Syracuse University and Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars alumnus Josh Aviv ’15, G’17, founder and CEO of SparkCharge, makes the pitch of his life on the Season 12 premiere of ABC’s Shark Tank this Friday, October 16 at 8 p.m.
It’s a moment he has been preparing for since he first conceived of the company as a Syracuse student, working nearly every day in the LaunchPad at SU Libraries while completing his education. SparkCharge makes portable, ultrafast charging units for electric vehicles, and has been featured in major technology and clean energy publications. TechCrunch most recently named Spark Charge as a top tech disruptor.
“Without the LaunchPad and Techstars, there would be no SparkCharge, and that’s simply the way it is,” says Aviv.
Aviv has gone on to become a dynamic figure in the clean-tech community since graduating from Syracuse but has kept his roots firmly planted here. He is still a member of the LaunchPad, participates in the LaunchPad Founders Circle, serves as the LaunchPad’s Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR), gives frequent workshops and Fireside Chats, and mentors and coaches current student startups. It’s part of the #GiveFirst ethos he developed through the LaunchPad & Techstars.
As a student, Aviv won the grand prize in the New York Business Plan Competition, as well as top honors in more than seven business competitions while earning his degrees. He worked closely with the LaunchPad on his product and business roadmap, and initially incubated his company after graduation at the Syracuse Center of Excellence (CoE) where he built his initial prototype and set up his first engineering operations.
As a student and recent graduate, he won the top prize of $1 million at 43North, was the recipient of a NYS FuzeHub Commercialization Competition award, won the California Climate Cup, Startup Fest’s global pitch competition, and Plug and Play’s clean energy innovation award.
After Aviv won the first ever Blackstone Launch Pad & Techstars Training Camp global pitch competition, he was selected for the prestigious Techstars accelerator program in Boston. The company has an engineering and sales headquarters in new corporate offices adjacent to Greentown Labs in Somerville, Massachusetts, a Boston area facility that is the world’s largest clean-tech incubator. He also has a manufacturing operation located in Buffalo, NY. SparkCharge has had a residency at the Plug and Play Tech Center, a renowned industry-focused accelerator program in Silicon Valley, and also currently has a residency at the Los Angles Cleantech Incubator (LACI).
Along the way, he worked with the Syracuse LaunchPad on every major pitch preparation, including this one.
Aviv is a member of the Syracuse University Libraries’ Advisory Board, supporting work being done by the LaunchPad around innovation, invention and entrepreneurship. He frequently speaks on behalf of the LaunchPad and SU Libraries at Syracuse University alumni events around the country. He recently established a clean energy prize through SU Libraries for a student team launching an innovation that tackles sustainability and climate change through a clean energy solution. It will be awarded for the first time at the upcoming LaunchPad Impact Prize competition on November 13, 2020.
Aviv was also the recipient of the Syracuse University Generation Orange Award which recognizes Generation Orange alumni who have made an impact on campus and in their communities through their volunteer work and philanthropy on behalf of Syracuse University. The award was presented at a signature event during 2019 Orange Central weekend.
SparkCharge last week announced a product launch for a new charging unit, the Roadie, as well as a EV Boost mobile app to order ultra-fast charging on demand.
It recently also announced the closing of $3.3 million in seed round financing led by PJC with participation from Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, PEAK6 Strategic Capital, M&T Bank, and Tale Venture Partners, in addition to other investors. This brings SparkCharge’s total funding to $5 million since its launch in 2017. The investments are helping the company scale manufacturing, meet rapidly growing sales demand, and aggressively expand development.
“SparkCharge’s goal is to make electric vehicle ownership as easy as possible by removing obstacles to EV adoption such as range anxiety, lack of infrastructure and access to convenient charging,” says Aviv. “SparkCharge works with roadside assistance companies, insurance firms, delivery companies, hotels, auto manufacturers to make ultra-fast EV charging available at any location. We listened to our customers and the EV market to create a product that will effectively remove the barriers to electric vehicle ownership.”
Aviv originally auditioned for Shark Tank in Las Vegas last winter. He had been attending the Consumer Electronics Show and speaking on a panel for the Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars. He saw the call for Shark Tank and decided to give the open audition a try. From there, he spent much of the past six months moving through various competitive rounds to make it to the finals. He was eventually selected to appear in Season 12 which was filmed late this summer at a secret location in Las Vegas.
Two members of the SparkCharge team are SU alumni who worked with him along the way. Peter Hartsock ’19 is director of digital content at SparkCharge and made the Shark Tank application video, along with most of the graphics that appear in the Shark Tank segment. Hartsock has created most of the content for SparkCharge’s social media channels over the past year. James Carver ’20 is the new sales development representative for SparkCharge and will soon help handle the volume of sales inquiries expected when the segment airs.
Shark Mark Cuban gave a sneak peek of what viewers can expect on the season premiere. With public health protocols in place due to COVID-19, Cuban told Variety that Shark Tank’s 12th season is very different than previous seasons. “It truly was a bubble,” he told Variety. The show was filmed in a different tank with the Las Vegas location kept under wraps. “We were in an undisclosed location,” Cuban told Variety, “a hotel where we literally were quarantined and not allowed to leave. We had to quarantine, the entrepreneurs had to quarantine, and so when the cameras started rolling, everybody was fired up and ready to go. The intensity was off the charts.”
In his Variety interview, Cuban says that fans won’t be disappointed. “You get the same Shark Tank that you’ve seen, but I think the level of intensity was 2X at least.”
Join the LaunchPad for a special Shark Tank Watch Party that evening at 8 p.m. and share the suspense as SparkCharge takes on the Sharks in the biggest tank of all: http://bit.ly/josh-sharktank
October 16 is Shark Day at Syracuse University. Josh Aviv will also be joining the LaunchPad as a celebrity judge for ‘Cuse Tank that afternoon. Read more about the ‘Cuse Tank competition here. https://launchpad.syr.edu/shark-day-cuse-tank-2020/