Personal finances are tricky enough. But managing finances for a business, particularly a new startup business, is an entirely different domain of stress and complexity. At the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University, Josh Alter ’22 works diligently to help startup teams keep track of finances and focus on growth.
The finance major in the Martin J. Whitman School of Management with a sports analytics minor in the Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics, is the LaunchPad’s resident financial advisor and of this year’s Launchstars. Alter has always loved tackling projects and leading business teams and this role is a perfect fit.
He connected to the LaunchPad in an uncommon way — through a chance friendship. In 2017, Alter met Sam Hollander, the LaunchPad’s Program Manager, on a trip to Australia. Alter and Hollander, who lived hundreds of miles away from each other, did not see each other again, but kept in touch. When they both committed to Syracuse, their shared travel experience turned into a great college friendship.
Through Hollander’s connection to the LaunchPad, Alter himself began to work with one of LaunchPad’s businesses, Popcycle. Run by Jackson Ensley and Paul Hultgren, two LaunchPad team members, Popcycle creates popups and spaces for student artists and creatives to sell their work, from woven tote bags to handprinted jean jackets. “The concept is amazing,” says Alter. “We have something we’re passionate about and so many talented student innovators are on campus. It was amazing to make a space for them.”
Alter worked with Popcycle to organize its finances, manage multiple revenue streams, and create budget forecasts for future projects. It was through this role that Alter was first immersed in the world of startups. He loved it. “A lot of the work I did then was a learning experience. Everyone who works in a startup wears all the hats,” says Alter.
Like most people, Alter’s college experience changed significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. The rapid shift from a packed academic schedule and rich social life to virtual Zoom classes within his bedroom was for him, like it many, debilitating for his mental health and wellbeing. After missing an on-campus fall 2020 semester, he needed a change. He said goodbye to his roommates, packed up his belongings, booked a flight to Honolulu, and spent the next semester alternating his time between a sunny Hawaiian beach and completing online coursework. “I kind of dropped everything,” says Alter. “There’s nothing like sun, water and warm weather to turn everything around. It was probably the best three months of my life.”
Alter’s biggest growth that happened in his time away from campus was independence. Away from the professional and social networks that a university provides, he was forced to form new networks independently and grow in a self-sustained way.
It’s this independence and self-courage that he applies to his work today and is part of what he loves about the LaunchPad. “It’s such a real space,” says Alter about the LaunchPad. “In the classroom you’re doing a lot of theoretical work, but here these students have passion and ideas and I get to help develop those.”
This drive to realize the grand ideas of others into reality through financial services has led Alter to create a career where he does just that. After graduation, he’ll be working for Deloitte on an account for a large sports-related client, where he’ll audit and advise the client on their financial model.
From financial forecasting for small student startups to a prestigious global company, Alter uses his financial knowledge to help people and companies cement their dreams into reality. His power lies not just in his passion, but his ability to create space and growth for himself through every difficulty, like his choice to spend a semester in Hawaii.
“We get very wrapped up in our jobs and our future and it’s important that we take a breath and look at what we’ve done to see that things are going well.”
Story by Claire Howard ’23, Global Fellow; photo supplied