The Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars at SU Libraries and Invent@SU are taking Syracuse University’s innovation ecosystem on the road this week, meeting with west coast investors, entrepreneurs, alumni and mentors. Three “innovation salons” in San Diego, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area will highlight products, services, technologies, creative content, and ventures being developed by SU students and recent alumni. The goal of the road trip is to expand a “one-university” network of mentors and funding to support SU innovators and inventors. Recent alumni who have launched successful companies, including Josh Aviv, founder of SparkCharge who is a recent Generation Orange award winner, will share their stories, joined by local alumni and investors who are interested in mentoring and supporting the university’s innovation ecosystem. Syracuse University Libraries and the College of Engineering and Computer Science are co-hosting the three-city west coast salon series.
The LaunchPad is home to more than 4,000 faculty, staff, students, and alumni from 112 countries. Working with partners across campus, more than 700 venture ideas have been created, 75 companies launched, $19 million in company investment raised, and $3 million won in business plan competitions. Beyond being inventors and technologists, many are creative entrepreneurs who have published books, recorded albums and produced short films.
The LaunchPad is Syracuse University’s innovation hub, with a reputation for service, collaboration and outcomes. Created with seed funding from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, it opened in April 2016, and has quickly gained momentum, connecting the University’s resource-rich ecosystem with a global network that provides support for aspiring entrepreneurs, inventors and creators. It serves faculty, staff, students and alumni across disciplines who are interested in innovation, invention, entrepreneurship and venture creation that takes ideas from concept to commercialization. The program supports a central pillar of Syracuse University’s Academic Strategic Plan to create an innovation ecosystem across the institution that prepares participants to be trailblazers in an entrepreneurial world. It has a close working partnership with Invent@SU, as well as other campus ecosystem partners.
The program provides:
- CAMPUS-WIDE ACCESSIBILITY for faculty, staff and students across all majors, with a focus on inclusive entrepreneurship;
- ONE-STOP CONNECTIONS to the university’s robust network of entrepreneurial resources, programs and activities, through a “hub and spoke model” that is highly collaborative;
- CAMPUS HUB, serving as the portal and connector to campus partners that include Invent@SU (summer invention accelerator program with the College of Engineering and Computer Science and VPA’s School of Design), Innovation Law Center + New York State Science and Law Technology Center at the SU College of Law, Martin J., Whitman Falcone Center, Newhouse’s Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship, iSchool’s Student Sandbox Program, and Maxwell’s Center for Citizenship and Civic Engagement, along with campus research centers;
- ONE-ON-ONE MENTORING that cultivates entrepreneurial thinking and helps ventures from ideation to acceleration;
- IMPACT ENTREPRENEURSHIP programming that catalyzes civic engagement and social entrepreneurship, and can facilitate innovation within existing organizations and the public sector, as well new venture creation;
- SPECIALIZED TOOLS to help get startups off the ground and scale, including an exclusive technology platform for students to build teams around their ideas, find mentors, collaborate, conduct patent searches, and showcase their ideas to potential investors;
- INTERDISCIPLINARY TEAM-BUILDING for ideation and venture formation, utilizing collaboration and cross-functional teams to accelerate innovation;
- ACCESS TO WORLD-CLASS CONTENT AND SUBJECT MATTER EXPERTS, including training materials and global mentors and serial entrepreneurs who are part of the prestigious Techstars network, and streamlined access to renowned Techstars accelerator programs;
- REGIONAL, NATIONAL AND GLOBAL CONNECTIONS to venture leaders ad top accelerators to share best practices, engage with successful entrepreneurs, expand networks, and find partners;
- GLOBAL, NATIONAL, STATE, REGIONAL AND CAMPUS BUSINESS PLAN COMPETITIONS that provide opportunities to earn seed funding, and meet peer entrepreneurs from around the country, and around the world;
- WORKSHOPS AND TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS to build competence through experiential learning, and highly ranked Syracuse University entrepreneurship education programs;
- TECHSTARS LAUNCHPAD STARTUP WEEKEND that is an intensive boot camp for those exploring ideas;
- CONNECTIONS TO FUNDERS AND AN INVESTMENT-READY ROADMAP that can help ventures prepare for funding, identify sources of investment, and advance through the capital continuum;
- TRAINING PROGRAMS AND NETWORKING EVENTS, including Fireside Chats and Toolkit Series, and the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps (NSF I-Corps) that build a university-wide innovation infrastructure, bringing together entrepreneurs, researchers, investors and funders, as well as technical service providers;
- GUEST OFFICE HOURS with entrepreneurs in residence, and technical assistance providers such as the New York Small Business Development Center, U.S. Small Business Administration, LaunchNY, Syracuse University Innovation Law Center + New York State Science and Law Technology Center, CNY Biotechnology Accelerator, The Tech Garden;
- STUDENT PEER MENTORS AND EXPERTS IN RESIDENCE that provides employment opportunities for top student innovators to provide peer support and multi-disciplinary skill sets to work with other students exploring innovation and entrepreneurship. These student employees help run events like Startup Weekend with Techstars and provide direct technical support for student startups. They come from various academic programs to ensure cross-functional support with skills in engineering, software and data management, industrial design and product development, graphic design, web design and UX/UI, digital media, marketing, sales and finance.
- POWERFUL COLLABORATIONS WITH CAMPUS PARTNERS, including the Invent@SU program, Innovation Law Center, Syracuse University Office of Technology Transfer, Martin J. Whitman Falcone Center, Newhouse Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship, iSchool IDS (the Student Sandbox program now located at the LaunchPad); SOURCE (Office of Undergraduate Research located in SU Libraries); and the Syracuse University Office of Community Engagement, among others;
- FOUNDERS CIRCLE alumni network that leverages the power of the Syracuse University alumni network as mentors for student innovators.
The LaunchPad helps students learn the creative process of exploring ideas, identifying problems and solutions, thinking strategically, building teams, and iteration through continuous discovery. For some, this leads to venture creation. For others, it leads to critical thinking and skills that better position them to become global leaders and citizens. Not every student who participates in the LaunchPad will start a venture. However, all students who participates learns skills that better prepare them for a life and career focused on innovation and problem solving. Graduates of the program have been quickly hired by some of the world’s leading innovation companies because of experiences at the LaunchPad set them apart.