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EnergyTech University Prize: Student ventures invited to apply by January 31 for up to $250,000 in cash prizes

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Technology Transitions recently launched the EnergyTech University Prize (EnergyTech UP), a business plan competition challenging post-secondary students to identify an energy technology, assess its market potential, and propose a strategy for commercialization.

The OTT has named NYSERDA, in collaboration with SyracuseCoE and CenterStateCEO’s Clean Tech Center, as one of fifteen Regional Convener partners of the EnergyTech University Prize.

In this role, these organizations will host the competition’s Explore Event, virtually, on February 18th from 3:00 to 5:00pm for students in the surrounding geographic locations.

During the first phase of EnergyTech UP, students explore business and energy technology opportunities and present their findings at the regional Explore Event, virtually, on February 18th from 3:00 to 5:00pm. At the end of the event, judges will identify the top team selected to move on to the national competition in March.

In addition to winning cash prizes, students competing in EnergyTech UP will:

  • Receive tailored mentorship and Energy I-Corp materials
  • Develop business plans specifically for the energy industry
  • Work directly with the U.S. Department of Energy and national laboratories
  • Network with industry professionals at Carnegie Mellon University’s Energy Week.

This challenge is designed to be approachable, equitable, and scalable, allowing students with- or without a background in energy or business to successfully compete.

Here’s how to get involved:

  • Sign up on the HeroX competition platform to receive updates and check out the official competition rules.
  • Find at least one other teammate and start developing a business plan for an energy technology either developed by a national lab or that is otherwise promising. (Not sure where to start? Check out possible technologies here.)
  • Register your team and submit your concept on HeroX by Jan. 31, 2022.

This is an opportunity for multidisciplinary teams of students to learn, lead, and grow.

Learn more here.

Jacob Hewlett ’24 creates a premier digital marketing agency

Like many of us when the pandemic arrived Jacob Howlett was left contemplating “What’s next?” After graduating from high school in the spring of 2020, Howlett—now a sophomore computer science major in the College of Engineering and Computer Science—noticed how quickly everyone and everything was transitioning online. Howlett realized this transition presented a big opportunity and he wanted to capitalize on it. He just wasn’t sure how.

While quarantining at home in Post Falls, Idaho—Howlett came across a very long Twitter thread in which a successful graphic designer spoke openly about their career. This designer explained how investing in himself by mastering a skill at a young age was critical for his future career. 

Shortly after reading this story, Howlett stumbled upon a social media ad. Usually, Howlett would skip ads, but this video was so well constructed and enticing that he watched the entire 40-minute clip. Howlett wanted to learn how this digital advertiser captured his attention so seamlessly. The advertiser was selling a social media marketing course in which he taught individuals and companies how to advertise effectively on Instagram and Facebook. Howlett saw that this guy knew what he was doing, so he jumped at the opportunity.

After taking the course, Howlett launched Alpha Advertising Agency—a premier digital marketing agency that helps small businesses realize their full potential online. Nearly two years later, he is now a Facebook ads expert and has worked with more than ten companies —including service businesses such as landscapers, tree removers, and photographers. His job is to direct as much traffic to these businesses’ websites as much as possible while overseeing ad development and copywriting. For potential new clients, Howlett typically sets up a two-week trial period in which he charges the client a set-up fee and a percentage of the revenue that he generates for their business. In his first two-week trial, Howlett helped his client make $20,000, and he fondly recalls when a client messaged him, thanking him for generating $50,000 in revenue. Now, Howlett is working with the largest photography business within his home region.

Alpha Advertising Agency’s success has not come without its challenges and Howlett has learned several skills that go beyond mastering Facebook’s advertising formula. He notes that managing potential client relationships was especially difficult in the beginning. Having conducted over 30 sales calls, he now knows how to negotiate and communicate with clients as a business owner and has learned the importance of re-messaging leads to close sales. 

