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Vaishnavi Varma ’21 uses sentiment analysis to improve social media health

As humans, we are in constant “go mode.” We are continuously transitioning from doing work, to going to class, to checking social media without taking a moment to take a deep breath and become mindful of what we are doing. Particularly, as technology has progressed over the past decade, we are taking in more information than ever without taking a second to realize what we are reading and how it is affecting our well-being.

Over quarantine, Vaishnavi Varma, a senior majoring in Physics from Abu Dhabi, began to realize the toll that her media consumption was taking on her mental health after finding the meditation app Headspace. She says, “I really like meditation because it’s not super time-consuming and it helps me become more aware of my emotions.”

Through meditation, she was able to realize how much her social media use was impacting her. Varma says it “was difficult to find a balance because when I would go completely off social media, I felt super disconnected, but I also noticed the negative effect it had when I was on it too often.”

She wanted to create an application that helped social media users realize what they were consuming and how it was affecting them. As an intern at Bank of America, Varma learned about an interesting subject called sentiment analysis, essentially how neutral, negative, or positive words were in any form of media. Using this newfound knowledge, she decided to create NewZone, an application that would be incorporated into your Instagram newsfeed and would tell you if content is rated positively, negatively, or neutral so users can be more aware of how their consumption is affecting their mental health. 

This is not Varma’s first idea as she’s had the entrepreneurial spirit ever since middle school. She says, “I’ve always done small business here and there… I’ve been upcycling old jeans since middle school… I think it really helps me explore my own creativity.” 

Varma says that she couldn’t have done this without the help from the Blackstone LaunchPad and Techstars at SU Libraries. She explains, “My idea was very new, and I came up with it during winter break, but I had very little direction.” With the help of her Rubin Family Innovation Mentor Sam Hollander, she was able to get insight into how to develop her idea. Varma said, “Sam was super helpful in asking the right questions to help guide me in the right direction and build a solid foundation of what I wanted my venture idea to be.” 

Varma will be working as a Business Technology Analyst at Bank of America after school but is excited to continue building out NewZone. She says, “Social media has some great aspects but there needs to be some awareness surrounding it.”


If you want to learn more about NewZone check out its website.

Story by Jack Lyons ‘22, LaunchPad Global Fellow; photos and graphics supplied

Camila Tirado ’23 raises awareness about the Wayúu tribe

In the small town of La Guajira, Colombia, resides a tribe of the Wayúu people. A woman sits cross-legged with thick, colorful thread in one hand and a weaving needle in the other. Around her, ten more women are working on the same creation: beautiful, handwoven bags.

While visiting her friend, Sofía Castaño, in Colombia, Camila Tirado stumbled upon the Wayúu bags that inspired her to begin her business.

Camila — born in Tijuana, Mexico and now a biotechnology major with a French minor at Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences — has always had an appreciation for other culture and a desire to see others succeed.

“I enjoy enabling communities to succeed by breaking down people’s mental barriers and helping them believe in the art that they create,” Camila said.

The day Camila discovered the Wayúu people, she bought 15 bags on the spot.

Camila explained that in the U.S., everyone has a go-to bag to take everywhere, but they are often made out of polyester and lack handmade, artful expression. In Colombia, however, the Wayúu bags are not uncommon.

“It’s something everyone has, and they’re very proud of it. The bags are not a trend — people are carrying Colombia’s culture with them,” Camila recalled.

Camila told Sofia, “Let’s start a business. It will be hard and exhausting, and we won’t know what we’re doing half the time, but I think we can pull it off.”

Upon returning to the U.S., she successfully sold all 15 bags.

Touched by the receptiveness of U.S. customers, Camila worked with Sofia — her intermediary and quality control — to buy 50 more bags from the tribe and send them to the U.S.

“I know the bags are beautiful. I have no worry that they ‘won’t sell.’ I just need to get the right eyes on them,” Camila said.

