Startup Spotlights

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  

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  

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 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.

Mauricio Luna ’24 makes attending U.S. colleges more accessible for students in León

After 12 hours of travel and three layovers, Mauricio Luna steps off his flight from León, Guanajuato to Syracuse, New York. As he boards an Uber for his dorm, a flurry of eager and nervous anticipation flutters in his stomach. Far from the colorful architecture of his warm hometown in Mexico, Mauricio is unsure what to expect from his new home at a U.S. college campus.

Since his arrival at Syracuse University, Mauricio has come a long way. Now a junior majoring in policy studies at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs with a minor in history, Mauricio is thriving as an involved member of the campus community.

“Coming here, I saw educators who genuinely care about students’ wellbeing and growth,” Mauricio said, comparing the stark differences to what he saw in many for-profit high schools in other places.

Just about 13,000 students from Mexico study at U.S. colleges each year, only a handful of which are from León. With few mentorship opportunities on U.S. college applications available in León, high school seniors have limited help with applications, making the idea of attending an American university a distant thought for most. Students know next to nothing about the foreign application process, don’t have guidance to prepare for standardized tests, and have trouble navigating the cultural differences and new lingo like “Advanced Placement” or “SAT Scores.”

Despite being a bustling business district — the shoe capital of the world— León currently has no college application preparation companies, like Mexico City does. At the same time, León’s challenged school system leaves creative, motivated students with minimal options for pursuing a robust higher education.

This is where Pathway Prep comes in.

Last summer, Mauricio connected with a student from León who expressed that she wanted to go to an American university. Unfortunately, receiving tutoring internationally seemed expensive, and most companies’ tutors seemed older and far removed from when they went through the application process themselves. Nevertheless, the hopeful high school senior needed help with the SAT and Common Application, and Mauricio was a student who recently underwent the same experience. Mauricio got to work, tutoring the girl in SAT questions, coaching her on her personal statement, and guiding her through filling out the final application.

“Her diagnostic SAT test score was very low — not because she didn’t have the capability to reach a high score, but because she had never seen an SAT before. After 2 months of working together, she took another test and saw a score increase of 430 points. Seeing the score increase made the girl’s confidence about going to college skyrocket,” Mauricio recalled. He hopes to inspire this same feeling in other students from his community.

Since then, Mauricio had been approached by more high schoolers, so he decided to develop a tutoring and college consulting company that will assist León students with SAT preparation and U.S. university applications. Pathway Prep would be a more affordable solution for students in León, offering both 1:1 coaching and less expensive group tutoring sessions, which most other companies lack.

“Most people only know the name Harvard,” Mauricio lamented. “I want to introduce students to other amazing schools they can apply to because they don’t know what’s accredited and reputable and what’s not.”

Besides introducing students to the limitless possibilities of universities they can apply to, Pathway Prep will also acclimate students to the lengthy and confusing U.S. college application process. From defining terms in the application to consulting students on their persona statement essays, Pathway Prep will equip students from León — and eventually, all of Guanajuato — to submit strong applications that highlight their potential for success.

Mauricio plans to build a pipeline for students to attend American universities by partnering directly with high schools in León. To do so, he is contacting principals, who welcome Mauricio to share his experiences at the schools and can connect interested students with Pathway Prep.

Mauricio reflects on the importance of having a support system, both in his education and in building his startup. He has been receiving mentorship from professors, SU’s Blackstone LaunchPad, and advisors back home, who have encouraged him to take his idea seriously and received a better understanding of how to structure the business. He has already created a business model, competed in the recent Blackstone LaunchPad Impact Prize competition, received valuable feedback, and plans to continue working on his venture with help from the Syracuse University innovation ecosystem.

“Don’t be afraid to reach out to people for help,” Mauricio recommended to other budding entrepreneurs nervous about starting their idea.

Mauricio finds a lot of value in leveraging collaboration to grow and improve. In building a team, he seeks equally motivated individuals with complementary skillsets that can fill in his own gaps of knowledge and provide innovative ideas of their own. Recently, he recruited another student, Sasha Temerte, as a business partner, and he hopes to continue expanding his team.

