22 launch ShareClub

man in a plaid shirt

Sam Hollander ’21 and James LePage ’22 start the next chapter of their entrepreneurial journey: ShareClub

The Blackstone Launchpad’s own Sam Hollander ’21 recently announced that he will be stepping away from his full-time role as Syracuse LaunchPad Program Manager to pursue the next chapter of his entrepreneurial journey with the help of his Co-Founder James LePage ’22. The two will be working fulltime on their new venture ShareClub, a platform that helps public companies market to, and communicate with their retail investors by using shareholder rewards.

Hollander, who holds dual degrees in Finance (Whitman) and Advertising (Newhouse) with an emphasis in Financial and Investor Communications, shares the inspiration for ShareClub and the market need that he and LePage will be striving to address. “Over the past two years, we’ve seen the rise of the retail investor. Despite Americans knowing they should be invested in the stock market, many of them did not. As millions of Americans were able to increase savings during the pandemic, they realized that with this extra savings, there was a good opportunity to start investing. While people were buying stocks, one big problem came into the limelight – retail investors are often overlooked by the companies they own. They feel disconnected from these companies and want a technology-enabled solution to enable them to engage with the companies they own.”

In addition to providing tangible benefits to shareholders, ShareClub is also concerned with making investment knowledge more equitable for the average retail investor. Hollander notes, “All investors, no matter how small, want to feel empowered to make financial decisions in their best interests, but unless you have a degree in finance, or law for that matter, it’s often tough for retail investors to sift through complex SEC documents to understand the performance and financial position of their investments. ShareClub democratizes access to that information, all while rewarding investors for being engaged members. We want to use this platform to help companies communicate with their retail investors and allow retail investors to feel like engaged owners of the brands they know and love.”

LePage added, “I’m incredibly passionate about helping the everyday retail investor communicate with the companies they own and love,” he says. “We’re building a first-in-class platform to enable this type of communication.” As the Blackstone LaunchPad’s Technical Entrepreneur in Residence and the founder of Isotropic, a web services company that offers design, development, and consulting. LePage is a tech stack savant, and the perfect person for the job.

With their combined talents, the two co-founders will undoubtedly make waves in the retail investment space. LaunchPad Executive Director, Linda Dickerson Hartsock, could not agree more. “Together, Sam and James are an unbeatable entrepreneurial force, and we are excited about their next chapter. They are so accomplished, and together, have built a proof-of-concept model that is investor ready. Their leadership skills, keen analytical thinking, and flawless execution, well position them for the tremendous opportunity ahead for ShareClub. We look forward to collaborating with them — and learning from them — as they build, launch and scale.”

ShareClub has recently launched its closed-beta application to the first 250 retail investors on its waitlist, and the company expects to invite more waitlist investors to join within the next month.

If you would like to join the waitlist, you can visit for more details.

The Blackstone LaunchPad would also like to recognize the tremendous impact which Hollander’s leadership, friendship, expertise, and professionalism has had on the other student entrepreneurs and faculty that call the LaunchPad their home. “I’m extraordinarily grateful for the opportunity to have worked here,” Hollander said. “I walked in the door as a first-year student, eager to learn and be a part of the entrepreneurship community at Syracuse. Looking back four years later, I realize being a part of the LaunchPad has undoubtedly been one of the best experiences of my life — primarily because I got to work with and learn from some of the most innovative people on campus, and in the SU alumni network. The LaunchPad is by far the best community on campus. As a student employee the first year, I would have never thought I would become the Program Manager three years later. Being able to work with students and campus partners day in and day out to create the best possible programs for LaunchPad students has been an absolute pleasure.”

Hollander also had some kind words to say about his mentor over the past three years. “I would be remiss not to mention that working with Linda has been one of the most meaningful relationships I have built in my life. I met her the first week of my freshman year, and I’ve been able to learn from her both personally and professionally in ways I could never have imagined — thank you, Linda.”

