Starting with this issue we’re introducing a new weekly section featuring first person perspectives by Syracuse student innovators. Insights is a fresh addition to our e-newsletter lineup of programs, events, funding opportunities and student startup spotlights. Written by our student LaunchPad team, the series will take you inside the startup world with tips, tools and insights gained along the journey from idea to launch. We hope you enjoy it and if you have insights you’d like to share, reach out to us at LaunchPad@syr.edu
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Do you ever wonder what drives an entrepreneur to go against the grain? To stray from the easy, predetermined path laid out for us all?
After interviewing dozens of entrepreneurs, I noticed that certain patterns began to emerge. Perhaps entrepreneurial spirits are cut from a similar cloth. Call it a multipatterned and diverse cloth, if you will, but one cloth nonetheless.
It seems that in the making of an entrepreneur, there is one trait that rises above all else: passion.
What drives someone to leave behind the safety net of a salaried job? Passion.
What drives someone to work tirelessly every waking hour that they’re free? Passion.
What drives someone to take leave for a semester or graduate without a job lined up because they believe in their idea? Passion.
Of course, with this passion comes an idea that the entrepreneur must be passionate about. There appears to be two categories in which most entrepreneurs fall:
1. The creative freelancers
2. The innovative business ventures
Whether someone owns a freelance marketing business, creates and sells art, or is working on the next big novel tech venture to pitch to angel investors, there is an element of creativity involved. After all, it is creativity and innovation that are at the heart of non-conventional careers.
This brings us to the following question: Well, where do these ideas come from?
Typically, a backstory or a set of values.
Take, for instance a freelance photographer. Their vision may be inspired by a unique outlook or original style that the photography sphere lacks. Perhaps they aim to tell the stories of those who lack a voice through photos because maybe they, too, once lacked that same voice until stumbling upon photography.
Or take, for instance, the founder of an environmental sustainability company. Perhaps they spent a lifetime experiencing the disastrous impacts of pollution in their community, and now they abide by a mission to revolutionize the environmental field, so that no one else has to experience what they did.
It is stories and values that underlie human nature, that drive decision making, that inspire action. This is no different for an entrepreneur.
Now, a common belief is that entrepreneurs are major risk-takers. And they are! Well, to an extent. It is true that many entrepreneurs have a higher tolerance for risk than the average person. But for some—those who are balancing entrepreneurship as a side hustle they hope to grow rather than diving all in—entrepreneurship is a long-term game for freedom, rather than a risk.
Typically, this risk tolerance or consistent side pursuit stems from a single plaguing desire: to escape the 9-5. Beyond passion, a deeply rooted aversion to the entrapments of a 9-5 (the fear of losing flexibility, the love for independence, the yearning to travel or set the rules as boss) hold much greater weight than any potential risk involved.
To summarize, the following is the formula for a successful entrepreneur:
- Creativity or an innovative idea
- A storyline or set of values that drives the entrepreneurial business
- Risk tolerance or an aversion to a 9-5 job
Do these traits resonate with you? Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?
We bet you do.
Story by Sasha Temerte ’23, LaunchPad Orange Ambassador
In 2020, an estimated 3.6 billion people were using social media, and that number is only projected to increase exponentially in the next five years. As social media platforms establish interconnectivity among those billions of users, ordinary people have the ability to transform themselves into influencers, small business owners, food bloggers, and more. Tapping into Instagram’s bountiful potential for doing just that, I have created a digital brand of my own that has already amassed nearly 250 followers within its first month of creation. Under the username nonnas_cuisine_, I take on the role of a fiery Northern New Jersey Italian grandmother, incorporating classic Italian American slang into every post that I upload to the page. At first, I only uploaded recipes and food reviews, but after witnessing a growing interest in my homemade pasta sauce, I started selling jars and have already made over $150 in profit in the process.
When creating your own digital brand, there are key elements that need to be integrated at all times. Without cohesion and consistency, it will lose trust and loyalty among the masses. If you are interested in building a digital brand of your own, walk through my following tips for guaranteed success:
Establish a Voice, and Stick with It
When creating a digital brand of your own, the first and most important step to take is establishing a unique, authentic voice that is cohesively present in all of your content. For example, if I began speaking in a British accent on my Nonna’s Cuisine page, my audience would be both confused and less likely to engage with my content because of my brand’s unexpected behavior. To optimize viewership among your target audience, your messaging needs to follow a consistent voice and tone so that your audience knows what to expect from your brand. Without this cohesiveness, your brand becomes lost in translation to your consumers, thus minimizing your content’s receptivity tenfold.
