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Patrick Prioletti offers weekly”Tech Jedi” office hours in the LaunchPad

man sitting in front of a computer display screen

The LaunchPad is pleased to welcome Patrick Prioletti back this year as an Alumni Entrepreneur in Residence, offering weekly tech office hours each Wednesday at 1 p.m. in the LaunchPad in Bird Library. Patrick has been an active member of the LaunchPad for several years and is widely considered to be our “Tech Jedi,” working closely with LaunchPad startups on developing their tech platforms.

Prioletti has a master’s degree in applied data science from Syracuse University and a bachelor’s in business administration and economics from the State University of New York College at Oswego.  He is the founder of Psily, a mobile app based on-going psilocybin studies at MAPS, that is designed for convenient and robust wellness management and supplement therapy tracking personalized for the user’s lifestyle. It can help conveniently manage dietary supplements and other therapeutic remedies.  He is also the chief technology officer at Your Perfect Dose which is developing the first machine-learning smartphone app that will provide personalized dose suggestions for CBD and medical cannabis to help manage anxiety, depression, sleep disorders or chronic pain.

His areas of expertise include IoT, natural language processing and machine learning and AI, as well as data analysis.  As a student he worked for the Syracuse University LaunchPad as an Information Systems Architect through its Global Fellow Program, and also served as a Rubin Family Innovation Mentor.  Additionally, he was a graduate student researcher at the iSchool.

Patrick “pays it forward” by volunteering his time and expertise in the LaunchPad as he continues to grow his own startup ventures.

Schedule an appointment with him during his tech office hours at this link.

Vanessa Lora G ’23 on embracing her Hispanic heritage, identity and creative artistry

When musician, videographer, recorder, and producer Vannessa Lora is asked who she is, she answers simply: “I’m just an artist.” From her roots in the Bronx to her graduate music studies at Syracuse University, Lora has always used her energy to weave stories of love and resiliency and is now inspiring others to do the same through her self-owned record label.

When Lora first arrived at Syracuse University in 2014 for her B.F.A in Film, Cinema and Video Studies; she learned for the first time what it meant to feel like an outsider. Lora, who grew up in The Bronx in New York City, was used to an environment overflowing with celebrated diversity. Her family moved to New York City from the Dominican Republic, and in the Bronx Lora celebrated her cultural roots along with millions of other New Yorkers from different nationalities, ethnicities, and cultures. “In such a vibrant place you’re immersed in so many different cultures and one human being is like a melting pot of so many different things,” Lora said of her formative childhood in the Bronx.

However, when she moved to Syracuse, Lora suddenly felt different. She felt as if she did not belong. So much of her identity- her Hispanic heritage, her personal legacy as a first-generation college student- she felt made her somehow inadequate in a predominantly white university.

As Lora adjusted to life at Syracuse, she began reflecting more on the home she had felt utterly accepted in. Lora’s understanding of home stems from her family. Raised by a single mother, Lora understood what it meant to be resilient as she watched her mother, aunts, and grandparents work tirelessly and overcome terrible difficultys to be able to give her privileges such as going to college. They taught her to embrace and take care of herself, always highlighting the importance of building a life that aligned with your core self. “You cannot do anything until you have a grasp. of yourself. In order to be able to pour from a cup, you have to make sure your cup is full,” said Lora of the values her family raised her with.

This grasp of herself was fully realized when Lora left her family and home to study film in an entirely different community. But rather than let such feelings undermine her identity, Lora leaned more fully into understanding herself and her home. Her feelings of strangeness led her to embrace every aspect of what it meant to be her: Hispanic, queer, Dominican, New Yorker, first-generation college student. Through her art she began to articulate a definition of identity and home. “I want to represent where I come from and where I am,” reflected Lora.

After her undergraduate degree in film and a few years spent creating, Lora decided she wanted to pursue her artwork in a different medium: music. Currently she’s back at Syracuse studying at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications for a masters in Audio Arts and is using her music to celebrate her home and identity through pulling from jazz and hip hop: two music genres at the soul of life in the Bronx. But for Lora, the most important part of her music is the stories it tells. Lora’s music weaves stories of resiliency and love; stories that honor the difficult paths her family walked and celebrate the vibrant communities that nourish her.