Recently, Camila switched from using Instagram shop to opening an Etsy store after noticing that buying on Instagram creates friction and hesitancy to buy, compared to the more reputable Etsy platform. Over the past couple months, she also developed a better grasp on shipping.

While fine-tuning her shipping process, Camila realized that to make money she needs to invest money. When funding her business, Camila used her own money to maintain peace of mind and remain free of debts and obligations.

“I can make my own decisions and take cool risks, knowing it’s my money,” she said.

Camila invested in a shipping label printer and switched over to decomposable packaging.

“I would rather lose $5 of profit than to know my business is contributing to pollution, which affects the very same people I’m trying to help,” Camila stated. She emphasizes that often, companies say that they support a certain cause, but in reality, this acts as just a nice label rather than a practice adopted in all aspects of the company.

Currently, Camila is searching for an organization that helps the Wayúu people in a sustainable and meaningful way, rather than taking major profit cuts or merely donating the money. Once they identify and meet with an organization that genuinely supports the Wayúu tribe, Camila will be donating a percentage of her proceeds to help them.

After being featured on the Daily Orange, Camila realized, “The story of the Wayúu people matters. Now it’s up to me to spread that history to each person that purchases a bag.”

Camila noted that in Wayúu culture, the women lead the tribe and bring economic profit. They deeply value nature but are terribly affected by climate change. This is the story Camila hopes to raise awareness for.

“I also want people to gain an appreciation for handmade things in a world where it’s so easy to ship something from a factory in China,” she added. “With handmade bags, you can feel the spirit of the woman who made it. If the bag is stiff, that means the knitting was harder, and the woman was feeling something. If the bag feels lighter, she was more relaxed. No bag is exactly the same.”

With every product purchase, Camila also includes a handwritten thank you note to cultivate a special customer experience for every buyer.

Camila has experienced many challenges running the business while being a full-time student, working four other jobs, coordinating with Sofia overseas and managing exchange rate differences. Despite these trials and tribulations, however, she has found the startup process to be very rewarding.

“We live in a really cool era where you can make your own career,” she stated. “And just like I found the Wayúu people, I can find so much more out there.”

Looking forward, Camila plans to expand the shop to include other accessories and work with the Wayúu women to request more in-demand color designs.

“By wearing a Wayúu bag, you’re wearing history,” Camila concludes.

Camila’s Wayúu bag shop can be found on Instagram and Etsy.

Story by Sasha Temerte ’23, LaunchPad Orange Ambassador; photo supplied

Patrick Linehan ’21 with AJ Damiano ’18 on finding focus on The Commute to Class

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AJ Damiano ‘18, co-founder and CEO of Powerspike and a Whitman School of Management, LaunchPad and Techstars alum, joins Patrick Linehan ’21 (Newhouse) for this week’s “Commute to Class” podcast.  In this episode Linehan and Damiano discuss finding focus, developing a personal mission, and turning a college startup into a full-time job.  Listen here.

Damiano founded Powerspike with Michael Paris ’20 (VPA communications design) as students at Syracuse University.  The Powerspike platform allows brands and sponsors to create campaigns, connect with Twitch influencers and teams at scale.  The media and technology company is focused on building the most compelling and streamlined destination for activating sponsorships within gaming communities. Powerspike collaborates with 40,000+ gaming and esports influencers to execute premium, authentic influencer marketing campaigns. Powerspike’s influencer network reaches over 160M+ viewers every month and grew over 1000% in 2020. The 5-year-old company is backed by Techstars, Cox Enterprises, the Sixers Innovation Lab, the Dorm Room Fund, and Ocean Azul Partners.

Damiano will share the story of building the venture as a student, and the challenges of staying focused on building the company milestone by milestone.  By the time they graduated from Syracuse, the Powerspike team had closed an initial round of funding, raising around $500,000.  AJ’s team completed the Atlanta Techstars Accelerator program after he graduated, and while Paris was still a college student, and they then went on to close on $1.3 million in funding. 

