LaunchPad summer

Syracuse students are busy this summer working at internships, summer jobs, or building their ventures with virtual mentoring.  The LaunchPad has also been a hotbed of activity for visitors to the Syracuse campus from around the world.  We have been honored to conduct training programs and workshops in the LaunchPad this summer for these groups:

Veteran entrepreneurship

Some members of the Warrior Scholar Program at the LaunchPad

Blackstone LaunchPad Executive Director Linda Hartsock recently conducted training workshops on Innovation, Design Thinking and Value Creation for two programs hosted by Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF).

She taught an academic and experiential training unit as part of the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) Accelerate, an intensive dive into strategic planning.  The intensive residency program is designed for active-duty members with honorable discharge who come to the Syracuse campus from across the country. It is considered a first-of-its kind initiative to turn veterans into entrepreneurs.

Additionally, she taught another unit with similar topics to IVMF’s Warrior Scholar Project (WSP), a week-long on-campus “bootcamp” to give veterans a taste of the college student experience – living in the dorms, eating at the cafeteria, exploring various academic offerings, and meeting with university officials. The 15 veterans in WSP experience similar course instruction to EBV participants, but WSP attendees work in small groups to identify, define, and validate a problem that represents an opportunity for innovation. Students learn how to identify why a problem represents an opportunity for innovation, define an unmet need for a user segment, and conduct a current solutions analysis.

The LaunchPad also hosted a summer workshop for the Defense Comptrollership Program (DCP), a joint, premier program with the Department of Defense through the Martin J. Whitman School of Management and Maxwell School of Citizenship. The graduate program positions military and contracting leaders to deal with complex fiscal challenges at both operational and strategic levels. The workshop taught venture creation and presentation skills around product and business model development.

Scholars from around the world

Mandela Fellows Young African Leaders at the LaunchPad

The LaunchPad hosted business, government, civic and community innovators from across Africa visiting campus through the Maxwell School as part of the Mandela Fellows Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). Linda conducted a workshop on innovation and then spent a week working with them on ideas for projects that can address pressing problems in their home countries. The LaunchPad was honored to work with these changemakers from across Africa, and incredibly impressed by their commitment to finding innovative solutions to wicked problems ranging from equity to poverty, literacy, access to basic services such as food and education, mental health, government reform, and more.

Fulbright students at the LaunchPad with David Lind, director of International Programs at Syracuse University

Thirty-two Fulbright students from around the world also visited the LaunchPad through the Fulbright Graduate Studies Program at Syracuse University’s English Language Institute (ELI). This activity is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs as part of its Fulbright Program, the U.S. government’s flagship international exchange program supported by the people of the United States and partner countries around the world, and administered by the Institute of International Education (IIE). Fulbright grantees attending a 4-week virtual pre-academic experience through the English Language Institute in preparation for their graduate studies or research opportunities at various American institutions.  Linda led a session that taught them about innovation ecosystems in the United States, and how to use principles of discovery to drive innovation. She also offered guidance for grantees on how to connect with university and community resources to advance their projects, and then met with individual students to assist in framing their ideas and projects. Many are already successful entrepreneurs in their home countries. The goal of the Fulbright Graduate Studies Program at Syracuse University’s ELI program is to help grantees understand the demands of graduate work at a U.S. institution.

High school student entrepreneurs

iSchool students

students in front of the launchpad
Bruce Kingma’s iSchool summer class in Innovation and Startups visit the LaunchPad

Forty-nine High school students interested in creativity, innovative, or entrepreneurial high school student who are part of Summer College class in Innovation and Startups taught by Bruce Kingma were part of a short workshop by the LaunchPad to expose them to Syracuse University’s entrepreneurship programs in digital media, law and innovation, industrial design, engineering, social entrepreneurship, and information technology. Dickerson-Hartsock led a workshop on the process that the LaunchPad uses to help students create products, services, and technologies that can become businesses, and nonprofit organizations. The iSchool offers IDS courses and minor work in partnership with the Blackstone LaunchPad. Linda also talked about Syracuse University’s collaborative approach to innovation and entrepreneurship. The students continued to use the LaunchPad for team workspace, working with Linda, leading up to their final project presentations. Final pitches are being judged by LaunchPad peer mentors and LaunchPad alumni entrepreneurs in residence.

Biotechnology students

The LaunchPad hosted 24 high school science students exploring career pathways in biotechnology through Syracuse University’s Summer College program. Linda led a workshop on the fusion of the scientific method, innovation, and entrepreneurship.  The workshop culminated in a “Science Shark Tank” where students formed eight teams of three members, rapidly ideated problems and solutions, and created value proposition statements to make lighting pitches. Playing “Science Sharks,” they used peer evaluations to make “investments” from a pool of $25 million “Launch Dollars” to seed the best ideas for further research and development. It was fun and entertaining way for students learn the steps involved in commercializing research. Linda also serves on the Biotech Advisory Committee for the Biotechnology Program in the Biology Department, working with Professor Surabhi Raina who is director of that program.

Innovation sprints and lighting pitches with Syracuse University Summer College high school students

Out of the “glass box” – LaunchPad on the road

The LaunchPad was on a road show this summer with LaunchPad alumni and students at two major events this summer.

four people standing together
Josh Aviv, Kelsey Davis, Shawn Gaetano and Zebedayo Masongo speak at Juneteenth in Tulsa

The Blackstone Charitable Foundation and the Syracuse LaunchPad sponsored and led a panel on Black Tech Entrepreneurship coordinated by CLLCTVE at Tulsa’s Juneteenth Festival. The event is the largest of its kind in the country, attracting 50,000 people over the course of the June 17-19 weekend. Lead sponsor Atento Capital was lead sponsor of the event and hosted it at their headquarters in the original historic Greenwood district, home of the original Black Wall Street. Linda gave keynote remarks and moderated the panel, which included Syracuse LaunchPad alumni Kelsey Davis ’19 G’20 (founder of CLLCTVE), Josh Aviv ’15 G’17 (founder of SparkCharge) Shawn Gaetano ’21 (founder of Solace Vision). Zebedayo Masongo L’23 (founder of Grnwood), also joined the conversation. The panel focused on ways to catalyze Black entrepreneurship, empowerment and community revitalization.

Linda Dickerson-Hartsock with Samadhi and Josh Aviv at Startupfest

Josh and Linda were also peakers and mentors for Startupfest in Montreal this July, which is Canada’s largest startup gathering of founders, funders, educators, and innovation experts. Josh was the closing keynote speaker, sharing the story of his student startup journey and how he went on to raise $30 million in equity funding and scale his company to nearly 50 employees with operations across the United States. Josh won the $100,000 Best of the Fest Award in 2019, which helped provide seed capital for his venture. This was the first in-person Startupfest since 2019. Lindawas invited by the Startupfest team to serve as a featured mentor and shar best practices for supporting innovation ecosystems. She has continued to mentor startups in the program following the event.