Hartsock echoes those same sentiments. “We are so excited that Sam and James will become our next LaunchPad success story. Sam is brilliant. As a student, he was a top prize winner in business competitions, and he brought those skills to bear as our program manager, mentoring and coaching other students for success. He truly helped build every aspect of this program from the ground up, and the LaunchPad’s success is Sam’s shared success. He brings an incredible passion for doing good and making profound impact. I am thrilled that he will be staying engaged with us as one of LaunchPad Alumni Entrepreneurs in Residence. He has been a cornerstone of our pay it forward model, and no one exemplifies this better than Sam and the team of peer mentors that he helped build and manage.”

To Sam, from the student innovators at the LaunchPad. Thank you for everything, truly. Yours will be massive shoes to fill, but the next wave of student entrepreneurs and faculty of the LaunchPad will do our best to ensure that the sweat equity and passion you have invested in this community will pay back tenfold. Being a part of the LaunchPad family has its “perks,” and our doors will always be open to you. We cannot wait to see the amazing things that you and James will accomplish!   

Blackstone LaunchPad recruiting a Program Manager

Group of SU LaunchPad students

The Blackstone LaunchPad is actively seeking prospective candidates for the role of Program Manager. The LaunchPad’s previous Program Manager, Sam Hollander ’21, recently announced that he will be stepping away from the position to pursue an entrepreneurial venture of his own in New York City full-time. The job posting is live and applications are being accepted here. The committee will begin reviewing applications the week of August 8, so apply soon if you are interested in this role.

The LaunchPad Program Manager supports the mission of the Blackstone LaunchPad, which is part of SU Libraries. The LaunchPad is Syracuse University’s innovation hub, connecting the entire University’s resource-rich ecosystem with a global network that provides support for aspiring entrepreneurs, innovators, and creators. The position reports to the Executive Director, and supports communications, outreach, events planning and management, as well as other strategic initiatives. This is a highly collaborative role, and the successful candidate will work with LaunchPad staff and academic units across campus to deliver effective programs that support the student experience and Syracuse University’s Academic Strategic Plan to create an innovation ecosystem across the institution that prepares participants to be trailblazers in an entrepreneurial world.

The major position responsibilities include:

  • Help develop, manage and support LaunchPad events and activities that advance program objectives, including visiting speakers, workshops, business plan competitions, business assistance days with subject matter experts, mentor meetups, networking events, and other special events such as Startup Weekend and Global Entrepreneurship Week. Support special initiatives by the Blackstone Charitable Foundation network to engage students through programs such as Idea Competitions, Fellowships, annual meetings, etc. Recruit and coordinate student employee and volunteers to support these programs and special events. Maintain an updated the events calendar and make other updates to the LaunchPad as needed.
  • Assist with student coaching, particularly in areas around building business models and product development roadmaps, providing direct support in subject areas such as problem identification, customer discovery, solution formation, competitive landscapes and industry analysis, sales and marketing plans, technology platform development, etc. Help connect ventures to subject matter experts, professional service providers and LaunchPad Entrepreneurs in Residence. Engage and interact with peer and alumni mentors and help make mentor matches with students. Manage connections through the on-line LaunchPad mentor portal.
  • Support faculty and student outreach, and the development and growth of an entrepreneurial pipeline of program participants. Identify key stakeholders and develop strategic outreach plan. Coordinate outreach efforts, working with partners across academic programs and student organizations to continue to grow program participation. Help with communications channels to deliver high quality and consistent content across all platforms. Work with student employees to help staff outreach events and deliver outreach programming. Increase the number of new program participants, as well as participant retention, and help manage tracking, performance metrics and outcomes reporting.
  • Work in conjunction with the Executive Director to help develop strategy and implementation plans, work with advancement and alumni to create deep engagement by key constituents, support advancement work to build additional program resources, and help expand the network of mentors and donors. Complete reports and other deliverables as required by the university, funders, and others. Engage with the Executive Director in creating and implementing special projects that foster collaborative work across academic disciplines.

The position is posted on the SU JobOpps website: .