Lora’s music does not just stop at telling her own story. Motivated by the desire to inspire others to share their stories of love and resiliency as well, she created her own independent music label. She is currently producing her own music and hopes to grow her label in the future to produce the songs and music of other storytelling artists.

Lora’s growth as an artist is a love letter to the meaning of home. Her own story of her and her family’s love and resiliency through toughness is a story crucial to what it means to be human, and through her new record label Lora celebrates the stories of humans and artists growing towards love.

Story by Claire Howard ’23, LaunchPad Global Fellow.

The future of protein supplementation: Tyrin Fernandes ‘20 and Fauna

“Do you want to try some pita?” Those were among the first words Tyrin said to me when I first met him in the LaunchPad last week. In his hands, he held a Tupperware container with two different varieties sliced into triangle-shaped pieces. One was a bread typical to something you might find at your local grocery store; white, fluffy, and wonderfully baked in Tyrin’s own apartment kitchen. But the other was unlike anything I’d seen before. It had the same fluffiness, texture, and consistency, but it was an interesting shade of greenish-gray and had a slightly nutty flavor. Both were delicious.

The catch? One of those pita breads was baked using dried cricket powder.

Ew! Dried up bugs? In my bread? No thank you!” That is what the average consumer might think when their imagination runs wild on the idea of putting crickets into their bread, but Tyrin is determined to normalize the consumption of insect-based food as a regular form of protein supplementation with his food venture, Fauna.

“It’s the idea of the crunchiness that might be putting people off,” he said. “Eating something like a cockroach seems disgusting because you think about it being squishy on the inside, but when you are eating insect protein that’s mixed into your normal food as powder, it’s easier to take baby steps. That is what I’m hoping for with Fauna. I do not want to turn anybody off right from the start.”

Tyrin graduated from Syracuse University in 2020 with his B.S. in computer science and has been working in the LaunchPad for the past three months, brainstorming different ideas. At the beginning of his entrepreneurial journey, he was more interested in the green technology industry; thinking of ways to use technology to improve the current state of our global climate crisis. But as time went on, he began to consider ways that we could reduce the current level of emissions rather than enabling them to stay at their current level. He had also been studying up on the long-term health benefits of vegetarian and vegan diets through books and documentaries for some time, and movies like Bladerunner 2049 portrayed the usage of insect farms as efficient method of meeting the protein needs of the population. That is where the seed for his venture was planted.

The funny thing is that Tyrin claims to be a picky eater, and you would hardly expect for someone like that to be experimenting with insect-based protein in the first place. “I don’t enjoy seafood or pork, and not for religious reasons,” he divulged. “I hardly eat beef either. It is bad for the environment, so I’ve been consciously choosing not to eat it. We are in a place where we need to slow down the global climate crisis. In a lot of ways, it is already past the point of no return. There is a lot of droughts happening, and coastal regions will be flooding in the next few years at this rate. Holding cattle as livestock contributes to that problem, but if the demand for beef is high then the farms will reason to keep supplying.”

Tyrin’s thinking is that by making the push to popularize insect protein in the market as a tasty alternative, it might create an extra incentive for the demand of beef to decrease. “Insect farms are probably going to be a thing of the future. Bugs seem to be abundant. They are even in places you do not want them to be,” he joked. “About 60-70% of their bodies are made of protein. That means for every ten grams of cricket powder, you are getting about seven grams of protein. Insects are also easy to farm and transport because of their size.”

Even so, the insect populations are decreasing as well. “Have you heard of the bug splatter test?” Tyrin asked. “It is when you drive on a highway, and you see the number of bugs that end up on your windshield. That bug splatter is becoming less and less because the ecosystems are being destroyed. I personally do not like insects that much, but it’s still important that we preserve them.” The hope is that insect farming and a higher demand for insect protein in the future could also help slow or reverse the decline in the population numbers.

Later in our conversation, I asked Tyrin why he chose to focus specifically on making a bread product using insect protein. “Protein bars are already popular,” he said. “And I thought about doing pancakes at first or even crepes as well, but the crepes especially are delicate to make. People have found ways to sell the powder on its own as a supplement too. The only issue there is that it is quite expensive, and the nutty flavor is also strong, so a lot of effort would go into diluting or substituting that.”

