Inside the legacy of The Spirit of Entrepreneurship

Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award winners graphic

Syracuse University is hosting a $10,000 “Hunter Brooks Watson Spirit of Entrepreneurship” competition this spring.  The award, celebrating the life and spirit of Hunter Brooks Watson, is made possible through the generosity of the Hunter Brooks Watson Memorial Fund. The Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars at SU Libraries coordinates the event in partnership with the iSchool’s RvD iPrize competition.  Applications are due March 15 and the competition is March 26.  Here are some reflections on “The Spirit of Entrepreneurship” and about Hunter.  This special “Insights” column (below) was written by his father, Jerry Watson, who worked with Syracuse University to establish this very meaningful legacy program.

Hunter Brooks Watson died at age 20 on Saturday, June 18, 2016, due to injuries suffered in an automobile accident.  Hunter was a passenger in one of the two vehicles involved and, although wearing his seatbelt, died at the scene.

Hunter was an astonishing and unique young man.  His goals were to make friends, make every day count, dance like no one is looking, and love life.  As a result, he had more friends than most people have in a lifetime.

Hunter was a passionate athlete and sports enthusiast.  At the Potomac School in McLean, Virginia, he participated in wrestling, baseball, and football.  In addition, he was a fan of soccer and loved to play informally.

Introducing Hunter to piano lessons at age five created a spark that would burn for the rest of his life.

His love of music grew to learning many estimates, writing music and recording. By the age of 10, his song “Video Games” was recorded into a music video which created a sensation on several YouTube channels and resulted in over 10,000,000 views from around the world!  Hunters preteen Black Out Band played music festivals, and middle school assemblies from West Virginia to Maryland, and they became little boy idols at their young age.

Taking advantage of the video gaming craze, Hunter mastered as many video games as he could.  He then created “Gaming Strategies” websites where he would share strategies on how to master the games and earned money from the ads posted by Google.

After Hunter and his friends attended a “teens only” club during 10th-grade spring break in Florida, he brought the concept home and began working with DC area nightclubs to sponsor similar events.  The clubs would let him promote and sell tickets. Hunter convinced the friends he met at school mixers and sports competitions to promote the events to their Facebook friends and every event sold out! 

Growing up, magic was Hunter’s hobby.  He was comfortable on stage and often performed shows for family and at school assemblies.  By the time Hunter left for college, he had become fascinated with popular comedians and would attend their shows whenever one was in town. During his last summer, he was working on a comedy script and planned to attend local mic nights at comedy clubs in DC to test his skills.

His interest in computers and data analytics led him to identify a department at Syracuse University with the curriculum best matching his interest.  Hunter was accepted without visiting the campus, and he enrolled to study ‘Big Data’ which he believed to be the next frontier in the use of computer technology and data analytics. He was to enter his junior year when he died.

Closing out his music roots, after he died, his family was notified by a Syracuse recording studio that Hunter had just finished recording an album containing six musical compositions. We found the cover art for the album on his computer.

Hunter’s interest and ability to foresee the developing trends of his age can be found in many kids like him.  Those are the youth the Hunter Brooks Watson Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award will seek to fund with their ideas, enthusiasm, and dreams.

This year’s Syracuse University iPrize features a $10,000 “Hunter Brooks Watson Spirit of Entrepreneurship” Award.  The award, celebrating the life and spirit of Hunter Brooks Watson, is made possible through the generosity of the Hunter Brooks Watson Memorial Fund.

Joining the judges to help select this year’s winners are current and former students from Syracuse University and members of the HBW Memorial Fund Founder’s Committee.

The Hunter Brooks Watson Fund also manages a separate grant program.  Hunter’s Fund offers individual grants, up to $5,000, to help support young people who have interests in areas similar to Hunter’s, but who may not have the financial means to follow their passions.