Please help the LaunchPad spread the word of this opening to individuals who would be well-suited for the role, particularly around alumni circles. We want to build on the legacy we all created here — especially the class acts of our previous Program Managers, Sam Hollander, and Nick Barba ’20.

Story by John Carmen “Jack” Rose, Blackstone Global Media Fellow.


Student startups could win a trip to San Franciso and TechCrunch Disrupt. Apply now.

startup pitch at techcrunch

TechCrunch Disrupt is back on October 18–20 in San Francisco, and it’s looking for students who want to supercharge their startup dreams. TechCrunch Disrupt offers student startups the opportunity to participate for free if they are chosen to participate in the TechCrunch Student Pitch Competition powered by Blackstone LaunchPad network and the Blackstone Charitable Foundation.  Students could win free tickets, potentially sponsored travel by the Syracuse LaunchPad, and a whole lot more.

Here’s what startup teams need to know:

  • This is a video-only competition — no one will pitch at Disrupt.
  • Record a 60-second video of your pitch.
  • Fill out this application and answer a few quick questions about your startup.
  • Submit your application and video before the September 9 deadline.
  • TechCrunch will choose 20 finalists and notify them on September 18.
  • All finalists receive two free tickets to Disrupt 2022, two free tickets to any 2023 TechCrunch event, plus Blackstone LaunchPad swag.
  • The top six finalists will also receive a free, three-night stay in a San Francisco hotel during Disrupt 2022, will be featured in a TechCrunch article and will receive a mentor session with Blackstone LaunchPad and Techstars staff.

Not ready to pitch? Buy your student early bird pass now before prices go up on July 29.

Roundtables and Audience Choice 

Roundtables, some of the most popular sessions at Disrupt, are 30-minute expert-led discussions with up to 20 people. You’ll learn something new — and more — about a specific topic, and it’s a great way to meet and explore opportunities with other people who share your interests.

Right now, you can vote for the topics you most want to see at Disrupt. But only if you hurry. Audience Choice voting ends this Friday, July 15 at 11:59 p.m. PT.

Go to the voting site where you’ll find a sizable list of potential sessions. You can filter and search by more than 20 categories, like Financial Services/Blockchain, Founder Lessons, Gaming, Investor Insights, Operations/Strategy, SaaS/Enterprise and many more.

Vote for as many sessions as you like by clicking on the thumbs-up next to each one. Feel free to share your thoughts or offer feedback in the comment box.

World-class networking

Whether you’re looking to meet other ambitious students, to snag a killer internship or post-graduation employment or find the perfect co-founder, you won’t find better networking real estate than Disrupt.

Based on the info you input when you register, our event app will search the attendees list and recommend suitable connections. Then use the app to send invitations to schedule quick 1:1 meetings with people who align with your business goals. You’ll be able to access the list weeks before the show starts. Line up meetings and RSVPs in advance and get a jumpstart on expanding your network.

The Startup Battlefield 200

Make a beeline for the expo floor and explore this curated group of 200 outstanding early-stage startups — the only startups allowed to exhibit at Disrupt. What’s more, 20 of the Startup Battlefield 200 will be chosen to compete for $100,000 in the Startup Battlefield.

But hold up a sec — if your student-led startup meets the criteria, why not apply to be part of the SBF 200? To be eligible for consideration, your company should:

  • Be an early-stage startup
  • Have a minimally viable product
  • Represent any vertical
  • Represent any geography
  • Have step-function innovation in your vertical
  • Be bootstrapped or have pre-scale funding (variable by industry)

Apply to the Startup Battlefield 200 by July 31. It’s absolutely free, and it’s packed with perks and possibilities.

TechCrunch Disrupt 2022 takes place on October 18–20 in San Francisco with an online day on October 21. Don’t miss out on all these opportunities to level up your startup. Buy your student passes before the price goes up on July 29.