With bread however, this was not nearly as much of an issue for Tyrin. Throughout the month of August, he spent many hours learning and perfecting the recipe for his pita. He does not own a stand mixer currently, so he had to knead it the old-fashioned way. “I kept going until I was able to get something that was at least edible, and I thought hey, at least we’re getting somewhere with this,” he remarked.

The recipe for his bread has a minimal amount of insect powder. It is just enough to get that extra bit of protein in without ruining the structure of the bread, making the flavor too potent, or making the color too dark. Tyrin is wary that the darker green the bread gets, the less likely people may be to try it if they see it on a shelf. “If you make it tasty above all else, people will be willing to try it,” he said. “But if it is too dark, not so much. That is why I put the plain pita side by side. If I can show people that they are not too different from each other in a taste test, then maybe those people will go and tell their friends as well.”

Currently, Tyrin makes pita out of his apartment and sources his insect protein from Amazon. He will be looking for wholesalers in the future, as well as a test kitchen to experiment with different production methods. Right now, he needs to keep his oven on for at least an hour before he can even begin the baking process, which can be expensive for the power bill. Not to mention that he shares his apartment with another roommate, and contention for that space can lead to some friction when baking pita all the time.

Crickets have been in human diets for centuries, and they are consumed in most countries of the world, though most commonly in Southeast Asia and Mexico. I was curious if a diet including insects was a custom in Middle Eastern heritage as well, but Tyrin said that was not the case. He told me that he had not tried eating them until recently. However, most of his youth was spent in New York City where he did experience a melting pot of cultural cuisines. When I asked for his thoughts on the matter, he said this: “Traditions are supposed to evolve. There is this one place in Chelsea Market for example where they put Japanese food into taco shells, and it’s delicious. The whole point of the culinary world is fusion. You want to keep mixing food to try and find new things to enjoy.”

Right now, Tyrin is pushing to get the legal documentation and processing for Fauna completed by October and has plans to get his cricket pita on the shelves for customers to enjoy sometime in December.

Story by Jack Rose ’24, Global Media Fellow

Turn research into innovation with NEXIS

picture of a research lab with signage

NEXIS is a student-led technology research lab in the Syracuse University School of Information Studies focusing on Emerging Technologies. NEXIS accelerates learning and provokes innovation by enabling both graduate and undergraduate students to explore emerging technologies through collaborative research projects, and works with the Syracuse LaunchPad to commercialize research that comes out of the NEXIS lab.

NEXIS students work collaboratively with their team, faculty mentors, and external organizations to develop innovative and impactful research. Through research and experiential learning, students have the opportunity to learn new skills and become the next generation of innovators. Projects focus on utilizing emerging technologies such as VR, 3D printing, blockchain, data science, and more to solve real-world problems by developing innovative applications.

Located on the 3rd floor of the iSchool in room 339, the NEXIS smart lab is outfitted with all types of technology ranging from a virtual reality headset to a sensor that monitors how many people are the lab at a given time. With the help faculty advisor, Professor Michael Fudge, the Smart Lab continues to grow with new technology and new ideas.

One of the most recent projects conducted by the 3D printing team was to create a 3D printed hydroponic system. The objective was to learn how 3D printing can be beneficial to the alternative agricultural industry. The team utilized 3D printed material to create a structure that was able to grow microgreens. Along with their 3D printed structure, they used other technologies to create an automated watering system. This is a great example of NEXIS members utilizing a technology in the smart lab to explore new ideas.

The NEXIS team strives to learn by exploring new technologies, asking more questions, and pushing themselves beyond their comfort zone. Most importantly, researchers work collaboratively by leveraging their peers’ strengths and perspectives in order to achieve success. NEXIS thrives on innovative collaboration and for this reason NEXIS is always recruiting and looking for new members.

An example of NEXIS research that was successfully commercialized is SolaceVision, a 3D creation tool powered by AI and natural language that can create virtual objects in minutes using text. SolaceVision was developed in the NEXIS lab by Shawn Gaetano, former head of NEXIS, and incubated with the assistance of the Syracuse Blackstone LaunchPad. After graduation he was accepted into the prestigious Techstars LA Music accelerator, and has gone on to raise funds to now work on the venture full time.

