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Edward Shao ’19 is saving ocean ecosystems through his impact venture

man in a blue shirt at the ocean

Edward Shao ’19 is an international man. From growing up with immigrant parents from Shanghai, China, to being raised in New York City, to now starting ProjectQRRestore, an environmentally conscious non-profit in Quintana Roo, Mexico, Edward Shao is definitely a lover of the world.

As a young teen, Shao was in love with magazines like the National Geographic and Scientific American. Shao always found it fascinating reading about the animals and the environment. He remembers reading about the white rhinos which are sadly extinct today. These magazines had an immense effect on Shao’s passion for the environment.

Apart from these magazines, teenage Shao also was aware of constant new scientific discoveries that promised to change the world. However, having a look around his city, things still looked the same. Where were all the great innovations that he was reading about? He was certainly not seeing any of it around him. He felt a disconnect between what he was reading and the reality he saw in NYC.

It should not then come as a surprise that Shao went to SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, majoring in Environmental Resources Engineering for his bachelor’s degree. He came to know Syracuse University’s innovation ecosystem through a class in the Whitman School of Management with the Department of Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises. One of the courses was taught by LaunchPad executive director Linda Hartsock and this was also how Shao got involved in the Syracuse University Blackstone LaunchPad located in the Bird Library.

At age 16, Shao did a study-abroad program in Latin America. He had studied Spanish in school for about four years but today he insists that you need to go down there and immerse yourself in the culture to truly live and breathe the language. After living with the welcoming families and wonderful people, Shao grew to love Latin America. Shao said that the people he met there were less materialistic and more spiritual, friendly, family-oriented and generally much happier than people in the U.S.

Taking back a picture of a mountain sunset view of Valparaiso, Shao promised himself that he would go back there one day. Shao also went to Tulum, Mexico for a vacation after college and joked that he wished his parents would have settled a life there.

Shao’s return to Quintana Roo, Mexico in October 2020 was prompted his decision to leave a government job and his love for the Yucatan Peninsula during that fateful vacation after college. Leaving for Mexico to escape U.S. turmoil and the cold winters, opportunities arose unexpectedly.

“When the world goes to chaos, you can only rely on yourself”, says Shao.

For six months last year, Shao lived throughout Quintana Roo and other states in Mexico, where he met people who invited him to work on an electric scooter rideshare startup. Along with his cofounder from London and team members from all over the world, Shao excitedly embarked on the adventure. However, this startup met with some difficulties.

Shao’s cofounder had great and honest intentions but not all of the other start-up members did. Due to a variety of complex reasons, the electric scooter business that existed in Mexico had gone through major difficulties including theft and interference from organized syndicates that control many business operations and the taxi industry throughout Quintana Roo. Uber drivers were being harassed and even assaulted, and the electric scooter business faced insurmountable challenges. 

As he saw the electric scooter business decline, Shao says he went back to the lesson learned in his Syracuse EEE classes that he could now put into use in real life. We remembered the value of being resilient and recognizing when to make a “pivot.” He realized that being a good entrepreneur means knowing when to switch focus and cut losses.

Shao talks about the Mayans and many indigenous people he met in the Yucatan and was  still drawn to the culture and tradition. He states that he felt a deep connection with them that has stayed with him. He learned that all indigenous people in the Americas first crossed over from Asia through Siberia over the Bering Land Bridge. So, one can say his ancestors were here first, he says.

Immersing himself in a different culture and society really gave Shao a different perspective on things. Shao says that different cultures have a lot to teach us, and we can learn by reading about it, but we don’t truly learn them until we live there.

Shao has now started Project QRRestore with some of the great people who had worked with him on his original start-up. The purpose of Project QRRestore is to unite environmentalists, professionals, and activists throughout Quintana Roo and restore and rebuild the ocean’s ecosystem by growing healthy mangroves and coral reefs.

Shao says that the ocean’s ecosystem is the same as it is on land except that it works with salt water, and he hopes to eventually work with oceans around the world.

He is now trying to win a competition through the Blue Climate Initiative to gain traction and funding for the non-profit to take it even further.

Shao has always loved the water. Growing up, he swam competitively, worked as a lifeguard for fun and scuba dives now. The ocean absorbs carbon dioxide and covers so much of the world and coral sheefs shelter one-fourth of Earth’s aquatic species. Coastal communities around the world depends their livelihood on the ocean. People are starting to care about the environment more than they did before but eventually world news around climate change and environmental destruction are waking people up in dramatic ways.

There are good people in the world who truly care about the environment and Shao is certainly one of them.