Syracuse Blackstone LaunchPad alumni headline Black Tech Panel as part of the country’s largest Juneteenth Festival in Tulsa

decorative graphic

The Blackstone Charitable Foundation is joining forces with the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University to host Tulsa Juneteenth Festival’s Black Tech Panel on Friday June 17. Powered by CLLCTVE, a Syracuse University alumni company founded by Kelsey Davis ’19 G’20, the event will be hosted by Atento Capital, an investment firm focused on underrepresented minorities and women, funded through a deep relationship with the George Kaiser Family Foundation.  

The Black Tech Panel will feature three renowned Black business owners who are alumni of Syracuse University and the Blackstone LaunchPad + Techstars networks. Together, they have raised more than $25 million in venture capital to commercialize the venture ideas they launched as students.

Along with Davis, panelists will include Josh Aviv ’15 G’17, Founder and CEO of SparkCharge and Shawn Gaetano ’21, Founder and CEO of Solace Vision. Serving as moderator will be SU alum Dayanna Torres ’06 G’09, Director of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation.

Separately, the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University is sponsoring College of Law student Zebedayo Masongo L ’23, founder of the Grnwood, a digital media platform inspired by the historic Greenwood district, to participate in Black Media programming as part of Tulsa’s Juneteenth Festival.

Linda Dickerson Hartsock, executive director of the Syracuse University Blackstone LaunchPad, curated the Black Tech Panel event and will also attend. “The LaunchPad is excited to support this event showcasing inspiring Syracuse University Black founders who are alumni of our program,” said Dickerson Hartsock. “It will be an engaging conversation with actionable ideas about how to leverage resources to catalyze innovation in life, career, and community. Kudos to CLLCTVE for driving partnerships, empowerment and entrepreneurial spirit that are at the heart of a new economic boom in Tulsa.”

“‘The legacy of Black Wall Street presented opportunities for entrepreneurs 100 years ago in the name of freedom. They had an ecosystem. Belonging. Economy. My mission is to reignite that alongside the work that’s already happening here,” said Davis.

 “Quite simply being a Black leader in clean tech, means you must hustle harder, and do so with ten times the tenacity of those around you,” said Aviv. “That tenacity creates a path for others to follow. The more of us that push through the hurdles in front of us, the wider that path becomes for those that follow us. It’s an honor to be a part of the Tulsa Juneteenth Festival Black Tech Panel. To take the stage with other leaders of color and share our stories, will help us all blaze more paths forward.”

“I’m ecstatic to be speaking on the Black Tech Panel,” added Gaetano. “As a Black founder of a technology startup, I know first-hand how difficult it is to build a company in a space where I look different from my counterparts. My goal for the panel is to motivate and assist other Black entrepreneurs breaking into the technology industry by sharing my personal insights, experiences, and resources that have helped me navigate the space and build a venture-backed, Black-led technology company. Tulsa’s minority-led startup ecosystem is growing at an unprecedented rate, and I’m grateful to take part in this pivotal moment in history.”

The panel will be part of a larger Tulsa Juneteenth Festival, from June 16-19, designed to help identify systems, structures, policies, and gaps that are in place that widen the economic gap for Black Americans. The largest Juneteenth celebration in the nation, it is expected to attract more than 50,000 people to Tulsa.

Juneteenth was established in 2021 as a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery and celebrating African American culture. It originated in Galveston, Texas and was informally celebrated in various communities until the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act was enacted into law. This program will be a signature event at a national level.

At the turn of the 20th century, the Greenwood district in Tulsa, Oklahoma was a Black economic and cultural mecca, proudly known as Black Wall Street. In 1921, a 40 square block area of the destroyed in what is considered one of the most horrific acts of racial violence in American history. After the massacre, Black business owners focused on education and entrepreneurship as tools for recovery and resilience, as they rebuilt the 1,000 homes and businesses that had been destroyed. A 2021 Forbes feature story describes the “revival of Black entrepreneurial spirit” as part of Tulsa’s New Black Wall Street.