Director of NEXIS for the 2022 – 2023 academic year is Ethan Nagorsky

This year’s NEXIS director is Ethan Nagorsky ’23, an iSchool student planning some exciting new programs and initiatives for this coming year, starting with an open house the afternoon of Tuesday, September 27. To get in touch email nexis.syracuse@gmail.com or swing by the iSchool and come check out the lab!

For more information visit https://nexis.ischool.syr.edu/.

Syracuse University innovation and business programs gains in U.S. News and Bloomberg Businessweek rankings

Syracuse University’s innovation, entrepreneurship and business rankings saw double digit gains in the most recent U.S. News and Bloomberg Businessweek Rankings.  Syracuse was named a Top 30 College for Innovation, tying with Princeton in the most recent News & World Report.

The report also ranked Whitman’s undergraduate business program No. 51 in the country, up from No. 64 last year.

The U.S. News & World Report rankings are based solely on the judgments of deans and senior faculty members at peer institutions. U.S. News surveyed deans and senior faculty members at each of the 516 undergraduate business programs accredited by AACSB International.

Bloomberg Businessweek ranked Whitman’s MBA program as one of the best business schools in their 2022-23 edition, jumping 14 spots to No. 68 on the list.

Bloomberg rankings rely on incoming student data (including its diversity), placement success at graduation, surveys of the most recent graduating class, MBA alumni from 2014 to 2016 and recruiters. The recent graduates and alumni evaluated Whitman on topics such as their learning experience, opportunities to network and emphasis on entrepreneurial skills in their program. With the help of the business schools, Bloomberg Businessweek surveyed 6,422 students, 11,304 alumni and 778 employers for this year’s rankings.

Syracuse Innovation Law Center launches certificate program in technology law and entrepreneurship in partnership with Whitman

The Innovation Law Center is is partnering with the Martin J. Whitman School of Management to offer a new Certificate of Advanced Study (CASTLE) in Technology Law & Entrepreneurship to encourage law and business students to take advantage of the expertise offered at both schools. The CASTLE program is open to graduate and law students at Syracuse University, SUNY ESF, and SUNY Upstate. Students enrolled in the program will learn business and legal skills key to the successful commercialization of new technology including, market sizing, competitive analysis, valuation, commercialization, financing, and intellectual property law. The CASTLE recognition will help students obtain positions in law, business management, and technology. 

The CASTLE curriculum consists of a minimum of 12 credits, including a foundational course in entrepreneurship offered at the Martin J. Whitman School of Management and an applied capstone course offered at the College of Law through its Innovation Law Center (ILC). Students enrolled in CASTLE can choose from courses in the areas of intellectual property, patents, venture capital, and start-up advising, among others. Students interested in the CASTLE can apply at any time during their graduate programs. College of Law students should apply in the Spring of their 1L year.

Zach Goldstein ’22 G’24 named LaunchPad Innovator in Residence

Zach Goldstein has been named the LaunchPad’s 2022 – 2023 Innovator in Residence.  The role is for dynamic young entrepreneurs to work in residency at Syracuse University while building their own ventures. It is filled by a visiting innovator who serves as a subject matter expert and role model for student startups on campus.

Zach is a graduate of SU’s iSchool, majoring in information systems with a focus on blockchain applications and cyber security technology.  He is currently pursuing his graduate degree at the iSchool. 

He is the founder of Tune Time, which was the recent prize winner in this fall’s Deloitte Digital + LaunchPad Digital Transformation Innovation Sprint.

Zach has industry experience with National Grid’s U.S. Cyber Security Incident Response Team, and with SIMBA Chain as part its cyber security, development operations and blockchain research team. He also interned at BlockBeam, a bootcamp and talent portal for blockchain/crypto/web3 jobs, and ghostfruit, a bitcoin mining operation.

He is co-founder of Syracuse University’s Cryptocurrency Club (CryptoCuse) and currently serves as its industry advisor. He was vice president of the university’s Worldwide Innovation Technology (WiTec) learning organization during his senior year. He also worked with CrytoDonate, an independent blockchain project and EdguCoin, a blockchain startup concept that provides simple crypto and blockchain education for their public and rewards their engagement with cryptocurrency. 