Story by LaunchPad Global Fellow Natalie Lui ‘22; photo supplied

Register for the First Syracuse Blockchain & Cryptocurrency Workshop, August 16 – 18

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Join leading Syracuse University technologists and futurists for the First Syracuse Blockchain & Cryptocurrency Research Workshop August 16 – 18.  There is no cost to register for this event which features leading researchers, industry experts and many top blockchain and cryptocurrency companies from across the country.  Check the event website for the full agenda with all  speakers and panelists.

Host/Organizing committee: Syracuse University Professors Lee W McKnight, iSchool (School of Information Studies) & Institute for Security Policy and Law (ISPL), College of Law & Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs; Danielle Smith, Renee Crown Honors Program, Department of African American Studies, The College of Arts & Sciences; Cristiano Belavitis, Whitman School of Management, Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises; Austin Zwick, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Policy Studies Program; Prasanta Ghosh, Engineering and Computer Science, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science; Yusuf Abdul-Qadir, School of Information Studies and Facebook; and Sarah Weber, Syracuse University School of Information Studies, Director of Corporate Relation

ProgramcCommittee: Host Cte + Betania Allo, Esq., United Nations; Jenny Cao, WiTec; Prof. Deidra Hodges, Florida International University; Rand Kato & Vincent Plaza, Syracuse University iSchool WiTec & Doctor of Professional Studies program students; Prof. Steven Lupien, Professor, Center for Blockchain Excellence, University of Wyoming; Dr. Naseem Naqvi, British Blockchain Association; Erick Pinos, Blockchain Education Network; Prof. Pardis Pishdad-Borozgi, Georgia Tech; Profs. Donna Redel & Mike Maloney, Fordham University; Prof. Thibault Schrepel, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam & Stanford University

Student organizing committee co-chairs: Catherine Forrest and Zachary Goldstein, Abdullah Naimzadeh, CryptoCuse & WiTec, Syracuse University iSchool   Members: Bennett Mitchell, Northeastern University & Blockchain Education Network; Jeff Oldsworth, Fordham University; Davante Sherman, UTEP; Jong Han Yoon, Georgia Tech

Program highlights (check event website for most updated and complete version of the agenda and all speakers and panelists):

Schedule at a glance: 8.16.21  

  • 11am-1pm: Registration: 111 Hinds Hall, Syracuse University & Online
  • 1 pm: Welcome by Dean Raj Dewan, Syracuse University School of Information Studies
  • 1:05-1:10pm: Host, Org., and Student Cte welcomes/event logistics
  • 1:11pm- 2:30pm: Panel 1: Innovating Decentralized Finance and Crypto Markets
  • 2:45-3:30pm: Keynote: Prof. Steve Lupien, U Wyoming Center of Blockchain Excellence
  • A New Regulatory Model and Ontology for Crypto Regulation
  • 3:30-4:15pm: Keynote 2: TBD
  • 4:15-5:05pm: 1st Academic – Industry –Government Blockchain Research: Business and Policy Models Panel Discussion
  • 5:15-6pm: Reception Hosted by Prof. Danielle Smith, Director,  Syracuse University College of Arts & Sciences, WiTec Advisor.  Location: iCafe, Hinds Hall. Sponsored by  Renee Crown University Honors Program

Schedule at a glance: 8.17.21 

8am-8:30am: Registration, 111 Hinds Hall, Syracuse University &

  • 8:30 am: Welcome to Day 2: Senior Associate Dean Jennifer Stromer-Galley, SU School of Information Studies (invited)
  • 8:35am: Summary of Day 1, Agenda Day 2: Prof. Lee McKnight
  • 8:40-9:25am: Keynote: Professor Ian Taylor, University of Notre Dame & SIMBA Chain
  • Computational Data and Blockchain Futures: Machines Learning Traceable Workflow with Software Bill of Materials (SBOM) (tent. title)
  • 9:40-11am: Panel 2 Blockchaining Cyber-Physical Communities Panel Discussion and Blockchain Application in Supply Chains
  • 11:15 pm: Panel 3 Blockchain Law, Policy, Regulation & Community Partnership Research Panel Discussion and Bitcoining or Blockchaining Central America?
  • 12:15 pm: Lunch sponsored by School of Information Studies, Syracuse University
  • 12:45pm: Keynote Speaker: Dr. Naseem Naqvi, Founder, British Blockchain Association
  • An Evidence-Based 2030 UK Blockchain Roadmap: Vision and Model (tent. title)
  • 1:15 pm Demos: Edgucoin, Decentralized MuniBond, Takapool
  • 1:40-2:40pm: Academic – Industry – Government Blockchain Research Roundtable: Blockchaining IoT
  • 2:55 pm Keynote:  University Professor Carl Schramm
  • Blockchain, Innovation and  Economic Growth: Lessons for Digital Currency, DeFi, and NFT Entrepreneurs, Speculators, Investors, Researchers and Regulators (tent. Title)
  • 3:45 pm: Research, Innovation & Education Acceleration Agenda-Setting: Industry, Government and Academic Open Discussion
  • 4:30 pm: Closing Remarks, Thanks and Next Blockchain Research Steps: Prof. Lee McKnight and “A Surprise Non-Fungible Ending” with David Montanaro, Strategic Advisory Associates & Catherine Forrest, President, CryptoCuse & WiTec, School of Information Studies, Syracuse University