Pathway Prep is currently hiring paid English and math tutors to develop a comprehensive SAT preparation curriculum and be able to offer services to more students. If you adept at tutoring English or math for the SAT, please contact Mauricio at

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

Neil Adams ’24 prioritizes entertainment when creating advertising content

With his headphones in and deep focus in his gaze, Neil Adams peers at the video editing software on his computer. He turns to a notebook on his desk and jots down some ideas for relatable trends he can incorporate into his most recent client ad. Flipping a few pages back, he also passes by a list of content idea for his own social media pages.

Neil Adams is a Television, Radio, and Film major in Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications and the founder of Candid Content Creation, a social media management company with an emphasis on entertainment before sales.

Neil understands that it’s important for ads to mirror the content people already watch on platforms like Instagram and TikTok to make the videos engaging enough for viewers to finish watching. When creating content that is entertaining first—and selling someone something is the afterthought, rather than the priority—the sales come more naturally.

Neil noted, “The world of entertainment is changing at an exponential rate. Companies need help advertising to this changing world of entertainment.”

Growing up on the internet, Neil noticed there was a whole world of possibilities to forge his own path in life. Neil’s dad was also a video producer with his own company, so being taught to record and edit videos at a young age was influential for Neil to view video editing as a promising opportunity. Neil has always sought to learn the skills that aren’t taught in school, often turning to mentors such as his dad or free resources on the internet to teach him innovative video editing skills, interaction strategies to grow social media pages, and the mindset of hard work and delayed gratification.

“You might not see results for a long time,” Neil said. What matters is persistence in building skills and making decisions that will ultimately grow the business. “Put in the hours and work at the beginning when you’re not getting recognition because those are the things that will help you succeed in the future.”

As Neil developed his business acumen, he learned how to convert one-time projects into consistent, long-term clients. Since starting, Neil has worked with clients ranging from a local yacht chartering company to big names such as Dot Cards, DoorDash, and Dell. He explains that to foster strong client relationships, it is important to show respect and make people feel valuable and appreciated.

Neil explained that above all, results matter most. “People will keep coming back to you if you’re successful.”

Nevertheless, Neil has also learned the value of saying no to projects to preserve his time for the initiatives that matter most and to focus his attention on future business growth.

Another lesson Neil has learned is how to partner with other creators.

“By the first deadline of working with someone, you can usually tell whether they will be able to successfully complete everything they need to,” Neil said, encouraging other entrepreneurs to trust their intuition when it comes to working with people.

While his business focus is on content creation for clients, Neil also films content for his own social media on YouTube and TikTok. Much of his content is about college lifestyle, travel, and making money online.

When asked what it means to be an innovator, Neil said, “It’s to start something based on your own ideas and ambitions, rather than what the people around you are telling you to do.”

In the coming years, Neil is planning to hire more people and work with new clients. He especially hopes to immerse himself more in creative videography.

Neil’s portfolio can be found on @candidcontentcreation on Instagram.

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

Gabriel Davila-Campos ’25 on fusing technology, entrepreneurship and academic excellence

Man in a check shirt

Gabriel Davila-Campos ’25, studying Applied Data Analytics with a concentration in Information Security Management along with a minor in Innovation, Design and Start-Ups, in the School of Information Studies, has always been dedicated to excellence. From receiving a full tuition scholarship from the POSSE Foundation to attend Syracuse University to developing a technological startup while in school, his dedication to his work is marked with passion.

Davila-Campos’ journey of success has not been linear path, but rather one marked with perseverance. Born and raised in Miami, Florida to a Nicaraguan Mother, he has always maintained a focus on getting an education and academic success. The Posse Scholarship identifies talented high school students with extraordinary leadership potential and gives them full tuition scholarships to partnering universities. Davila-Campos’ attained the Posse Scholarship while in high school, securing his entry into Syracuse University, and was one of ten students to be chosen from Florida, out of thousands of applicants.

As a first-generation college student, he struggled with feelings of belonging and adjusting because he was new to the Syracuse University campus. Davila-Campos joined the Resident Hall Association as the Director of Diversity and Inclusion as a much-needed resource for other struggling students of color and to foster a better sense of community. His hardships continued to take a toll on his mental health, and as the first semester of his freshmen year ended, he realized that something had to change: for both his own well-being and his academics.