AJ Damiano in his undergraduate days at the LaunchPad

Powerspike is based in the NYC metro area and Saratoga, NY, and have built out a team to further develop their innovative marketplace platform that helps livestreaming influencers create relationships with potential sponsors and brands interested in accelerating business growth through live streaming influencer marketing.  Some of their strategic partners and brands have included ActiVision, Bethesda, Logitech, Sketchers and Express Men.

Weekly episodes of The Commute to Class feature 12–15-minute interviews hosted by Linehan with Syracuse University LaunchPad alumni who have gone on to create successful ventures or join innovation teams at leading companies.

Catch the entire series here, on Apple, or wherever podcasts are distributed. 

The first eight episodes are now available and feature:

  • Starting Up with Linda Dickerson Hartsock, executive director of the Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars
  • Building Community with Dylan Kim ’18 (Whitman), co-founder of Brevité
  • Stepping Out with Julia Haber ’18 (Newhouse), founder of WAYV and Home From College
  • Burning Out with Kelsey Davis ’19 (Newhouse) G’20 (Whitman), founder of CLLCTVE
  • Jumping Out with Jose Javier Garcia-Rovira ’19 (Whitman) and Quentin Rosso ’18 (Whitman), co-founders of Gamercraft
  • Defeating Gremlins with Kayla Simon ’19 (Engineering and Computer Science), co-founder of InSpire
  • Failing Up with Steven VonDeak ’08 (College of Law), co-founder of Density
  • Finding Focus with AJ Damiano ’18 (Whitman), co-founder and CEO of Powerspike

Learn more about the entire series here:  https://anchor.fm/blackstone-launchpad

Opportunities from our colleagues at The SOURCE

The SOURCE office on the second floor of Bird Library

Research and discovery are essential to innovation.  Enhance your skills through these two opportunities from the Syracuse Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Engagement (The SOURCE), located on the second floor of Bird Library.

Upcoming Research Workshops:

Whether you’re interested in getting started, are already working on a project, or looking for help in presenting your work please join us for one or all of the sessions.

  • Tues, April 13th, 11am-12pm | Creating and Presenting Effective and Meaningful Presentations
  • Fri, April 16th, 1-2pm | Crafting a Research Elevator Speech
  • Fri, April 23rd, 11am-12pm | A Guide to Resumes: Research Experiences
  • Wed, April 28th, 11am-12pm | Crafting a Research Elevator Speech

Register Here

First Year Student Application or Young Research Fellows Program Due April 16

The Young Research Fellows (YRF) program is currently seeking applications for its 2021-23 cohort. Young Research Fellows, guided by a faculty mentor, engage in two years of group mentoring in early research and creative inquiry development and have access to up to $7,000 in funding towards research expenses during their undergraduate career.  The program is open to students in all disciplines. To be eligible students must be a first-year student who:

  • Have a minimum 3.75 grade point average;
  • Have the endorsement of a faculty member willing to serve as faculty mentor for the two-year program; and
  • Have a demonstrated commitment to research/creative inquiry.

Apply Here

The SOURCE fosters and supports diverse undergraduate participation in faculty-guided scholarly research and creative inquiry. Student participants can enhance their skills through training in research or other creative skills, and by designing projects that culminate in research, creative and professional contributions that are original and timely. 

The SOURCE team is working an alternate-day arrangement in Bird Library Monday-Thursday and the  office is open remotely each day.  Staff are available to answer questions and meet by phone, video or email Monday-Friday.  E-mail ugresearch@syr.edu to set up a time for a phone or video call.

Join us May 4 with Elizabeth Ruscitto ’07 G ’12 on building community, customer acquisition and relationship management

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Join us Tuesday, May 4 at 7:00 p.m. for our LaunchPad Spring Speaker Series with Elizabeth Ruscitto ’07 G’12, owner of Elizabeth Ruscitto Consulting, based in New York, Boston and the San Francisco Bay areas.  She is an angel investor and global leader with extensive expertise in data-driven operations and partnership and ecosystem development, and has scaled communities of 3.5 million+ members. An adjunct faculty member in the School of Information Studies, she was previously director of Developer Relations at HubSpot and Director of Developer Programs and Platform Integrations at Leap Motion.  Join the conversation here.