Schedule at a glance: 8.18.21  

Workshop Excursion

  • 8:30am: Meet in Lobby of University Sheraton Syracuse for Workshop Bus to Massena 
  • Transportation and lunch sponsored by Coinmint
  • Tour Coinmint (NCCS) high density computing/Digital Currency Data Center/Eco-friendly Crypto-Mine
  • (Former Alcoa East Plant)  Massena, NY

Zachary Goldstein ’22 believes blockchain will replace the web

Zachary Goldstein ’22 an iSchool major in Information Management and Technology with a concentration in cyber security, was always interested in tech since he was young. From being a kid obsessed with Legos to a teen unscrewing iPods, Goldstein is now a cyber security intern at National Grid.

Goldstein says the hands-on experience at National Grid has been very instrumental for him in learning more about what cyber security is and how the cyber security team operates.

At Syracuse University, Goldstein is the vice president of WiTec, a graduate student research organization, and co-founder and vice president of CryptoCuse, a club that educates fellow students about cryptocurrency with education and collaboration. Along with president of WiTec and co-founder and interim president of CryptoCuse, Catherine Forrest ’22, Goldstein has also created the blockchain start-up Edgucoin, a blockchain education platform and cryptocurrency. With Edgucoin, Forrest and Goldstein’s vision is to help people become more literate on cryptocurrency and blockchain.

Goldstein is passionate about blockchain and believes that blockchain will replace the web one day. All servers where the Internet is hosted are now centralized in a physical location, but Goldstein feels that when blockchain replaces the web, servers won’t be physical anymore.  Personal computers will be able to exist as servers and will be able to be stored in the cloud.

Technology is fascinating to Goldstein because it can do so much for people and everyone has a super computer in their pockets.  

When Goldstein was considering colleges, he heard Professor Lee McKnight, who is a faculty advisor for WiTec, give a webinar on blockchain technology, Goldstein was instantly interested in the subject. This prompted Goldstein to write his college essay on Bitcoin and blockchain technology and come to Syracuse University. Goldstein is an active member of the Blackstone LaunchPad at SU Libraries in Bird Library, which he uses as for collaboration.  LaunchPad executive director Linda Hartsock is also faculty advisor to Crypto Cuse which meets in the LaunchPad.

When not immersing himself in the world of technology, Goldstein likes to listen to old school rap or alternative music, as well as spend time with friends and ski on the Syracuse University ski team. Goldstein also used to be a lifeguard where he refined his work ethic.

Story by LaunchPad Global Fellow Natalie Lui ‘22; photo supplied

Aorui Pi ‘21 encourages international students to share their perspectives through the roundtable program, WeRound

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In light of multiple racial incidents on campus in 2019, WeMedia Lab, an international student-run new media organization that thrived on the WeChat platform, has gained a great deal of attention since then. Intending to break the boundary of stereotypical fellow internationals’ images, Aorui Pi ’21 initiated WeRound to encourage students to talk about the problem.

Pi is an advertising major student in the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications with minors in French and psychology at Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences. She grew up in a strict parenting household in China. She witnessed the deeply ingrained misogynistic attitudes and racism in a society that contradicted the education she has been exposed to. 

With the passion of empowering people with a simple compelling message, Pi joined six different student organizations during her undergraduate career at Syracuse University. Before joining WeMedia Lab, she had already gained knowledge of the daily administration of student publications. She adopted the methodology to build and shape current WeMedia Lab content as the editor-in-chief. “Many international students are afraid of speak up about their distress due to the language barrier and culture differences. I want to do as much as I can to change that image. International students deserve a voice,” Pi said.

Pi had a hard time discussing her identity crisis and peer pressure as an international person in the United States. “We are not alone. In this mixed-culture community, international students consist of 20% of the SU student body, and we have abundant resources at SU. Why not talk about it?” Pi decided to help students with the same struggles. She was deeply moved when her professor told them to do what was right for themselves during the #Notagainsu movement. “We are humans first, then students,” she said.