Select a Target Audience
When developing strategic communication, the receiver of that messaging is the focal point for determining whether or not it was both effective and convincing. To generate exposure, your target audience must be receptive to your voice, word choice, overall product and marketing strategy; thus, it is imperative to focus on a niche group of people that will respond most enthusiastically to your brand’s content. You don’t want to waste the time or money invested in uploading posts for people that will pay no attention to them, and so selecting the audience is the perfect fit in order for your content’s metrics to be optimal. In the instance that a target audience resonates with your branded content, they will provide you, the creator, with a number of digital interactions including likes, comments and shares, all of which hold the potential for gaining new followers.
Talk With Your Audience, Not At It
Traditional advertising models followed a formula of brands consistently marketing at consumers via media channels like television, radio and print, solely communicating what they wanted those consumers to know about their products. In the past 20 years, these advertising models have proven to become ineffective due to the power of social media platforms. Consumers are now content creators of their own, and they know now more than ever what they need. Therefore, today’s consumers seek brands that communicate with them to better understand those needs, as opposed to the tradition of brands shoving unwanted information in their faces. When developing communication for your digital brand, pay attention to your target audience’s needs and listen to what they are saying. Through this listening, you will know exactly what you need to communicate as a brand to your target audience.
Prioritize Earned Media
The best way to grow a following for your digital brand is through the accumulation of earned media. When I say earned media, I mean getting word-of-mouth exposure for your brand. If people are talking about your brand, you are receiving free advertising that directly supports its growth and exposure. As sponsored advertising on social media platforms tend to get expensive, generating free, earned media should be the ultimate goal for propelling your digital brand towards greater recognition among your target audience. By focusing on your product’s quality and establishing a cohesive brand image, you are more likely to get people interested enough to talk about your brand with others. It only takes one person to spark a snowball effect of endless conversations about you, so continuously polish your business until you see positive results.
By following this helpful guide, you should be able to successfully construct a digital brand of your own. As a digital advertising major at Syracuse University with a love for food, I established an authentic brand persona targeted at a large community of student peers that I have developed connections with throughout my college years. By making use of the supportive network which Syracuse provided to me, my idea was able to come to life. When uploading content to my nonnas_cuisine_ page, I am always interacting with my audience to gauge their preferences, dislikes and more importantly, their general mentality as consumers. By doing so, I have over 100 people currently talking about my brand, granting me the earned media I need to develop Nonna’s Cuisine into a successful prospective small business.
Story by Christopher Appello ’21, Blackstone Global Fellow, advertising major, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications; artwork and photo supplied
Do you have questions about intellectual property protection, sorting out regulatory compliance, or how to obtain market research? The Syracuse University Innovation Law Center team of experts will host monthly Zoom sessions to discuss these and other issues relating to successful technology commercialization. “Ask the Expert” sessions will be held on the third Thursday of each month. Submit your questions in advance for an anonymous response, or just log on to hear the discussion and ask directly. The team will address issues that come with crossing the chasm from scientific research to technology commercialization. Get the schedule and register here.
These zoom sessions are available via a grant from NYS ESD NYSTAR to anyone with questions regarding intellectual property, marketing, or regulatory concerns.
Submit questions in advance to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To gain access to links and past recordings, visit here.
Syracuse University’s Office of Research recently announced the request for proposals for the 2021 Collaboration for Unprecedented Success and Excellence (CUSE) Grant Program. Information sessions are being held over the next month to answer questions about the program and application process. Office hours will be available for one-on-one consultation with the CUSE Grants program manager. The proposal deadline is March 1, 2021. Read on for eligibility, key dates and more information about the program here.
CUSE Grant Program key dates:
CUSE Grant Application General Information Session –Jan. 20, 10-11:30 a.m.
CUSE Grant Application Humanities-focused Information Session –Jan. 29, 10-11:30 a.m.
CUSE Grant Application Arts-focused Information Session –Feb. 5, 10-11:30 a.m.
CUSE Grant Office Hours — Feb. 10, 17 and 24, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. by appointment
Proposal Deadline: March 1 at 5 p.m.
