Join us for the LaunchPad’s fall Fireside Chat series

decorative graphic

Join us for a fall Fireside Chat series featuring Syracuse University alumni, student and parents who are successful entrepreneurs and innovation leaders. Zoom chats are each Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. and all are welcome to join at Here is the fall 2020 line-up:

Friday, October 23 at 3 p.m. – Kenneth Williams ’87, Product Marketing and Senior Manager, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and Matt Shumer, Co-founder of Otherside AI.

Kenneth Williams holds a BS in Electrical Engineering and BA in Economics from Syracuse University, class of ’87.  He also holds a MS in Electrical Engineering from the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ.  He has been the Business Development & Product Marketing Manager for Qualcomm Inc.  since 2017 where is responsible for wireless technology product sales for North America focusing on cellular IoT, cellular Infrastructure, small cells, macro base stations and mobile computing platforms.  Before that, he was Product Marketing Manager at TDK Inc. for eight years and Product Marketing Manager for EPCOS Inc. for eight years.  He was previously a Systems Engineer for Bell Communications Research for eight years.  Williams is an “Orange Family.”  His wife is also an SU alum, and he is the parent of two Syracuse University students.

Picture of Matt Shumer

Matt Shumer is a Syracuse University student and co-founder of Otherside AI, which started in the LaunchPad.  Shumer started his first business at the age of twelve and soon realized his interest was not only creating new products and technologies, but also marketing and selling his ideas. He began working with the LaunchPad when he started as a Syracuse University student in the Whitman School of Management as a freshman in 2018.  He quickly became a Rubin Family Innovation Mentor at the LaunchPad and he launched Visos, a company that integrated virtual reality into healthcare.  As he was networking to build and launch his venture, communicating constantly with investors, mentors, industry experts and others in the field, Matt noticed that the task of writing dozens of emails a day was bogging down his productivity. To address this problem, he started working with artificial intelligence (AI) software that could use key words and phrases to construct full, well-written emails. What started as a tool to improve networking for one venture became a dynamic new venture of its own.

Matt realized the potential of an AI-powered email service and built a team to launch OthersideAI. The software is built on the principle of redefining the way we communicate digitally.

When OthersideAI demo launched on Twitter, it spread like wildfire, getting mentions in the New York Times, to Fortune, and the OthersideAI team recently closed on a major investment.

Together, Williams and Shumer will be talking about technology trends that are driving innovation, how to drive market value, and what it takes to be a successful tech innovator and entrepreneur in a global marketplace.

man drinking tea

Friday, October 30 at 3 p.m. – Todd B. Rubin ’04, Minister of Evolution and President of the Republic of Tea as featured speaker for Orange Central Weekend

Todd B. Rubin ’04, Minister of Evolution (President) for The Republic of Tea, will be our featured speaker for Orange Central Weekend.  A graduate of the Syracuse University School of Architecture, Rubin is dedicated to preserving a legacy that fosters The Republic of Tea’s “Sip by Sip Rather than Gulp by Gulp” lifestyle, He strives to delight Citizens, Ministers, Embassies and Ambassadors with a focus on innovation, education and providing the finest premium teas and herbs.

Rubin joined The Republic of Tea in 2007 as the Minister of East Commerce and then transitioned to the Minister of Southeast Commerce in 2008. In 2011, he was appointed to Minister of Evolution (Vice President of Sales and Marketing) relocating to the company’s Larkspur, California office.  In that role, he successfully spearheaded new teas and new systems that led to significant growth, including: Beautifying Botanicals Teas, organic SuperAdapt Teas, organic SuperGreen Teas, HiCAF® Teas, Sonoma Teas, Biodynamic® Teas, Cuppa Cake® Teas, Downton Abbey™ Teas, organic SuperHerb® Teas, U-Matcha™ teas, The Crown® Teas and the organic Single Sips. Utilizing his degree in architecture, he oversaw the feng shui design of the company’s headquarters at The Exchange in Larkspur, California and the company’s production and shipping center in Nashville, Illinois. 

Read a recent feature story describing Rubin’s feng shui design of the new Republic of Tea headquarters in Marin Couny, just outside of San Francisco, in this North Bay Area publication.