About the Moderator:  Dayanna Torres, Director of Blackstone Charitable Foundation

Dayanna Torres is a Director at the Blackstone Charitable Foundation where she serves as the Director of the Blackstone LaunchPad Network. She brings over thirteen years of experience in higher education, nonprofit, and the public sector. In her role at the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, she helps empower entrepreneurs and bring entrepreneurial skill-building to students who need it most through the Blackstone LaunchPad program. In 2020, the Blackstone Charitable Foundation announced a $40 million expansion of LaunchPad to exclusively support colleges and universities that have a majority diverse population or are serving under-resourced communities. In doing so, it will increase its program from 46 to 75 campuses over the next five years.

Prior to Blackstone Dayanna held roles as a consultant and worked with communities to develop new partnerships and investment solutions that are responsive to unique needs of underserved neighborhoods. Dayanna holds her bachelor’s and a dual master’s degrees from Syracuse University.

About the panelists who launched their businesses from the Blackstone LaunchPad at SU Libraries

Joshua Aviv, Founder and CEO of SparkCharge

Joshua is a certified Data Scientist and the Founder & CEO of SparkCharge, with a bachelor’s degree in economics and a master’s degree in information management. He is a dynamic figure in the cleantech community and was named to Insider’s 100 Business Transformers list and AfroTech’s Future 50. Joshua was featured on Shark Tank, winning a $1 million investment and partnerships with both Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner. He is a graduate of Techstars Boston and Greentown Labs in Boston, and previously won the New York State Business Plan Competition, 43 North and numerous other competitions. He is frequently mentioned in leading business and technology publications, including two articles this past month in Inc. He was just named EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year, New England. Spark Charge is the world’s first mobile EV charging network and has seen record-breaking growth and is on track to deliver millions of miles of charge to electric vehicles this year, which will prevent over 85 tons of CO2 pollution from being created. A recent round of funding will help expand its delivery system, powered by its Currently mobile app, to more than 20 additional markets and enable the organization to develop new mobile charging products.

Kelsey Davis, Founder and CEO of CLLCTVE

Kelsey Davis is the Founder/CEO of CLLCTVE, a portfolio platform connecting creators to their next opportunity. Based in Los Angeles, CA, and Tulsa, OK, her technology startup is fueled by partners like Google and Techstars. Prior to CLLCTVE, Davis produced visual content for global consumer brands like Coca Cola, Land Rover, and Puma, and worked for Conde Nast Entertainment and Uniworld Group in NYC in ATL. Since graduating from Syracuse University with a bachelor’s degree in television, radio, and film and a master’s degree in entrepreneurship, Davis has already been featured as a next-gen leader in Forbes 30 Under 30, Adweek, and the NYTimes. She is a graduate of the Techstars LA program.

Shawn Gaetano, Founder and CEO of Solace Vision

Shawn Gaetano is the founder and CEO of Solace Vision, a no-code Metaverse creation tool. Shawn graduated from Syracuse University in 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in information technology, which he accredits to helping him achieve his current success. While at Syracuse, Shawn was the Director of the NEXIS Technology Lab, where he created Solace Vision during his sophomore year. He was also heavily involved with the Blackstone Launchpad at Syracuse, which helped him turn Solace Vision from an idea into a venture-backed technology company. Solace Vision has recently graduated from the Techstars Music Los Angeles 2022 cohort and is currently developing their technology which enables everyone to become a creator in the virtual world.‍

About the Blackstone Charitable Foundation

Founded in 2007, the Blackstone Charitable Foundation creates programs that enhance entrepreneurial ecosystems. By leveraging the resources and intellectual capital of Blackstone, we empower entrepreneurs, create an environment where careers can flourish and support the communities in which we live and work.

About the Blackstone LaunchPad at SU Libraries

The Blackstone LaunchPad is Syracuse University’s innovation hub, connecting the campus resource-rich ecosystem with a global network that provides support for aspiring entrepreneurs, inventors, and creators. The program serves faculty, staff, students, and recent alumni across all disciplines who are interested in entrepreneurship, venture creation, and innovation careers. The program supports a key pillar of Syracuse University’s academic strategic plan to give students experiential opportunities that help prepare them to be trailblazers in an entrepreneurial world.