Howlett is a new member of the Blackstone LaunchPad at Bird Library. He describes a feeling of fulfillment after joining an on-campus community where he can talk about business and new venture development. “I remember leaving Start-up in a Day feeling so happy to be around my kind of people.  It’s rewarding being around those creative minds and having people who you can bounce things off and they’ll bounce stuff right back.”

Moving forward for Alpha Advertising—Howlett is focused on improving his organic marketing tactics, strengthening his relationship with the new photography company, and getting more clients. On the horizon for the digital advertising industry, Howlett says that the Apple ios15 update has made re-targeting and tracking people a lot harder for social marketers. However, he is bullish that the future of digital advertising will center around content creation.

For aspiring entrepreneurs, Howlett recommends that you act. It is okay if you don’t always know where you are going; you will get somewhere just by putting one foot in front of the other.

For more information on Alpha Advertising Agency, check out their website: .  Additionally, to get in contact with Howlett, reach out to the Blackstone LaunchPad at Bird Library (

Story by Selim Dangoor ’23, Blackstone LaunchPad Global Media Fellow

What are you doing on winter break?

2021 is almost over.  Good luck on your finals as your finish out the semester strong. Safe travels on your journey home, or wherever winter break takes you on studies or adventures. This is our last newsletter this semester, but we’ll be here at work in Bird Library during the break.  In fact, here are ten great reasons to use winter break as a great time to jumpstart your good ideas. Take that first step and click here.

1. Meet people and find a mentor

Connecting with like-minded students is the first great reason to join the LaunchPad.  But right up there is connecting with a network of smart people who can mentor you personally and professionally. Our mentor program includes successful alumni entrepreneurs who love helping other students.  Winter break is the perfect time to have conversations with them.

2. You have an idea

You’ve been thinking about something all semester.  You can’t get out of your head.  But you haven’t had the time to work on it. You’d like to test it out, get some feedback, talk to some experts, and maybe even try it out in a no-stress, low-risk environment.  You could use a good listener. We’re here for you.

3. You don’t have an idea, but you would love to explore the world of startups

If you’re using break as a time to search for summer internships, jobs, or a career beyond graduation, now is the time to get started. There are more new jobs in startups than in any point in history, and those ventures are looking for employees who understand startup culture.  There is no better way to learn that than to be part of the LaunchPad.

4.  You want to join a team that is doing something cool

You don’t need your own idea or company to be part of the LaunchPad. LaunchPad ventures are looking for you.  We can help connect you with amazing student founders who would be thrilled to have you on their team.  Plus, you’ll acquire skills you could never learn in a classroom. Whether you stay or move on beyond the team, you’ll be building a portfolio of experiences that sets you apart.

5. You want to learn some new skills

Balancing your creative skills with some business skills is always a good idea. It better prepares you chase opportunity. The only way to develop them is through real life experiences. LaunchPad members are engineers, software developers, designers, digital content creators, biz and finance gurus, visual and performing artists, foodies, policy experts, big thinkers and so much more.  Hang around with them and you’ll learn those skills too. 

6. You want to build your resume and get hired by an innovation company

LaunchPad people are the kind of people that leading innovation companies want to hire first.  They know that building something in college, competing in campus competitions, and working on startup teams are value propositions on a resume. 

7. You have an idea that is ready for acceleration

You want to build something yourself.  You’re ready to be part of an ecosystem to help you rapidly accelerate your venture idea.  After graduation you want to get into a world class accelerator.  You want to pitch your idea to investors.  We’re your team to help you incubate now to get ready for launch and acceleration.

8. You are looking for funding for your idea

Raising early-stage capital is hard, but not impossible.  We can prepare you. We’ll help you understand what investors are looking for and get you ready to answer the tough questions about value proposition, path to market, competitive landscape, costs, and revenue projections, and what your business will need to get to scale.

9. You enjoy an insanely creative environment and competition

Jumping fully into the LaunchPad is an unparalleled creative experience that is intense in the best possible way.  You’ll get back as much as you put in.  If you have the heart, head, and hustle for the startup world, you’ll have an unparalleled student experience and gain friends for life.  Nothing else compares.