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WeRound program cover picture. Designed by Aorui P ‘21

The pandemic causes anxiety among the internationals and forced many people to adopt a new lifestyle. “The dilemma of being international in the U.S. scared many students. I’ve seen friends have eight canceled flight tickets in hand worried about their families every day.” Pi and fellow WeMedia Lab members had a heated conversation discussing the worthiness of studying abroad during the turbulence and attempted to find a solution for students who took a gap year. Inspired by Jubilee, an interactive YouTube channel that enables people to share opinions on multiple topics, Pi pitched the idea of an open roundtable and encouraged students to listen to people with different backgrounds and experiences.

WeRound covers five sections: student life, family, career, identity, and social issues.  Participants have talked about post-graduation life, gap year, Chinese New Year tradition, body dysmorphia, and Stop Asian Hate.  Pi wants to create a safe space for marginalized students and help them find peace by sharing their experiences. On top of that, Pi said, “Inviting and hearing people outside our age group also remedies the anxiety we might have.”

Stop Asian Hate poster. Designed by Liqi Ma ‘23

On March 16, eight Asian women’s death exacerbated issues for people around the world. With the help from the Associate Director of Operation and Outreach at Center for International Services, Wei Gao, Pi, her team quickly coordinated another session of roundtable confronting the Anti-Asian hatred. “Hearing all the stories from peers, professors, and counselors from the Barnes Center, I realized we made the right decision,” Pi said. 

With the influence of current affairs, Pi found her passion for journalism and is excited about her post-graduation journey of living in New York City. She attended her first protest when she participated in the Newhouse NYC program during the Spring semester. “The experience of studying abroad gives me a new perspective of viewing the world and media. Seeing both sides of a story firmed my belief of becoming a responsible storyteller,” Pi said to the fellow international students, “There was no secret for maximizing your college journey. Read emails carefully and find resources that will help you along the way will be my recommendation.”

Story by Aorui Pi, LaunchPad Global Media Fellow; photos supplied


Catherine Forrest ’22 is using blockchain development to change the world

student standing in front of computer display screen with a decorative graphic

From cryptocurrency to COVID-19 response technology, Syracuse University student Catherine Forrest ’22 is utilizing the power of blockchain technology to develop lifesaving security solutions. Catherine Forrest is a rising senior and fast track masters student at the iSchool majoring in Information Management and Technology, with concentrations in web design and data analytics.

As an iSchool student, Forrest worked to gain an advanced technical education in software development while further developing her natural talents in project management. Her diverse set of skills and passion for learning garnered the attention of the esteemed Professor Lee McKnight during her time enrolled in his “Blockchain Management” course. The two immediately began working together to further educate Forrest in blockchain. Not long after, McKnight became Forrest’s official academic mentor, turning her passion for software development into blockchain software development. Forrest’s love for blockchain technology in rooted in its ability to serve as an advanced security solution, in that “blockchains purpose is to create integrity and trust on a decentralized and distributed peer-to-peer network, where you don’t know who the peers are or If they are trustworthy.” She also notes that “the decentralized nature of the technology gives power back to the people, as they no longer need to relay on centralized power which can host a plethora of security flaws.

Forrest is the president of WiTec and the co-founder and interim co-president of CryptoCuse.

As the president of the established iSchool organization WiTec, Forrest has been engaging in undergraduate research on two grants she was awarded to fund her innovative blockchain research: “Creating & Blockchaining the COVID-19 Response MEWPUL Digital Twin” by the Syracuse University SOURCE, and “Blockchaining the IMcon Internet Backpack for COVID-19 Emergency Response in Rural Central America” by the Internet Society Foundation.               

Forrest was originally the CTO of CryptoCuse starting off on the technical side, however she has now shifted to an administrative leadership position. Forrest runs the club alongside co-founder and interim co-president Zachary Goldstein, with whom she created the blockchain start-up Edgucoin, a blockchain education platform and cryptocurrency. Forrest leads club communication, organization, delegation, and mission fulfillment, in addition to being the creator and manager of the CryptoCuse website. At CryptoCuse, Forrest’s expertise lies in the blockchain technology which empowers cryptocurrency. Forrest runs weekly and biweekly meetings for CryptoCuse this summer. The group is growing quickly and there are already about 42 people on the emailing list. When students return to his fall, Forrest expects even more people to join.