Zach was actively engaged with the LaunchPad as an undergraduate and is currently also a Blackstone LaunchPad Global Fellow. 

You can find him working in the LaunchPad on his venture, other special projects and mentoring other student startups, just about every day when he is not in grad school.

Indaria Jones ’14 named LaunchPad Program Manager

Indaria Jones

Indaria Jones (https://www.linkedin.com/in/indariajones/), is a seasoned Syracuse community builder and business development specialist who has been active with the LaunchPad as an alum.  Indaria is Founder and Chief Executive at The Creators Lounge, a co-working and innovation space for creatives in the City of Syracuse. Prior to this role, Indaria served as an Economic Development Specialist responsible for city-wide revitalization initiatives to increase investment through the Syracuse Industrial Development Agency (SIDA), Syracuse Economic Development Corporation (SEDCO), and Coronavirus Relief Programs. Indaria also served on a New York State Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) Advisory Group to accelerate economic investment for minority developers and the City of Syracuse Mayor’s Office communications team. Prior to that, she was engaged with St. Joseph’s Health on community initiatives. Her leadership has been recognized by Forbes Under 30, National Black Caucus, Central New York Biz Journal 40 Under 40, Syracuse.com, CNYCentral, Syracuse University Blackstone LaunchPad, CenterState CEO Business of the Year Finalist, and more.

She is a 2014 graduate of Syracuse University with a degree in business, majoring in marketing and management.

The LaunchPad Program Manager supports the mission of the Blackstone LaunchPad, which is part of SU Libraries.  The LaunchPad is Syracuse University’s innovation hub, connecting the entire University’s resource-rich ecosystem with a global network that provides support for aspiring entrepreneurs, inventors and creators.

The position encompasses communications, outreach, events planning and management, as well as other engagement activities. A highly collaborative role, the program manager works with LaunchPad staff and academic units across campus to deliver effective programs that support the student experience and Syracuse University’s Academic Strategic Plan to create an innovation ecosystem across the institution that prepares participants to be trailblazers in an entrepreneurial world.

The search committee for the role was comprised of Syracuse University + LaunchPad alumni Amanda Chou, Erin Miller, Matt Shumer and Jason Kuperberg who represented various academic disciplines from across campus.

Two distinguished alumni join the LaunchPad for in-person Fireside Chats on September 29 and October 6

Melissa Richards-Person ’89, Newhouse Advisory Board Member, and Steve Zimba ’86 G’87, Maxwell Advisory Board Member, are coming to the LaunchPad for Fireside Chats on September 29 and October 6. Both events are open to the Syracuse community.

Melissa Richards-Person, Thursday, September 29, 3 p.m., Blackstone LaunchPad

Melissa Richards-Person

Join Melissa Richards-Person ‘89, an insight-driven brand strategist for a chat on customer discovery and how to develop transformative brands that can build next-level business growth. A member of the Newhouse Advisory Board, Melissa is a brand strategist for major companies and currently consulting with a startup called Nextbite, helping them think through how they create, build and launch brands and refining their marketing organization and go-to-market strategy. She was formerly chief marketing officer at Papa Johns. Based in Louisville, Kentucky. Melissa will be in person for this event.

Steve Zimba, Thursday, October 6, Noon, Blackstone LaunchPad

Join Steve Zimba ’86 G’87, founder and CEO of Nulia which specializes in helping people develop digital skills by driving deep adoption and use of Microsoft Office 365. Nulia Works platform is the first of its kind in the SaaS industry, using data intelligence to tech enable a new generation of digital adoption and change management solutions. A member of the Maxwell Advisory Board, Steve’s unique blend of strategic planning, business development, channel building, sales and marketing, and operational skills has produced significant results in a broad range of sectors. He was the founder of MaaXcloud, where he boot-strapped a multi-million dollar professional services business in the fast paced cloud IT industry, helping businesses migrate to and use the most popular SaaS and IaaS services available from the largest Cloud ISVs on the planet. He established global channels for the services through leading IT distributors, cloud resellers, telcos, and managed service providers, and developed a partnership and multi-million dollar contract with Microsoft as one of the first Office365 Concierge Partners. Based in Eugene, Oregon, Steve will be in person for this event.