10. It’s all about you

Talk to students who are part of our community, our peer mentors, and our alumni, many of whom stay engaged with us as mentors. The experience is all about you and there is no better place to be.

Reach out to us over winter break and let’s get started on something great.

Get ready for spring at the LaunchPad

We may be headed into winter break, but we’re already gearing up for the spring semester at the LaunchPad at SU Libraries.  From mentor-matching-mixers, to talent recruitment fairs, student startup showcases, and signature business plan competitions, it’s a sunny season of opportunities for Syracuse student innovators.

  • January 28 – Midwinter Mentor Matching Mixer
  • February 11 – ACC InVenture Prize, campus edition
  • February 18 – LaunchPad Ventures Talent Recruitment Fair and Startup Showcase
  • February 25 – Afropreneur Summit in conjunction with Black History Month
  • February 28 to March 2 – Startup Grind and Blackstone Network Annual Conference
  • Early March – Women in Entrepreneurship competition (sponsored by donor Carol Eaton)
  • March 8 – International Student Entrepreneurship Panel
  • March 25 – RvD iPrize / Hunter Brooks Watson Spirit of Entrepreneurship / Compete CNY
  • April 1, 2 – ACC InVenture Prize Finals at FSU
  • April 8-9 – Panasci Business Plan Competition
  • April 9 – TEDx Syracuse
  • April 15 – Intelligence ++ Competition
  • April 29 – New York Business Plan Competition (hosted in Syracuse this year)

Once again this semester, the LaunchPad will host Startup Socials & Fireside Chats each Friday at 3 p.m. in the glass cube, first floor of Bird Library.  Join us for pizza, meet successful entrepreneurs and dynamic guest speakers, and enjoy conversations with like-minded student innovators and creatives.  Put these days on your calendar to connect:

  • January 28
  • February 4
  • February 18
  • February 25
  • March 4
  • April 1
  • April 8
  • April 15
  • April 22
  • May 6

Syracuse student startups featured in a new book

Four Syracuse University student entrepreneurs are featured in the soon-to-be-published book The Student Startup Guide by Techstars Director Courtney Gras.  Josh Aviv ’15 G ’17, Kelsey Davis ’19 G ’20, Sam Hollander ’21 and Matt Shumer are among the 30 expert student founders who share their real-life experiences on how student founders can overcome challenges, beat the odds and start something amazing.

Gras met her student startup co-authors through her work with Techstars and the Blackstone LaunchPad global network.  In that role, she worked closely with the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University and met many Syracuse students who consistently impressed her.

“I met hundreds, maybe even thousands of students founders from 30+ universities across the globe. Today, over 60% of college students have an interest in starting a company. While there are countless books, websites, courses, blogs, and podcasts that can teach you how to start a company,nobody is talking about how you start a company while you’re in college. I think it’s time to change that.”

The Student Startup Guide demystifies student entrepreneurship and provides a roadmap for starting a company in college.  Beyond the technical aspects of business formation and raising funds, it addresses practical questions such as how to balance classes, social life, and a startup venture.

Gras started her career as an electrical engineer but quickly discovered a passion for supporting early-stage founders. In 2014, she left her job as a Power Systems Engineer at NASA to work with the cleantech startup she founded in college. She learned firsthand how challenging it was to raise capital and find resources to move her company forward. After 8 years with her startup, she decided to follow her passion for supporting entrepreneurs and served in leadership roles in the startup community in Ohio.

She then took her founder-support work global and joined the team at Techstars as Director for the LaunchPad university entrepreneurship network. In this role, Courtney led the development and management of entrepreneurial program offerings that now serve 46 universities and reach nearly 1 million students annually.

Today, she is continuing her journey with Techstars on the ecosystem development team where she’s helping founders access capital and move their companies forward by leading Techstars Founder Catalyst programs. 

Get on the wait list for the book here.

Who will win the Blackstone LaunchPad’s IDEAS Competition? Find out December 16.

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The Blackstone Charitable Foundation will announce the winners of the global network LaunchPad Ideas Competition this week.  Syracuse University startups made it to the network round and the chance to compete for $10,000 in competition winnings to take their ideas to the next stage.