The values of CryptoCuse are education and collaboration, as it serves as a place where students can gain an education and engage in discussions in all that is crypto, blockchain, and DeFi. Forrest has made sure to make it a space which welcomes and caters to the needs of students with all levels of experiences present, beginner or advanced you are welcome at CryptoCuse. CryptoCuse meetings usually start with an introductions and mission statement, then go into an educational lecture, then are followed by an organization wide discussion of investments and of the market. The club is also working to provide members with hands on projects such as setting up nodes to blockchain and teaching people how to code smart contracts to create their own cryptocurrency. Interested individuals can look out for a cryptocurrency investment simulation competition, with the most successful investor winning real cryptocurrency.

CryptoCuse aims to be the epicenter for blockchain startups. Working closely with the Blackstone LaunchPad at SU Libraries, located in Bird Library, CryptoCuse encourages students to create their own cryptocurrency startups by giving them knowledge, education and confidence to pursue their goals. Although Forrest has only started engaging with the LaunchPad recently, she says that it is one of the coolest places on campus. She even sees herself being a mentor at the LaunchPad in the future.

The media circulates theories about trends, but CryptoCuse educates people with facts. Forrest recommends investments to be made in coins backed up by a company or a technology instead of following trends on social media.

Forrest says that it has been great working with her co-founder and interim co-president  Zachary Goldstein. However, Forrest is usually the only woman in the meetings and hopes to get more women involved in STEM. Nonetheless, there is great diversity in the club in regard to race, religion, ethnicity and background. Forrest believes that diversity and inclusion is an incredibly important component of an organization and has made it her personal mission to make sure both CryptoCuse and WiTec excel in this area. Forrest says, “No matter who you are, where you are from, you have a place at CryptoCuse and WiTec.”

Although very busy with work and school, Forrest makes sure she spends her time by staying active and working out every morning. Before COVID-19, she also played on the girl’s club iced hockey team at school. A 4-day backpacking trip through Yosemite is also on Forrest’s agenda this summer.

Forrest’s motivation and aspiration comes from wanting to develop technology that will help real people. Forrest recognizes the privilege she had growing up as a member of a middleclass white family. She realizes how much of a privilege it is to have access to a plethora of academic resources and financial support, enabling her to attend a school like Syracuse University. She missions to not let this go to waste, as she lives her life in the pursuit of utilizing her education and resources to provide opportunities and education to those less fortunate, hoping to help create a future in which STEM is much more diverse.

When prompted to provide a piece of advice for future entrepreneurs like herself, Forrest replied, “Hard work beats talent in every way and showing up is everything. If you work hard and show up, the world will open up in ways you couldn’t have never imagined. Attending Syracuse University is an absolute privilege, so don’t waste it. Take the time to build meaningful relationships with professors, these great minds can and will change your life.”

Story by LaunchPad Global Fellow Natalie Lui ‘22; photo supplied

Apply by July 16 for the EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator

Two students holding a prototype of a smart watch
(Left to right) SugEx co-founders Russell Fearon ’20 G’21 and Ricardo Sanchez ’21

The American Heart Association’s EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator is looking for a diverse pool of social entrepreneurs and organizations who are driving change through health justice in their communities.  The 2021 application cycle is now open through July 16.   

Syracuse University student Russell Fearon ’20 G ’21, College of Engineering and Computer Science, received a $50,000 grant through the program in 2020, plus an additional $5,000 for receiving the most fan votes in the program. He used that to help commercialization efforts for SugEx, a wearable device for diabetes management he developed at Syracuse with his co-founder Ricardo Sanchez ’21 VPA School of Design.  Fearon and Sanchez created the concept and initial prototype through the Invent@SU program and continued to work on it through the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University.

This same opportunity is now open for other Syracuse innovators and Russell is happy to share how the program impacted his business and to encourage similar entrepreneurs to apply this year.

The EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator is for community-based social entrepreneurs and nonprofits working to solve issues related to the social determinants of health across the country. Participants selected for the program will have a chance to receive up to $65,000 in grant funding. Previous participants have introduced innovative approaches to bridging gaps in access to healthcare, healthy food, stable housing, and STEM education. Small business owners and organizations from historically underrepresented communities are especially encouraged to apply for a chance to participate in the eight-week accelerator.

For more information and to apply, visit

Topics for this year’s accelerator program applications include, but are not limited to, food access, employment and affordable housing.

The 2021 program is an eight-week program. Please allow at least eight to 10 hours a week for individual work sessions and virtual group activities.


  • Application window is open through July 16
  • Application reviews July  17 through August 5
  • Candidates announced August 6
  • Training August 6 – October 8
  • Fan voting October 4  through October 21
  • Finale event Thursday,  October 21

The best way to connect venture and capital in Upstate New York

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You know Upstate Capital as the amazing group of people who organize and run the annual New York Business Plan Competition, bringing together the most talented student startups from across the state.  But did you know that Upstate Capital is the leader connecting people in the venture, growth, private equity and M&A ecosystems?  