In addition, the Office of Research is sponsoring many other spring information sessions and workshops which may require registration or appointments. These programs are targeted for faculty and graduate students. Below is a brief summary of dates and topics for these events. For complete details on the programs, times and how to reserve a spot, check the Office of Research calendar here.
January 27, 2021 – 11 a.m. — Office of Research Awareness: Introduction to the Office of Technology Transfer and the SU Ownership and Management of Intellectual Property Policy. Presenters will provide an overview of the types of intellectual property protection available for technologies, including software, such as patents and copyrights, and more.
January 29, 2021 – 10 a.m. — CUSE Grant Application Humanities Information Session. Syracuse University’s Office of Research has announced the request for proposals for the 2021 Collaboration for Unprecedented Success and Excellence (CUSE) Grant Program.
February 3, 2021 – 10 a.m. — Office of Research Awareness: Introduction to the Office of Research Integrity and Protections. Presenters will provide an overview of the various functions of the Office of Research Integrity and Protections including Human Research Protections, Animal Research, Financial Conflicts and more.
February 5, 2021 – 10 a.m. — CUSE Grant Application Arts Information Session. Syracuse University’s Office of Research has announced the request for proposals for the 2021 Collaboration for Unprecedented Success and Excellence (CUSE) Grant Program.
February 10, 2021 – 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. — CUSE Grant Office Hours. CUSE Office Hours are available to discuss general or specific application questions for the 2021 CUSE Grant Program. By appointment.
February 17, 2021 – 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. — CUSE Grant Office Hours. CUSE Office Hours are available to discuss general or specific application questions for the 2021 CUSE Grant Program. By appointment.
February 19, 2021 — noon — Publishing Your Humanities Book: Know Your Audience, Reach Your Readers. The Syracuse University Humanities Center, Office of Research, and College of Arts and Sciences are pleased to host two editors from Stanford University Press offering insightful information about publishing.
February 24, 2021 – 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. — CUSE Grant Office Hours. CUSE Grant Office Hours are available to discuss general or specific application questions for the 2021 CUSE Grant Program. By appointment.
March 3, 2021 – 10 a.m. — Office of Research Awareness: Using Experts@Syracuse to Manage Researcher Profiles. Experts@Syracuse is designed to create, manage, and make public Syracuse University researcher profiles, enabling research networking and expertise discovery, all while reducing administrative burden.
March 11, 2021 – 8:30 a.m. — Write Winning Grant Proposals: National Science Foundation (NSF) Focus. Syracuse University’s Office of Research is pleased to sponsor Write Winning Grant Proposals: National Science Foundation (NSF) Focus.
March 12, 2021 – 8:30 a.m. — Write Winning Grant Proposals: National Science Foundation (NSF) Focus. Syracuse University’s Office of Research is pleased to sponsor Write Winning Grant Proposals: National Science Foundation (NSF) Focus.
March 17, 2021 – 10 a.m. — Office of Research Awareness: NSF CAREER Awardee Panel Discussion. Join the Office of Research for a panel discussion with NSF CAREER Awardees.
March 19, 2021 – 10 a.m. — NEH Regional Grant-Writing Workshop. In this virtual workshop, program officers from the NEH Division of Education will provide an overview of NEH grant opportunities, a review of sample applications to discuss application-writing…
March 24, 2021 – 10 a.m. — Office of Research Awareness: Building an Evaluation Plan for Projects and Proposals. his workshop will provide strategies and models for designing effective program and proposal evaluation plans.
April 14, 2021 – 10 a.m. — Office of Research Awareness: Developing a targeted funding search with PIVOT. Presenters will provide an overview of the Pivot database to search for research funding opportunities available to Syracuse University researchers.
April 28, 2021 – 10 a.m. — Office of Research Awareness: Building Strong Proposal Budgets. Join the Office of Research for a presentation and panel discussion about proposal budgets.
May 5, 2021 – 10 a.m. — Office of Research Awareness: Managing Your Sponsored Funding. Join the Office of Research and Office of Sponsored Accounting for a presentation on managing your sponsored funding.
Two Syracuse University Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars ventures collaborated recently on a brand challenge, offering a chance to CLLCTVE college creators to work with fast growing food delivery company Good Uncle as it scales into new markets. Based in Los Angeles, CLLCTVE has an in-network database of creators from 97 universities and a waitlist of 2,000+ students from around the country. A CLLCTVE beta class tested the platform with Good Uncle to discover its brand pain points, goals for future promotional campaigns and what kind of user-generated content could drive value for the brand. CLLCTVE is continuing to work with Good Uncle this spring, and is also offering similar challenges this spring matching brands hoping to connect with GenZ audiences. Interested in being part of an upcoming brand challenge? Learn more here.