The Ideas Competition, which was open this fall semester to all 46 colleges that are part of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation’s global network, supports the goals of de-risking entrepreneurship, broadening accessibility, and diversifying engagement with a focus on recruiting underrepresented and under-resourced students to participate. 

The competition included four tracks:

  • Social and Climate Impact: sustainability, education, human rights, poverty alleviation, racial and social justice, etc.
  • Health & Life Sciences: biotech, health & medical science, healthcare
  • Consumer Products & Services
  • General

Winners will also have the opportunity to be eligible to compete on the national stage at Startup Grind in Redwood City, CA on February 29, 2022.

Watch for announcements on the Blackstone Charitable Foundation’s LaunchPad website: and on Twitter –

The Blackstone Charitable Foundation’s LaunchPad network has three goals:

  • Complement existing on-campus offerings with curated content and resources to deliver experiential learning and entrepreneurship skill-building.
  • Catalyze students and their ventures through connections to mentors and professional development opportunities.
  • Convene students and staff at global events leveraging our industry-leading brands and global networks.

Interested in exploring sustainability, startup financing and venture capital?

green light bulb

If you are interested in a very unique hands-on research opportunity to help shape a potential venture capital fund for sustainable – green technologies and service companies, you should consider taking ESP 300 – Applied Dynamics of Sustainability. The new Maxwell course offered by Dr. Jay Golden, Pontarelli Professor of Environmental Sustainability and Finance at Syracuse University will explore the feasibility of creating a fund to support new technologies and entrepreneurial activities across the University, working in conjunction with the LaunchPad at SU Libraries.

As part of a spring 2022 research capstone course, an interdisciplinary student research team of three to four students under the supervision of Dr. Golden will examine the opportunities and barriers in creating an external venture innovation fund that could consist of external philanthropic contributions and investments that are targeted at entrepreneurship across the global Syracuse community.  

The fund would initially start with a focus on sustainable – green technologies.  At a time of increased governmental policies, sustainability commitments by retailers, brands and manufacturers, as well as increased investor and consumer demand for sustainable products and services, there exists the growing opportunities to create a new generation of sustainable technologies and businesses.

By exploring different structures and approaches found at several research-intensive universities across the United States, the student project team will undertake a survey of existing programs and examine the drivers for the different structures as well as quantify the results to date of the different programs. This will include documenting ways for a Syracuse University fund to leverage existing state, regional and local venture funds.

An additional goal of a Syracuse fund is to leverage the power of the Syracuse alumni network not just for philanthropic support but also to match alumni expertise with Syracuse University innovators to support growth and success.

The student-based research project will be undertaken during the spring 2022 semester, and it is anticipated that the Report of Findings can be used to evaluate the potential of commissioning a more in-depth professional project.

Interested?  Want more information?  Contact Dr. Golden,

Have an EnergyTech idea? Compete for $250,000 in student prizes through the U.S. DOE University Prize.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Office of Technology Transitions (OTT) is inviting Syracuse student startups to compete for $250,000 in prizes through the OTT-sponsored EnergyTech University Prize (EnergyTech UP).  The program is designed to further energy technology commercialization by challenging multidisciplinary teams of college students to develop and present a business plan that leverages DOE national laboratory-developed and other high-potential energy technologies.

EnergyTech UP will award $250,000 in total cash prizes to teams that navigate a three-phase process, which includes successfully identifying an energy technology (“Explore”), assessing its market potential (“Refine”), and proposing a strategy for commercialization (“Pitch”). The top teams will compete for a share of $100,000 in prizes funded by OTT. In addition, six DOE Technology Offices are offering up to $25,000 each in bonus prizes for the best teams in their respective fields. The six offices include: the Geothermal Technologies Office, Solar Energy Technologies Office, Office of Nuclear Energy, Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management, Building Technologies Office, and the Water Power Technologies Office.