We’re pleased to help promote their new website to help ventures maximize these connections.

The website showcases the Upstate New York investment ecosystem and focuses on the user experience – whether for investors looking for deal flow, or for professional service providers to grow their network, or for startups and SMEs to access capital. 

Test drive the new site here:

Want even more access?  Becoming a member unlocks features on the site that include:

  • Specifically designed paths for both the Venture + Growth and Private Equity + M&A sectors.
  • The ability to connect to other people in the Upstate Capital network.
  • Easily accessible full event recaps and recordings.
  • Being featured in our online Member Directory.

New hybrid online and in-person events start next week.  Consider becoming a member to see all that you can do with Upstate Capital today.

July 8 virtual meetup for startups with Marc Alessi of BIANYS

man in a blue shirt and jacket looking at the camera

Interested in learning more about pre-incubation, regional funding opportunities, lobbying for startups, soft landings, and more?  Marc Alessi, Executive Director of the Business Incubator Association of NYS (BIANYS) will be discussing, Thursday, July 8, 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET at a free and virtual meetup hosted by LaunchPad partner CNYBAC.  All are welcome.

Register in advance for this meeting:

Marc will discuss programs supported by BIANYS, such as:

Pre-Incubation Program:  BIANYS works with entrepreneurs who are in the beginning stages of starting a company to help vet their idea or service and draws on expertise from the incubation community across NYS to determine if there is product/market fit and to provide mentorship on the next steps of the company’s business model.

Regional Pitch Program:  BIANYS will work with each regional Hot Spot in identifying companies looking to raise capital and support those companies in a regional and statewide pitch process. On Regional Pitch Day, local investors will be joined by investors from other regions in viewing the company pitches. The top five from each region will be invited to pitch to the NYC-based venture community at BIANYS’ annual meeting in NYC in December.

Lobbying for Startups:  BIANYS has taken a leadership role in organizing the innovation ecosystem around issues affecting the startup community and helping organize advocacy efforts.

Soft Landings International Exchange Program:  An advocate for global entrepreneurship, BIANYS has launched its Soft Landings Program designed to provide international companies with the necessary business, legal and operational resources for establishing New York-based subsidiaries. The BIANYS Soft Landings program will educate, mentor and guide entrepreneurs and company representatives as they develop business plans for expansion.

Learn more at:

Add a little innovation to your summer

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It’s summer and the LaunchPad is open for business.  We’re hoping you find time to catch some fun and play around with innovation. If you’re on campus, drop in and feel free to work here.  You’ll find familiar faces and a great space for collaborating.  Summer is great “hang time” at the LaunchPad, but if you’re working from a remote location and can’t drop in, we are also available by phone or video chat.

Our summer newsletters will be less frequent, but will keep you in the loop on programs, people, activities, events and resources.  Keep us up on your summer news too!

Summer is the time to get building.  Here are some fun ways to stay engaged:

  1. Kick around ideas with us.  Been noodling an idea around in your head but don’t have anyone to talk to about it?  We’re here for you.  Reach out to for a chat. 
  2. Get coaching.  Summer is the time to double down on coaching.  E-mail us at to get coaching.  Our mentor list rapidly expanding through alumni and industry connections who are happy to help provide feedback and guidance.  Learn more about our mentorship program here.
  3. Build your roadmap. We have a roadmap process that will get you from idea to launch.  It’s a surefire recipe for success.  Check it out, and access tons of other free resources on our website.  Summer is the time to build that venture that you didn’t have time for during the academic year – and also a great time to make traction on what you’re already started.
  4. Work on your pitch.  There are so many exciting competitions coming up this academic year.  Get a head start on them by building your pitch deck or refining the one you have.  Get feedback.  Practice.  It could also be time to try that pitch out on some investors.  We can help get you ready.
  5. Catch up on summer reading. The Blackstone Launchpad Innovation and Entrepreneurship Book Collection continues to grow, with many titles available in electronic editions.  This award-winning collection, crowdsourced with the help of faculty, staff and students, is one of the most widely circulated categories of books at SU Libraries. Entrepreneurship starts with exploration, and there is no time like summer to kick back and read.  Here’s a link to the Innovation and Entrepreneurship book collection.
  6. Earn some badges.  Blackstone Global Fellow Nick Barba has created an ingenious badge system for LaunchPad ventures.  The badges follow students from idea to commercialization and are a fun and motivational way to track progress developing your business idea. Check out the Badge Book here.  Badges come straight from the LaunchPad’s roadmap, as well as suggestions from members and mentors. 

