Insights: How to Start a Startup

how to start a startup

Entrepreneurship is a community endeavor. Though it may be sparked by an individual idea or sparkling vision, the effort required to build a company from scratch into a sustainable, marketable reality requires teams, mentors, investors, and support systems to propel an idea from a mere dream into an impactful presence in the market.

For Syracuse innovators, the university ecosystem offers a wealth of knowledge, guidance, and support to help you build your business from scratch. From mentors to business competitions to networking events to enriching communities, SU has it all to help your entrepreneurial dreams flourish and transform visions into reality.

Getting Started

Connect with the Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars at Bird Library. The LaunchPad is the perfect spot to take your brilliant idea if you’re still unsure as to how to shape it towards developing a business. Request a mentor on our website through our form to be matched with one of our Rubin Family Innovation Mentors, who are skilled in successfully launching business and a variety of skill sets including technology, coding, marketing, user interface, and sustainable growth.  Our mentors can help with everything from building a framework for an initial idea to finding further funding for an already successful business model.

We also have a group of Entrepreneurs in Residence, highly skilled alumni and faculty entrepreneurs who have successfully founded companies and know what it takes to build a company into a marketable vision.

The LaunchPad has so much to offer – technical workshops where you can learn hard skills like building websites or connecting with investors, fireside chats with many of our alumni who have gone on to forge their path through their own companies and offer wise advice to young entrepreneurs, and other networking events to connect with a community of like-minded driven individuals. Become a member today and become immersed in a world of ideas and visionaries.

Shape Your Idea

The LaunchPad invites you to use our wide array of available resources to shape your idea, go through market discovery, and create a product desirable to and effective for users. Read our Guide to Getting Started to create your steps to market and work through our Toolkit for a hands-on resource and step-by-step list to help you shape your market plan. Visit our Resource page to learn about all we have to offer from presentation templates to free eBooks to software subscription services to help you thrive. 

Join the E-Club

Syracuse’s Entrepreneurship Club is the perfect community to join if you’re looking for a stimulating environment full of like-minded individuals driven to create businesses just as you. The Entrepreneurship Club meets weekly and hosts successful young entrepreneurs as speakers, practices for pitch competitions, and workshops for refining practical skills needed to start your own business.

Take entrepreneurship classes

Take classes in the EEE program in The Martin J. Whitman School of Management, explore other offerings in the iSchool’s IDS program, and supplement your academic offerings with classes in digital media and branding at Newhouse, as well as design thinking, graphic design, industrial design and UX skills at VPA’s School of Design.  Teach yourself to code with some classes in the College of Engineering and Computer Science or the iSchool.  Build out as many skills sets as possible across disciplines, because you’ll need that interdisciplinary thinking to create a great venture and build a robust team.  Syracuse University’s innovation and entrepreneurship academic offerings are some of the best in the country.  Take advantage of them.

Apply for an entrepreneurial internship

The Martin J. Whitman School of Management offers entrepreneurial and problem-solving students to apply to be a part of their experiential learning program as a student consultant intern. These intern head various projects that build skills crucial for entrepreneurship and inspire initiative and visionary goal setting as a corporate skill.

Handshake is the perfect space to find internships tailored to networks specific to Syracuse University and your own majors and field. A simple selection of the university that you attend and your school email creates an account for you that is designed to find internships and jobs unique to your skill sets and preferences. The best part? Employers and jobs that show up on your feed and searches are specifically looking for Syracuse students and can’t wait to hire you.

Techstars, a global platform supporting startups and investment into innovation, maintains a global network listing full-time employment opportunities and internships with startups and developing companies. You can set up a profile with them or connect your profile with LinkedIn to begin searching and applying for stimulating jobs in inventive and creative work environments,  

Learn about other resources on campus

Innovation Law Center — The Innovation Law Center, part of the Syracuse University College of Law focuses on training individuals to understand the laws, regulations, and patents associated with starting a business or designing a new product. The LaunchPad partners with the Innovation Law Center to help our student innovators patent their work.

Invent@SU – Invent@SU is a six-week summer program where students ideate, design, and, and work in teams to create a technological product just over a few weeks. With access to stipends and equipment such as 3D printers, machinery, and laser cutters, students have the opportunity to not simply dream and pitch their visions to others but actually put in the practical manual labor to realize their visions.

Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship—The Newhouse School boasts the Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship, a hub for innovation forecasting trends within the media industry and creating student interest in the state of the world around them and creating positive presences within media. With classes, programs, and internships centered around entrepreneurship within media, the Center helps shapes future media voices and influencers.  

Syracuse Center of Excellence – The Syracuse Center of Excellence (CoE) focuses on fostering innovations that will help build a sustainable future through environmental and energy systems.  Located in downtown Syracuse, the Center works with more than 200 companies to create a cleaner future. Students can become involved through research and projects with partner companies.  The Syracuse CoE also offers and Innovation funding award program.

SU MakerSpace — The MakerSpace at Syracuse is a materials lab cultivated to help students harness their creative visions through physical crafts and handiwork. From 3D Printers to soldering irons to embroidery machines, a vast array and assortment of machinery and equipment is available for any creative projects and personal use.  It is located in the lower level of Kimmel Hall.

Connect with community-based ecosystem partners:

WISE Women’s Business Center — Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship is a business center in Syracuse dedicated to supporting women in their drive towards business success. The center offers mentoring, coaching, and training in addition to their events for the purpose of networking and building connections.

South Side Innovation Center — The South Side Innovation Center is an entrepreneurial startup incubator in Syracuse’s south side of the city. Designed to connect prospective business owners with communities and inspire social impact, the incubator is run by the Martin J. Whitman School of Management and offers mentoring, assistance with business building, and access to vital startup resources.

The Tech Garden — The Tech Garden is an entrepreneurial center located in downtown Syracuse which provides resources, programs, funding, mentorship, and networks designed to help entrepreneurs launch their platforms and develop their visions. Just last year Governor Cuomo announced additional funding for the Tech Garden to expand its facilities to help Build the city of Syracuse into a New York innovation center.

Central New York Biotech Accelerator – The CNYBAC is owned and operated by SUNY Upstate Medical University, the region’s only academic medical center.  CNYBAC ventures gain access to Upstate clinical and basic science experts and state-of-the-art CORE Research Facilities and equipment with technical assistance.  CNYBAC also offers virtual client tenancy to provide access to expert partnerships, Creation Garage with 3D printing, a phenomenal and vibrant innovation ecosystem, conference room access for meetings, and attend events.  In addition, it offers a large number of workshops, training programs and an annual Medical Device Innovation Challenge.

Find funding for your idea

Business Competitions — Business plan competitions are the perfect way to gather initial funding to get your startup off the ground. Visit the LaunchPad website to learn about and apply to our competitions hosted every spring and fall with more than $125,000 up for grabs annually. In addition to many campus competitions hosted by the LaunchPad including ‘Cuse Tank, the Impact Prize, the Hult Prize, the ACC InVenture Prize, the Hunter Brooks Watson Spirit of Entrepreneurship Awards, Compete CNY and the RvD iPrize (sponsored by the iSchool), be sure to also check The Panasci Business Plan Competition and The Orange Tank Pitch Competition, both hosted annually by the Whitman School of Management.  In addition, the LaunchPad helps prepare students for competitive funding opportunities such as LaunchPad Techstars Fellowships and national competitions such as Startup Grind and the Global Student Entrepreneurship Awards.

Dorm Room Fund — Dorm Room Fund is a student-run seed investor focusing on student startups.  Teams can apply to pitch for $20,000 in funding and entrance to a community of mentors from companies like Venmo and Buzzfeed.  They can also become part of a network with other startups working towards the same visions and pursuing their own lofty dreams.  Work with the Syracuse LaunchPad to meet Dorm Room Fund representatives and get your company ready for funding.

Techstars Accelerator — For startups which have considerable traction, applying to one of Techstars’ three-month accelerators could be the stepping stone to turn your startup into a successful company. Held all over the world, the accelerators plunge your team into a world of high-level mentoring, funding, and a supported path towards future sustained growth and prodigious success. Applications to the various locations open around six times a year and applications are reviewed for eight weeks from the closing date.  Learn more about what it takes to become a Techstars portfolio company from the LaunchPad.

Starting a startup is no easy task, but the wealth of resources Syracuse University has to offer provides essential support to make the road slightly less grueling. From entrepreneurial communities to funding competitions and hands-on opportunities, Syracuse strives to make our campus community one where ideas not only flourish but are encouraged to fruition.

By Claire Howard ’23, LaunchPad Global Fellow