Ruscitto is a technical executive with 15 years of experience in building and scaling global software, hardware, and community programs. Since graduating from Syracuse, Elizabeth has helped companies build communities through thoughtful brand stories, servant leadership, and global-first program creation. Her expertise is in community development, growth and behavior models, scaling developer ecosystems, product go-to-market strategies, and accelerator program development.  As a seasoned leader, she has created mission-driven, cross-functional teams with a strong sense of culture and meaningful growth.

Elizabeth got her launch in the startup world as a Syracuse University student, where she was employee number one and the community program manager for the Student Sandbox when it launched in 2010.  She was the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Student Sandbox and was the co-founder of the original IDEA Connect Board at Syracuse University while pursuing her M.S. at the iSchool.  

Join us April 27 for a conversation with global digital brand strategist Jordan Fox ’13

man in a white shirt looking at the camera

Join us Tuesday, April 27 at 7:00 p.m. for our LaunchPad Spring Speaker Series with Jordan Fox, founder of MMP Digital and global digital brand strategist who has worked with organizations Like VaynerMedia, the vaulted brand-building agency.  Fox is a 2013 graduate of the Whitman School of Management where he majored in accounting. Join the conversation here.

Fox is a lifelong learner and future-minded thinker. He began his career at SocialCode, then the largest social media buying agency in the world, before joining VaynerMedia, the vaunted brand-building agency. During this time, he worked with clients like Chase, Verizon, Reckitt Benckiser and more.

At 26, he left the agency world to launch his own business, MMP Digital. In naming MMP, Jordan was inspired by his grandfather, Arthur Dock, who would always say to him, “Make Me Proud.” Fox founded MMP with a mission to improve upon the outdated practices and processes of the traditional business model.

Core to this mission was departing from the red tape, bloated payrolls, and unnecessary overhead that in his experience, worked to the detriment of both clients and employees alike. Instead, Jordan sought to create a new model which would comprise of specialized collectives of remote freelancers who could work on their own terms, have an ideal work-life balance, and be assembled and configured based on the needs of clients.

His first client at MMP was musician, Alicia Keys. Fox led the global digital strategy across all of Alicia’s digital platforms, reaching her audience of 80MM+. He built smarter work streams while managing Alicia’s in-house, digital agency and record label teams.

Since officially launching in 2019, MMP has signed 20+ clients across different industries including Sports, Music, Advertising, and CPG.

When not working on MMP, Fox stays involved with non-profit organizations. Jordan was selected to the ADL Glass Leadership Committee of 2020-2021; he is on the Board of Directors for the Brooklyn Youth Sports Club; he is the Communications & Social Media Chair for Syracuse’s NYC Alumni Club; he was selected by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) to help create their new Social Media certification course; and he was selected to be a judge of the 2020 Reggie Awards, presented by Association of National Advertisers (ANA).

Huddle co-founder joins us April 20

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Join us Tuesday, April 20 at 7:00 p.m. for the next in our LaunchPad Spring Speaker Series with Jack Kuveke, co-founder and COO of Huddle, a platform for small group video calls, called “Hoodles” led by brands, influencers, and interesting people.  The company recently closed on several million dollars of seed financing and is actively expanding.  Jack also runs a startup financing bootcamp, sharing his experiences as a serial entrepreneur, former program manager at Antler, and an early-stage investor.  Join the conversation here.

“Hoodle” is in private beta. Download the app to reserve your username and join the waitlist.  Apply here to host a Hoodle.

Check out just a few recent Hoodles here.

Jack was also previously CCO at GameCredits, a cryptocurrency building solutions for in-game monetization and also a cryptocurrency (GAME) that operates on the Ethereum platform. From its inception in 2014 until late 2017, GameCredits was the most successful altcoin in price growth ever — more than Ethereum, Ripple or Litecoin.  With the help of the GameCredits community, it raised $53 million in 2017, at the time the largest crypto ICO ever. It still remains the largest crypto ICO ever to not receive investment from any venture capitalist group. GameCredits later merged with the NovaToken network, leveraging a full eSports platform, experienced team, partnerships and a new vision.