Surviving and thriving in the virtual world, thanks to our incredible LaunchPad team

Paul Hulgren (left) just moved to Syracuse from the Silicon Valley to become part of the LaunchPad community after working remotely with the LaunchPad this year. Jackson Ensley (right) worked remotely as a LaunchPad Orange Ambassador student team member this academic year.
Now they are working together in person this summer at the LaunchPad on ModoSuite, a venture they co-founded remotely during the pandemic.

The 2020 – 2021 academic year was like no other.  It was a creative challenge to keep our amazing community connected and engaged through the pandemic, operating virtually through much of the year.  Thanks to an incredible Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars team effort led by our talented student entrepreneurs who serve as mentors and subject matter experts, we thrived – adding 750 new members to the program this academic year. 

A big shout out to our student team for helping make this year one that was memorable, and also for building a student experience that brought us closer together as a community.  The team launched new initiatives such as a podcast and video series, ramped up our content creation and digital outreach, jumped into seamlessly transition programming and numerous competitions to the virtual space, expanded programming around diversity and inclusion, and poured their hearts, minds and entrepreneurial souls into mentoring.

We’d like to take this opportunity to recognize our 2020 -2021 LaunchPad Global Fellows, Rubin Family Innovation Mentors, Orange Ambassadors, Todd B. Rubin Diversity and Inclusion Scholars, Hunter Brooks Watson Scholar and our Syracuse University Hult Prize Campus Ambassador.  Learn more about team and read their profiles here.

Generous donor support makes these leadership development experiences for entrepreneurial students.  We’d also like to give a very special thanks to Todd B. Rubin ’04, the Minister of Evolution (President) for The Republic of Tea, who generously supported many of these roles.  We are looking to build on and expand upon that support for next year’s team.  If you are interested in supporting student entrepreneurs, reach out to Ronald L Thiele, Asst Dean for Advancement, Syracuse University Libraries,

315-560-9419 or

LaunchPad Global Fellows

LaunchPad Global Fellows are subject matter experts in various disciplines such as engineering, software and data management, industrial and interaction design and product development, graphic design, web design, UX-UI, all forms of digital media and content development, as well as marketing, sales and finance. These roles were supported through Invest SU funding:

  • Claire Howard ’23, Maxwell, economics and international relations
  • Emily Pearson ’21, VPA, environmental and interior design
  • Patrick Linehan ‘21, Arts and Sciences, newspaper and on-line journalism and policy studies
  • Sloane Sexton ’21, VPA, communications design
  • Chris Appellpo’21, Newhouse, advertising
  • Jack Lyons ’22, Newhouse, Whitman
  • Kaizhao Zero Lin ‘21, Newhouse and Maxwell
  • Jackson Siporin ’22, VPA, Music Industry

The Rubin Family Innovation Mentors

Rubin Family Innovation Mentors serve as peer advisors to a portfolio of student startups, coaching them on strategy and venture development.  These roles were supported by the Rubin Famil Foundation:

  • Patrick Prioletti G’21 iSchool, graduate program, applied data science
  • Emma Rothman ’21, Falk College, food studies
  • Sam Hollander ’22, Whitman, finance and Newhouse, advertising dual major
  • James LePage ’23 Whitman, real estate
  • Bruno Luiz G’22, iSchool, graduate program, applied data science

Todd B. Rubin Diversity and Innovation Scholars

Todd B. Rubin Innovation and Diversity Scholars, funded through a generous gift from Todd B. Rubin ’04 School of Architecture, Minister of Evolution and President of the Republic of Tea, work to broaden diversity and inclusion outreach and programming, expand participation in entrepreneurship by underrepresented groups and support the University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.  They included:

  • Tyra Ambroise Jean G ’21, Maxwell, public policy
  • Gabriela Holliman-Lopez ’22, VPA, communications and rhetorical studies

Orange Ambassadors

Orange Ambassadors, also funded through a generous gift from Todd B. Rubin, compliment the skills sets of our Global Fellows, supporting outreach and engagement with entrepreneurial students across campus.  This was a special gift to help students who needed additional support this year because of the pandemic.  They included:

  • Justin Diaz ’23, College of Engineering and Computer Science, civil engineering
  • Alesandra (Sasha) Temerte ’22, Arts and Sciences, economics, writing and rhetoric
  • Russell Fearon ’19 and ‘G22, College of Engineering and Computer Science, mechanical engineering
  • Jackson Ensley ’22, Whitman, marketing management
  • Emma Rothman ’21, Falk College, food studies
  • Zain Edeen Elwakil ’21, School of Architecture
  • Sam Hollander ’22, Whitman, finance and Newhouse, advertising dual major
  • Season Chowdhury ’23, College of Engineering and Computer Science, computer science
  • James Rudman ’21, iSchool, information management and technology
  • Krishna Pamidi ’21, Whitman, finance