In 2016, Rubin was elected to the Specialty Food Association Board of Directors and was distinguished as one of San Francisco Business Times’ 40 Under 40. He was appointed to the Advisory Board for the Specialty Tea Institute and became a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization SF Bay Area Chapter in 2015. The year prior, Rubin was the recipient of Syracuse’s Generation Orange Award for philanthropy and was also honored as one of North Bay Business Journal’s 40 Under 40. Rubin was elected to the Board for the Ethical Tea Partnership, a nonprofit organization that convenes the tea industry, development partners, NGOs and governments to improve the lives of tea workers, farmers and the environment in which they live and work.

He is a generous support of SU Libraries and the LaunchPad, funding 18 student positions as through the Orange Ambassador program, Todd B. Rubin Innovation and Diversity Scholars, and Rubin Family Innovation Mentors (through his family foundation).  He also partners with the LaunchPad on its summer Tea Talk series and Fall Fireside Chat series.

Rubin starts his day with a cup of Lucky Irish Breakfast tea, sips Brain Boost SuperGreen tea in the afternoon and ends his evenings with Clarity and Calm herbal tea. In his free time, he enjoys cooking, traveling, photography, and reading.

Picture of George Dawson

Friday, November 6 at 3 p.m. – George Dawson ’08, Techstars Fund Controller

Dawson is based at Techstars headquarters in Boulder, Colorado, where he leads the organization’s fund and investment finance team which oversees 50+ venture capital funds and internal investment vehicles and a portfolio of approximately 4,000+ investments.  Dawson is responsible for all aspects of portfolio company valuations, accounting, investor reporting, operations and fund structuring, and plays a critical role in Techstars capital formation efforts.

Prior to Techstars, Dawson was the assistant controller at JLL Partners, a mid-market private equity firm in New York. Earlier in his career, he worked at EY and KPMG, where he served large private equity, venture capital, hedge fund, mutual fund and fund-of-fund clients. He is a licensed CPA in New York and graduated in 2008 from Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management with a dual major in accounting and finance and a minor in economics.

At the Fireside Chat, Dawson will discuss startup finance topics of interest such as valuation, incorporation, term sheet economics, cap tables, convertible notes and other investment structures. He will also share best practices for startups and common pitfalls.  He will be talking about gearing up for investment and how startups can approach financing their ventures through the capital continuum.

Techstars, a worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed, has invested in several Syracuse University startups including SparkCharge (Techstars Boston), PowerSpike (Techstars Atlanta), and CLLCTVE (Techstars Los Angeles).  Techstars consists of both an investment management business with $500+ million in assets under management, as well as an operating business that is rapidly approaching $100+ million in annual revenue. Techstars investment activity includes global accelerator programs in cities around the world, deploying $80 million+ into nearly 500 startups on an annual basis. The Techstars portfolio of 2,200 companies currently attracts an annual $2 billion+ in downstream investment from the venture capital industry.

Friday, November 13, join us for the Syracuse University Impact Prize

Friday, November 20 at 3 p.m. — Neil L. Rubler, Founder, President and CEO of Vessel Technologies, Inc. and Candlebrook Properties, LLC

Rubler founded Vessel Technologies, Inc. in 2017, and serves as the company’s President and CEO. In addition, he also serves as the President and CEO of Candlebrook Properties, LLC (and its various affiliates), which he founded in 2005, and which operates businesses in real estate development, management and construction. Since its founding, Candlebrook as managed a portfolio valued at over $2 billion, and which spans tens of thousands of apartment units in seven states.

Prior to founding Candlebrook, Rubler was the Chief Operating Officer and an Executive Vice President and of The Olnick Organization, Inc., a, privately held, New York-based real estate development company.  In this capacity he oversaw all aspects of the Olnick Organization’s operations, development and investment activities. Prior to joining The Olnick Organization, Rubler was an Associate at Donaldson, Lufkin and Jenrette, and prior to that was a Vice President of Republic National Bank of New York.

Rubler earned an MBA from The Wharton School in 1998 with degrees in Real Estate and Finance, and graduated from Cornell University, BA, magna cum laude, in 1992.  He has served as Board Member of the Real Estate Board of New York, is an Executive Committee member of the Real Estate Center at the Wharton School, and is actively engaged in various philanthropic endeavors.