Join us for a great conversation with Jack about what it takes to be a founder that builds a great new tech platform, a connected network of experts and influencers, gets noticed, and gets funded.

SparkCharge founder and Shark Tank winner Josh Aviv ’15 G’17 joins us April 13

Josh Aviv

Josh Aviv ’15, G’17, founder and CEO of SparkCharge, will be the featured guest at the LaunchPad Spring Speaker Series on Tuesday, April 13 at 6:30 p.m.  Aviv recently walked away with a million-dollar deal for his portable ultra-fast, modular electric vehicle (EV) charging system on last fall’s season premiere of ABC’s Shark Tank.

Aviv started SparkCharge in the Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars at Syracuse University, built his first prototype in the Kimmel MakerSpace and graduated into his first R&D lab at the Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems Innovations. After graduation he went on to become a dynamic figure in the clean-tech community and remains an active member of the LaunchPad, serving on the Founders Circle and as the LaunchPad’s alumni entrepreneur in residence. 

He is a new 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 at Syracuse University alumni events around the country.

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. He won the top prize of $1 million at 43North, a Buffalo-based startup competition and was also the recipient of a NYS FuzeHub Commercialization Competition award. He has won the California Climate Cup, Startup Fest’s global pitch competition, and Plug and Play’s clean energy innovation award. TechCrunch most recently named SparkCharge as a top tech disruptor.

After winning the first ever Blackstone Launch Pad – Techstars Training Camp global pitch competition, he was selected for the prestigious Techstars accelerator program in Boston after graduating from Syracuse.  The company now has an engineering and sales division in Somerville, Massachusetts, and a manufacturing facility in the Buffalo area.  SparkCharge also held residencies at the Plug and Play Tech Center, a renowned industry-focused accelerator program in Silicon Valley and at the Los Angeles Clean Tech Incubator (LACI).

SparkCharge recently closed on $3.3 million to scale production of its portable, modular charger, led by Point Judith Capital (PJC) with participation from Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, PEAK6 Strategic Capital, M&T Bank and Tale Venture Partners. This round brings SparkCharge’s total funding to $5 million since its 2017 launch. The company plans to use the new investment to scale up manufacturing and aggressively expand development of its products.

This spring SparkCharge partnered with Allstate Roadside, Spiffy, HONK Technologies, and Mark Cuban to launch BoostEV, the first-ever on-demand mobile EV charging network.  SparkCharge recently launched the new service in 12 cities including New York, Chicago, San Diego, Dallas, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. EV owners can order a charge to be delivered to their vehicles by using SparkCharge’s BoostEV mobile app. SparkCharge plans to open up in a different city every month and roll out the service in 25 cities by the end of 2021.

SparkCharge’s goal is to build the world’s largest mobile electric vehicle charging network through hardware, software, and partnerships.

Aviv will be speaking about his Shark Tank experience, offering tips on how startups can prepare to become investment ready, talking about how to approach investors for funding, and crafting a sales strategy.

The link to attend is here.

four headshots of founders

Next up in the series:

  • April 13, 6:30 p.m. — Shark Tank Winner and founder of SparkCharge, Josh Aviv who raised $5 million for his ultra fast EV charging platform, including a $1 million investment on Shark Tank.
  • April 20, 7 p.m. — Founder of Huddle social media platform, Jack Kuveke, formerly program manager at Antler accelerator, who recently closed on several million dollars for his new venture
  • April 27, 7 p.m. — Founder of MMP Digital, Jordan Fox, formerly with SocialCode, then the largest social media buying agency in the world and VaynerMedia, the vaunted brand-building agency
  • May 4, 7 p.m. — Elizabeth Ruscitto, founder of Elizabeth Ruscitto Consulting, previously director of Developer Relations at HubSpot and director of developer Programs and platform integrations at Leap Motion, now adjunct faculty in the iSchool 