Hunter Brooks Watson Scholar

Hunter Brooks Watson Scholars are supported through a generous gift from the Hunter Watson Memorial Fund.  It is Inspired by Syracuse University’s Remembrance Scholar program and was established as a way to honor the life and entrepreneurial spirit of Hunter Brooks Watson, a Syracuse University student who passed away after injuries suffered in a tragic 2016 distracted driving car accident. The Syracuse University Hunter Brooks Watson Scholar peer mentors students and builds the pipeline of innovative students who exemplify the “spirit of entrepreneurship.”  This year’s Watson Scholar was:

  • Emma Rothman ’21, Falk College, food studies

Hult Prize Syracuse University Campus Ambassador

The Syracuse University Hult Prize Campus Ambassador helps organize the campus Hult Prize competition at Syracuse University.  It is part of a global competition that is often referred to as the “Nobel Prize” of student impact entrepreneurship.  The position is supported by funding through Invest SU.  This year’s campus ambassador was:

  • Claire Howard ’23, Maxwell, economics and international relations

LaunchPad – Blackstone – Techstars Communications

Thanks to funding from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, the LaunchPad was able to support a communications team expert this year:

  • Kelly Davis ’23, Whitman, marketing

About Todd B. Rubin:

Rubin serves as the Minister of Evolution (President) for The Republic of Tea. Dedicated to preserving a legacy that fosters The Republic of Tea’s “Sip by Sip Rather than Gulp by Gulp” lifestyle, he strives to delight Citizens, Ministers, Embassies and Ambassadors with a focus on innovation, education and providing the finest premium teas and herbs.

Rubin joined The Republic of Tea in 2007 as the Minister of East Commerce and then transitioned to the Minister of Southeast Commerce in 2008. In 2011, he was appointed to Minister of Evolution (Vice President of Sales and Marketing), relocating to the company’s Larkspur, California office. In that role, he successfully spearheaded new teas and new systems that led to significant growth. Utilizing his Syracuse University degree in architecture, he oversaw the feng shui design of the company’s headquarters at The Exchange in Larkspur, California and the company’s production and shipping center in Nashville, Illinois.

In 2016, Rubin was elected to the Specialty Food Association Board of Directors and was distinguished as one of San Francisco Business Times’ 40 Under 40. He was appointed to the Advisory Board for the Specialty Tea Institute and became a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization SF Bay Area Chapter in 2015. The year prior, Rubin was the recipient of Syracuse’s Generation Orange Award for philanthropy and was also honored as one of North Bay Business Journal’s 40 Under 40. Rubin was elected to the Board for the Ethical Tea Partnership, a nonprofit organization that convenes the tea industry, development partners, NGOs, and governments to improve the lives of tea workers, farmers, and the environment in which they live and work.

His goal in supporting LaunchPad students is to encourage other Syracuse University alumni to consider gifts that enhances the entrepreneurial “Orange Experience.”

About The Republic of Tea:

The Republic of Tea enriches people’s lives through its great-tasting premium teas and herbs, education and innovation, as it emphasizes a “Sip by Sip Rather Than Gulp by Gulp” lifestyle. Founded in 1992, The Republic of Tea sparked a specialty tea revolution. Today the brand delivers an unequaled selection of the highest-quality teas, herbal blends, books and nature-inspired sipware. The Republic of Tea’s collections boast over 300 all-natural premium teas and diverse offerings which include, but are not limited to: organic SuperAdapt Teas, SuperDigest Teas®, Beautifying Botanicals®, SuperGreen Teas, Downton Abbey™ Teas, Biodynamic® Teas, organic Superfruit™ Teas, Be Active® Teas, organic SuperHerb® Teas, U-Matcha™, Single Sips®, teaware and a collection of unsweetened, premium glass-bottled iced teas crafted exclusively for fine restaurants and hotels. Further, The Republic of Tea is mindful of how its actions impact the greater community and actively supports organizations like The Ethical Tea Partnership, Homeward Bound of Marin, and The Women of Tea: Sri Lanka, an initiative by The Republic of Tea focused on improving nutrition, hygiene and financial literacy for the women tea workers living in Sri Lanka. Certifications include Demeter USA Certified Biodynamic, Fair Trade certification, Gluten-Free certification, Non-GMO Project verification, OU Kosher certification, and USDA Organic certification.

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