“I realized there was a job to be done. I can’t afford to not be successful – I need to get my family out of the situation they are in. If I don’t succeed academically, what will I be able to do?” said Davila.

He decided to try a new path and find his newfound drive to create change for himself and those around him. He is determined to surround himself with other incredible students and a community that is encouraging and collaborative. Davila-Campos enrolled in the School of Information Studies’ IDS 301, the first of the Innovation, Design and Start-Ups Minor courses, and was introduced to the world of entrepreneurial ideation. He discovered a newfound passion for technology and innovation under the sense of creative entrepreneurship.

In his second semester, he poured himself into his studies and was rewarded with an outstanding 4.0 GPA, with the distinction of being on the Dean’s list and a new calling for himself: technological innovation.

He spent this year pursing entrepreneurship and developing his own startup. He recently attended the ACCelerate Festival in Washington D.C., a national celebration of innovation and creativity which partners various universities in a four-day convention. Student representatives come together and meet in the Smithsonian Museum of American History in a national convention to foster new creative ideas through cross-collaborative teams, possible entrepreneurial opportunities and to promote their universities’ own projects. Davila-Campos represented the School of Information Studies Innovation, Design and Start-Ups program. He interacted with hundreds of interested parents, students, alumni, and faculty during the convention. For the Syracuse University booth, he helped facilitate a creativity competition to inspire interest in the Innovation, Design and Start-Ups Program.

He was featured in a published short film by Newhouse, the School of Communications. He also recently participated and pitched in a Digital Transformation Challenge co-hosted by the Blackstone LaunchPad and Deloitte Digital.

Davila-Campos has now created his own company that draws from his interests in technology: Pro-Tech. Pro-Tech is a company that utilizes blockchain technology as a router to provide digital security to the everyday consumer. The router can secure digital assets and NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) into one streamlined mobile app and notifies the consumer of any security breaches, and automatically moves information to protect it.

“Pro-Tech is a constant safety blanket, that regardless of a device’s Wi-Fi or data connection, you know you have control over your digital footprint. I am interested in IT (Information Technology) and being a part of advancing technology because you can create anything you want, with endless possibilities in a digital world.”

Today, Davila-Campos continues his interests in numerous ways on campus while he works on his company Pro-Tech. He is now the Director of PR and Marketing in the Resident Hall Association, where he continues his passion for being a mentor for others and an advisor of resident hall policies on campus. Moreover, his work with marketing does not end there, as he is a social media sales and marketing intern for Syracuse Cultural Workers, aiding them in their mission to “…nourish communities that honor diversity and creative expression, and inspire movements for justice, equality, and liberation while respecting our Earth and all its beings.” Utilizing his skills in content creation to help improve overall media traffic by 50%. He is also an ITS Lab Attendant, where he prepares technological laboratory equipment and resolves experimental data issues relating to software design, game study, and projects in digital humanities.

His path at Syracuse University led to discovering a newfound passion for technological innovation through incredible and continuation of passion. Davila-Campos’ story is not only one of a tenacious individual with remarkable persistence but one with incredible dedication to his community and a successful student entrepreneur.

Story by Claire Howard ’23, LaunchPad Global Fellow.

Domenic Gallo ’24 is reimagining alternative and assistive communications tech to empower individuals with speech disabilities

“I have always been drawn to creative problems, yet I have always solved those problems in technical ways. I am very left-brained. But people need to know being left-brained can be just as creative as being right-brained. In fact, if you are forced to pick the perspective of just one side, you lose the overlap between them. That is where all the good things happen.” This is a personal philosophy explained of Domenic Gallo ‘24, a sophomore in the industrial design program at Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts.

This semester, Domenic has enjoyed the opportunity of putting his creative problem-solving skills to the test in an inclusive design class offered through the Intelligence ++ program. The elective—available to both undergraduates and graduates—challenges students to ideate and build solutions for challenges unique to individuals with intellectual disabilities.