Read the full story by Kaila Mathis and see some of the best submissions here on Medium.
Background on the challenge:
Good Uncle came to CLLCTVE looking to utilize our in-platform creators to capture content reflective of Good Uncle’s value for college students. At the time, we had a fall beta class of 25 students hand-picked from our waitlist testing our platform.
CLLCTVE worked with Good Uncle to craft a brand challenge prompting fall beta class creators to produce a piece of content for social media that captured the key essence of the brand: easy in-app delivery, low costs, and diverse food options. The goal was to utilize Good Uncle’s target market members to get students excited about downloading and ordering from the company.
Creators were given one week to complete content within their medium of choice. Videos were limited to 60 seconds or less to make them applicable to all social platforms, and graphic design and photography were asked to consist of five or less images. Submissions were packaged into a deliverables site for Good Uncle to easily view and access the content. The site was included a feedback form and Good Uncle rated their experience with CLLCTVE a 9/10 and responded that they were happy with the content created, specifically pieces that involved graphic design.
“As we scale into more campuses, it’s good to see how students, who have little to no context for who we are, would explain Good Uncle through whichever medium they are operating in,” said Karli Buckley, Good Uncle Brand Manager. “If I’m able to effectively communicate WHO we are and what we’re looking for, I feel confident that anyone can do it, regardless of geography.”
Read the Medium story by Kaila Mathis for CLLCTVE and see who won and what their creative content looked like.
About CLLCTVE and Good Uncle:
CLLCTVE is the rising professional network for Gen Z, operating as the premier talent marketplace for brands to source young creators for paid work. Through the platform, creators can build a digital portfolio, secure exclusive job opportunities, and participate in brand content challenges, all while building within a community of creators from around the country. Brands can source user-generated content at scale through content challenges, data sourcing and exclusive access to creators from around the country.
Good Uncle brings easily accessible, delicious, chef-created meals to college, healthcare & corporate locations. It operates as a food truck that prepares meals on its way to customers and delivers it without a fee. With a key focus on delivering to college campuses, Good Uncle taps into the Gen Z audience with easy in-app delivery, low costs, and diverse food options (including barbecue, Mexican, American, Italian, and of course, pints of Ben and Jerry’s and cookie dough). For students on the go looking to satisfy their cravings without leaving campus, Good Uncle is the perfect choice.
A partnership forged at the Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars at Bird Library took to the streets of New York City over winter break to film a music video for the student band NONEWFRIENDS. From hanging out in the back of a Volkswagen as it cruised down Park Avenue at 3:00 a.m. to film the band, to setting up a large white backdrop in the middle of a small side street in the West Village at 5:00 a.m. to catch the sunrise light, the project was an adventure in creativity.
Zain and I (Patrick) were videographers for the shoot, which took place at four different locations throughout the city over the course of three days in December. We worked with a lighting duo to get just the right hue and intensity for each shot, particularly outdoor scenes in the chilly winter air.
One location was one of the oldest bars in New York, The Ear Inn, which was closed due to COVID-19.
The video, which was months in the making and involved a team of 15 people, will be released this summer with the band’s current project.
Zain and I met this fall as two new members of the LaunchPad student team. Zain was brought on as an Orange Ambassador for special creative projects and I started as a Global Media Fellow working on digital content for the LaunchPad.
As soon as we met, we appreciated each other’s work and consistently talked film making and creative pursuits. This video presented the perfect opportunity to collaborate on a project.
I reached out to Zain in October to see if he would be interested, and he agreed. Zain has been working on a series of creative spotlights for the LaunchPad, and his skills are highly sought after throughout campus. I have been connected with NONEWFRIENDS for two years, and I have filmed music videos for them before.
As soon as Zain and I talked with director and band member Jackson Siporin we knew the team would work wonders. We had several meetings throughout the month of November, planning logistics and creative direction, including how to abide by all of New York City’s COVID-19 regulations. We collaborated with friends with expertise in lighting, production and music. We watched hours of music videos for inspiration, dissecting shots and reverse engineering them.