Syracuse University’s LaunchPad hosts Hult Prize Regional Impact Summit

Syracuse University Libraries’ Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars virtually hosted approximately three dozen teams from 19 countries and all five continents for the prestigious Hult Prize Regional Impact Summit competition. This year’s Hult Prize 2021 Challenge centered around the theme “Food for Good.” Hult Prize Impact Summits are hosted in 100 locations around the world, and this year Syracuse is one of only three regional hosts in North America. Winners of the regional campus entrepreneurial competitions go on to compete in the global competition hosted by the United Nations, with that winner receiving a $1 million seed capital grant.

The Syracuse University campus director of the Summit is Claire Howard ’23 (Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Policy), a Global Fellow at the Syracuse University LaunchPad. The day-long event kicked-off with keynote speaker Catherine Bertini, Professor Emeritus from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, at 9:30 AM EST.  Bertini is the 2003 World Food Prize Laureate andlong-time director of the World Food Programme which recently won the Nobel Peace Prize.

The distinguished panel of competition judges included:

  • Adam Motiwala – Former global disaster information officer for the United Nations and former product manager of International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Motiwala is the current Senior Product Owner of Fifth Tribe, a digital agency that serves government agencies and nonprofits.
  • Ryan Riegg – An experienced lawyer and founder of startups, featured in major press outlets such as the Wall Street Journal and CNN, Riegg is an Innovation Fellow for Columbia Business School’s Entrepreneurship Center, mentor for the Hult Prize, and current senior associate in corporate law.
  • Sheryl Chamberlain – Chamberlain serves as a chair on the Hult Prize Council and works as the Director of Global Alliances at Coupa Software. She’s experienced in strategic partnerships and business improvements and has sat on numerous boards such as Forbes Nonprofit Council and How Women Lead.
  • Kailesh Karavadra – Karavadra is the Global Coordinating partner for EY services of a major healthcare corporation and the San Jose Office Managing Principle. Born in Uganda and raised in India and the United Kingdom, he’s spent his career serving global clients with EY and helping them improve their business performance.
  • Ankha Marza – Marza is an internationally renowned executive coach at SpeakYourPower and has coached presidents and vice presidents of countries and corporations, Navy SEALs, royalty and government dignitaries, Hollywood celebrities, Fortune 500 Executives, global sales groups, nonprofit organizations, young entrepreneurs and startup founders, CEOs, and their teams in the US and worldwide.
  • Derek Wallace – CEO and Founder of Kalamata’s Kitchen, Wallace is a Syracuse University alumnus dedicated to creating a more open-minded generation of children through exploration of food and diversity of culture.
  • Catherine Bertini – An accomplished leader in international food organizational reform, Bertini is the former head of the United Nations World Food Programme and United Nations Under Secretary General. In 2003 she was named the World Food Prize Laureate for her transformational work in food access and policy. She has served as a Senior Fellow of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and is currently chair of the board Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and Distinguished Fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. She is professor emeritus at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Policy at Syracuse University.
  • Amjad Janjua  – Former committee member of the World Economic Forum and CEO of the Pakistan State Oil Company, Janjua is the President & CEO of the Business Council for Sustainable Development in Pakistan and works on projects to shape future policies for sustainable growth.
  • Ashok Mahbubani – Mentor for the Hult Prize, Mahbubani is the co-founder and CEO of the Multitronics Group, a business in the automotive electronics industry utilized to become a force for social good.
  • Ethan Tyo – A Syracuse University graduate student in food studies, Tyo is the author of his own cookbook Fetagetaboutit, which highlights a plant-based diet. He’s also worked with several global entrepreneurs and food companies in content creation and planning.