In a DES400 class, Domenic has been working alongside fellow VPA sophomore, Bella Young ’24, and his new friend Chase Coleman, a student from Syracuse University’s InclusiveU program. “Chase has a form of autism that makes it difficult for him to communicate verbally,” he told me. “Typically, individuals who struggle with this use a type of app called an AAC—which stands for augmentative and alternative communication—so that they can talk with people. It is basically a grid of images on a touch screen or keyboard with text editor used by people who have non-verbal autism to speak. You string together sentences using the images on screen and then the software speaks it for you.”

“But the problem is that most of these systems are antiquated and outdated in terms of current technology,” Domenic continued. “Most of them use ClipArt images and interfacing that can feel infantilizing or even demeaning for someone like Chase to use. The other issue is that for someone like me who usually communicates verbally, I have the liberty of being able to use words in a way that expresses my personality. But Chase’s interface on the other hand, it is not tailored to his personality or how he speaks. If he wanted to tell a joke for example or use humorous connotation, that is something he cannot really do right now.”

So, what should be done about this communications roadblock? Domenic gave me the rundown of his solution, maintaining his cool, calculated demeanor as he spoke. “What we want to do is modernize ACC, and we are trying to do this in two ways. One is by implementing AI technology to create better predictive text pathways that feel more natural to use. The hope is that it would be able to match whatever speech style Chase wants to use and suggest things he might want to say next. The other thing we have been thinking about is creating more dynamic layouts. The AAC grid is very structured right now, basically just a grid of squares. We are seeing if laying it out in different formats would allow for better personalization.”

Another aspect of Domenic’s product development process is exploring the idea of creating a brand new, keyboard-like interface by utilizing his CAD and 3D printing expertise. “When you are using an AAC on an iPad, you are pressing the touch screen for haptic feedback. You must go through the different categories to select the words you want to use. This works for some people, but what I want to test out is if it might be more beneficial for the disability community to have a dedicated physical interface. I am thinking that it might be less ‘busy’ than navigating a tablet.”

Domenic said that he had taken inspiration from DJ soundboards for his initial design. When asked how large he wanted the product to be, he unfolded his arms and estimated the rough dimensions with his hands. “Probably like a foot-long square; 8 x 8 with 64 buttons total. I want it to be something that is portable enough to fit in a backpack. I designed the physical model using CAD software, and now I am working on an app that can interface directly with the buttons. The idea is to have them light up with different options based on which word is being chosen. So, if Chase presses the word ‘I’ on the grid for example, a group of most-likely words or phrases with their associated colors and images will pop up for him to select next. In time, the goal is to have it adapt to his most frequent choices and preferred style of speaking. Think of it like iMessage recommendations, but on an actual keyboard.”

His proposal, “Reimagining AAC,” supervised by Professor Donald Carr, just received a SOURCE Fellowship of up to $5000 to continue research on the project.

Domenic describes what he is enjoyed most about his industrial design program thus far. “What’s great about the major is we do a ton of different things,” he says.” We cast a wide net.” Prior to the inclusive design class, Domenic worked on a couple of different projects, including one with the Smart Visions Systems (SVS) Laboratory at Syracuse University, where he organized brand language and a concept for an occupancy detection software. He was brought on towards the end of the project to help develop an HVAC system which utilized cameras and AI technology to determine how many people were occupying a given space. Based on how many occupants there were, the system would then adjust the temperature of the room accordingly to conserve energy costs. Domenic also held a summer internship at a 3D printing laboratory where he made a print farm and learned about cloud-based rapid prototyping. “I built 3D printers from scratch,” he said. “I didn’t know much about electrical engineering before then, so half the fun was learning how to wire without blowing myself up.”

Perhaps Domenic would have been exposed to it earlier had he chosen to go into mechanical engineering like he had initially intended as a high schooler, but he found that it did not offer the level of creativity he was looking for. “The other thing that I love about industrial design is that some of my classmates are artistic, while others are not as much. But there is an entire spectrum of industrial design projects, and you get to choose where you want to land on it. Especially with this thing I am working on now, I get to talk with expert users and people with disabilities who can tell me directly if what I am doing is working for them. We are designing with them, not just for them, and that feels fulfilling to me. I cannot wait to see how it turns out.”

Story by Jack Rose ’24, Global Media Fellow