EnergyTech UP is distinct from other startup competitions in its design to be approachable, equitable, and scalable nationwide. Targeting undergraduate students with or without a background in energy or business, the competition provides the resources needed for teams to succeed and selects winners based on the strength of their proposal, not the strength of their background.

Students are encouraged to explore national lab-developed technologies on the OTT Lab Partnering Service.

Participating teams will present their projects in January 2022 at regional events closest to their institution. Regional winners will then be granted exclusive DOE mentorship and access to OTT’s Energy I-Corps curriculum, a tool that will help each team refine their ideas. Finally, the regional winners pitch their complete business plan at Carnegie Mellon University’s (CMU’s) Energy Week, hosted by CMU’s Scott Institute in March 2022.

OTT’s EnergyTech UP is partnering with DOE’s American-Made Challenges prize platform, offering a new opportunity to the prize community.

All undergraduate and graduate students are eligible to compete.  Multidisciplinary student teams are strongly encouraged.

Some helpful tools:

Some key dates:

  • January 31, 2022: Explore Phase registration closes
  • February 2022: Teams pitch at regional events
  • March 2022: Refine Phase opens for Regional Winners
  • March 24, 2022: Pitch Phase opens and teams pitch at CMU Energy Week

Learn more and register a team to compete.

Apply now for the ACC InVenture Prize, up to $30,000 in prizes and national recognition

students posing with a prize trophy

Syracuse student innovators are invited to apply now through February 1 for the campus qualifier for the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) InVenture Prize.  The competition features the top student startup teams from the 15 colleges and universities in the ACC Academic Consortium vying for more than $30,000 in prizes in finals televised by PBS. Syracuse student startup teams can apply here for the campus qualifier to be held in Bird Library on February 11, 2021.

The winner of the campus competition will receive a $5,000 cash prize for the top invention, product, service, or technology, and will go on to participate in the finals, held for the first time at Florida State University on April 1 and 2.  The winning team can send up to two students on the trip to the finals in Florida.

The competition is open to undergraduate students who have received their degree within the past year and who are the original creators, inventors or owners of the intellectual property underlying their invention. The ACC InVenture Prize is the nation’s largest undergraduate student innovation competition.

Past Syracuse contestants Kate Beckman ’17 G’18 (Newhouse) founder of FreshU and Alec Gillinder ’20 (VPA School of Design) and Quinn King ’20 (VPA School of Design), co-founders of MedUX, all made it to the vaulted “final five” broadcast on PBS.  Gillinder and King captured the second-place trophy at the event (pictured above). Other Syracuse University top inventors who went to the finals and were featured in the PBS broadcast included Kayla Simon ’19 (Engineering and Computer Science) and Elizabeth Tarangelo ’19 (Engineering and Computer Science), co-founders of In-Spire, and Russell Fearon ’20 G’21 (Engineering and Computer Science) and Ricardo Sanchez ’21 (VPA School of Design), co-founders of SugEx.

PBS broadcast stage for the ACC InVenture Prize finals

For questions, coaching, or helping with pitch competition, reach out to the LaunchPad.

Participate in the ACC Meeting of the Minds

decorative graphic over photo of a group of students

Be part of the ACC Meeting of the Minds (MoM) Conference. Syracuse University undergraduates are invited to join their peers from the 14 other institutions in the ACC to showcase research or creative work.  Apply by January 21, 2022 to be part of this elite group participating at the 2022 ACC Meeting of the Minds (M.O.M.) Conference, April 1-3, 2022 at the University of Virginia

The conference will feature five students from each university at oral and poster presentations. All travel, lodging, and meal expenses will be funded for student presenters. The SOURCE at Bird Library will provide practice presentation sessions in March and all selected students are expected to participate in these sessions.  Please note that for team projects, only one student may attend the conference to represent the team.

The application includes:

  • Project title and abstract
  • 2 brief essays describing the research/creative work and your goals, including how presentation at the conference will help you achieve your goals
  • Preferred presentation format (oral or poster presentation)

Faculty mentor recommendation (request will be emailed after student application is submitted and is due January 26)

Apply here