Blackstone LaunchPad to host Arts Entrepreneurship Accelerator for creatives this summer

Peter DePasquale ’12

Creative business coach Peter DePasquale ’12 (dual BFA in arts education and printmaking from Syracuse University), as well as an MFA (printmaking from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago) will be leading a four week intensive “bootcamp” accelerator to help students and recent alumni learn how to commercialize their creative endeavors. Space is limited and will be open on a competitive basis to those pursuing professional pathways in all aspects of the visual and performing arts, writers, musicians, designers, and aspiring NFT producers, as well as creatives who are fabricators and makers.

Fortunately, DePasquale is an expert in this arena. He is eager to share that expertise with fledgling artistic professionals across all disciplines, sole proprietors and small business startups, and creative arts students alike via this program which he will be virtually hosting at the Blackstone Launchpad over this upcoming July and August. The four-week program starts on Monday July 11 and runs until Wednesday August 3, with sessions held each week on Monday and Wednesday nights from 6:00 p.m. EST to 8:30 p.m. EST via Zoom. The program is open to a maximum of 14 people, so apply early before seats fill up.

DePasquale is the co-owner and production director of MINIMA-MAXIMA, a gender inclusive “wearables” company that specializes in crafting bolo ties and ear jackets which incorporate stunning geometrical patterns in their design philosophy. He serves as the primary technician for small batch manufacturing of in-house merchandise — creating, editing, and producing laser cut components for their handcrafted wooden and acrylic products. He also trains the studio assistants on production methods and manages the day-to-day operations, including accounting and tax preparations, client correspondence, shipping and receiving, and e-commerce maintenance and expansion.

He has also been a professional printmaker, visual artist, jewelry maker and expert NFT artist. Additionally, he provides creative business consulting services out of Pittsburgh, PA, where he now resides, and has been supporting creative businesses in this way for nearly five years.

DePasquale’s program, like his consulting work, is designed to educate and coach artistic entrepreneurs on the core essentials of starting, running, and maintaining a successful art-based business that sells to both retail and wholesale clients — in spaces both physical and digital. This program will help create a community of support for artist business-owners moving forward — aiming to foster collaboration and local assistance in tackling the daunting task of launching and maintaining a professional artistic endeavor.

Participants in DePasquale’s program will learn the principles of creating thoughtful work; selling it in-person events and through an E-commerce platform; managing the production of items and keeping an inventory system; managing customer service; ordering sustainable materials and supplies; customizing shipping procedures and operating on a shipping platform; meeting legal requirements of state and federal standards; social media account management; fundamentals of bookkeeping and financial management for creatives and artists.

The Blackstone LaunchPad is pleased to support this intensive summer accelerator. Nearly 40% of LaunchPad participants are creatives such as artists, photographers, filmmakers, animators, illustrators, authors, illustrators, fashion designers, graphic designers, musicians, and makers.  “Creatives are the quintessential entrepreneurs,” says Linda Dickerson Hartsock, director of the LaunchPad, who is also an arts entrepreneur, as one of the co-founders of the Center for the Arts of Homer. “Creative economies help build strong communities, and these professions are increasingly primary career paths and side-gigs for many members of GenZ.”

Serving as peer mentor and program support for the accelerator will be John (Jack) Rose ‘24, a writer and entrepreneurship student at Syracuse University. Rose is founder of Bladepoint Media and a passionate storyteller who is working on his first book. His goal is to combine his love of writing and creativity, combined with his knowledge of the business world, in a meaningful way to bring positive impact and value to others. He will be available to work with students throughout the program.

The cost to participate is $125 per individual for the entire four week virtual program, paid directly to DePasquale. Interested parties should email Peter DePasquale directly at

He asks that you please include the following:

  • Full Name
  • Contact Information (name, e-mail, phone)
  • Student/Alumni
  • Employment Status
  • Primary Artistic or Creative Medium
  • History of Owning/Running a Business (if applicable)

Story by Jack Rose ’24