Two Syracuse student teams competed in the April 9 event hosted by Syracuse University:

  • WaxPax Solutions, Erica Morrison ’21 (Whitman School of Management and Newhouse School of Public Communications), Lidia Menbaeva ’21 (College of Arts and Sciences) and Daniel Hamrahi ’21 (Whitman School of Management), a multi-purpose biodegradable packaging solution made from a proprietary blend of beeswax and cellulose that will help eliminate landfill waste in the food supply chain.
  • Cuapa Monde Conservation, Claire Chevalier ’24 (Whitman School of Management) and Sasha Temerte ’23 (College of Arts and Sciences), a consulting firm that seeks to develop universal standards for sustainable packaging, similar to the organic certification standard for producers of organic food and other organic agricultural products, for producers and consumers of all consumer-packaged goods in the U.S. and European Union.

Also, another Syracuse team will be competing in the April 19 Regional Impact Summit hosted by the University of Massachusetts, Amherst:

  • Gather, Nolan Kagan ’23 (Whitman School of Management)  a community-building web and mobile application to bring people of various ages and cultures around the world together to cook and share favorite recipes and conversation, first in the digital space and then in real life post-pandemic, to address social isolation while building cultural and social literacy among people who not might otherwise meet.

All three were winners of the Syracuse campus Hult Prize competition in December.

The Syracuse event included a panel “Advice of a Lifetime” featuring Derrell Smith, a Syracuse alumnus, former NFL player, food show host for Mad Good Food, and founder and CEO of the culinary brand 99EATS, a virtual brand working to connect people through food, and William Wright, Senior Vice President of Global Product Innovation and EVP and Chief Operating Officer at Tupperware Brands.

The program also included a musical interlude with performances by Syracuse University student band  NONEWFRIENDS and a networking panel moderated by two Syracuse University alumni and former LaunchPad Global Fellows and Hult Prize winners, Audrey Miller, and Amanda Chou.

The Hult Prize Foundation transforms how young people envision their own possibilities as impact leaders of change in the world with a goal to create jobs, stimulate economies, reimagine supply chains, and improve outcomes for 10 million people by 2030.

Join Patrick Linehan ’21 for this week’s podcast episode with Steven Von Deak L’08, co-founder of Density

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A new episode in the popular “Commute to Class” LaunchPad podcast series by LaunchPad Global Fellow Patrick Linehan ’21 (Newhouse) has just dropped.  This week’s podcast is Failing Up with Steve VonDeak, a 2008 graduate of the Syracuse University College of Law who is the LaunchPad’s Alumni Entrepreneur in Residence. He is co-founder and chief of staff at Density, a high-tech company that uses powerful sensors, combined with state-of-the-art depth data, computer vision, and deep learning to measure space density in real-time. Founded in 2014 in The Tech Garden, Density now has offices in San Francisco, New York City, and Syracuse.  The venture has closed on more than $90 million in external funding.

In this episode Linehan and Von Deak discuss bouncing back from failure, balancing family responsibilities, and saying no.

Weekly episodes of The Commute to Class feature 12–15-minute interviews hosted by Linehan with Syracuse University LaunchPad alumni who have gone on to create successful ventures or join innovation teams at leading companies.

Catch the entire series here, on Apple, or wherever podcasts are distributed. 

The first seven episodes are now available and feature:

  • Starting Up with Linda Dickerson Hartsock, executive director of the Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars
  • Building Community with Dylan Kim ’18 (Whitman), co-founder of Brevité
  • Stepping Out with Julia Haber ’18 (Newhouse), founder of WAYV and Home From College
  • Burning Out with Kelsey Davis ’19 (Newhouse) G’20 (Whitman), founder of CLLCTVE
  • Jumping Out with Jose Javier Garcia-Rovira ’19 (Whitman) and Quentin Rosso ’18 (Whitman), co-founders of Gamercraft
  • Defeating Gremlins with Kayla Simon ’19 (Engineering and Computer Science), co-founder of InSpire
  • Failing Up with Steven VonDeak ’08 (College of Law), co-founder of Density

Learn more about the entire series here:  https://anchor.fm/blackstone-launchpad