When the week came to film, we were fully prepared, except for the weather. A major snowstorm rocked New York on the day we planned to film, so we had to switch up the shoot and think on our feet. In the end, we were able to complete the vision.
Zain is currently editing the video together to be released after the spring semester.
The LaunchPad helps make these kinds of connections possible through a community of like-minded people who are passionate about creativity. Those connections and creative teamwork were central to the project’s success.
Story by Patrick Linehan ’21, LaunchPad Global Fellow; photo supplied.
Nolan Kagan ’22 has always been a problem solver. Nolan kept lists of ideas and solutions to everyday problems on his phone for years, only to realize that he had the agency to make those ideas a reality. From there, he knew entrepreneurship was his calling. Nolan graduated high school a year early and attended community college in his hometown of Los Angeles, California before coming to Syracuse University where he is currently pursuing a degree in Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises from the Whitman School of Management. Right now, Nolan’s main focus is Gather: an online platform centered around the use of food as a vessel for communication and connection.
Nolan envisions Gather as a platform with which people in a strange place, whether travelling or having just moved to a new city, can share a homecooked meal and a conversation with someone new. To him, eating dinner together is an integral part of what it feels like to be home. Gather allows the comfort of a dining room table to be carried with you through a network of participants around the world. Nolan wants Gather to provide support and comfort to users and hosts through shared meals.
Of course, a global pandemic creates some tricky obstacles for a venture centered around letting strangers into your home. However, Nolan believes that the current state of the world creates an even more pressing need for people to bond over the most common language of all: food. To this affect, Nolan plans to launch Gather as a recipe sharing service so that connections can still be made over delicious dishes.
Nolan is working with Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars at SU Libraries to help bring his idea to life. He participated in several idea competitions this fall which helped his more fully shape his idea and looks forward to continuing to do discovery and development with the LaunchPad this spring.
Throughout the development of Gather, the most difficult thing for Nolan has been to keep motivated. This past semester was really hard for him, and he almost gave up on his idea. However, coming home, he realized it was up to him to direct his free time into his passion. Now, he’s full steam ahead. Gather is about improving the lives of people all around the world. Keeping this in mind has helped Nolan stay on task and push through development of his venture. He hopes to have a recipe sharing service available by the end of this coming semester and the full-fledged meal sharing service running in a year. To market Gather, Nolan will rely on word of mouth, influencers, and travel agencies who will recommend Gather to their clients.
Gather will be extremely easy to use. For meal sharing, hosts will have to go through a vetting process, while guests will be able to make a profile with interests and some fun facts about themselves to start a conversation. In terms of safety precautions, a guest will never be alone with a host, always accompanied at meals with their own travel companions or other guests who are seeking a meal. Hosts will be in charge of their own prices for meals and dishes. The recipe sharing service will also be user friendly. Users will even be able to offer cooking classes for those looking to improve their skills in the kitchen. Nolan himself is starting to cook, hoping to use Gather to expand his repertoire which consists mainly of pasta.
To Nolan, success will come with the first satisfied user who tells him about their meal sharing experience. Hearing that he has facilitated a personal connection for a group of people will be the sign to him that his hard work has paid off. Until then, he is working hard with his advisors and LaunchPad mentors as he gets Gather ready to bring people together. Nolan has a passion for people and believes firmly that cooking and food have the potential to forge connections and community.
Story by Ellen Jorgensen ’23, LaunchPad Orange Ambassador; photo supplied
If you want to promote your entrepreneurial success, use our badge system to celebrate milestones as your venture gains traction. From creating your first executive summary and pitch deck, to building a team, being part of a pitch competition, launching your brand through social media and your very own website, closing a first sale, incorporating, and more, the badge system helps tell your story. Now it’s even easier to earn your digital badges through a new system on our LaunchPad Discord platform.
Check out the Badge Book here. Badges come straight from the LaunchPad’s roadmap, as well as suggestions from members and mentors. Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars project management consultant Nick Barba created the system to instill some competitive spirit, as well as help startups celebrate each step they take.
He believes that entrepreneurs do not typically get the kudos they deserve when they reach milestones. “Every step closer you take to being ready for your first investment, is a step to celebrate,” says Barba. “We want to share your experiences, and every small step along the way, as you move from concept to commercialization. The system also very publicly helps students see where they can find help from peers who have already achieved goals. It also helps fosters collaborative community building.”
Earn your digital badges. Which entrepreneur or team will earn the most badges by the end of the academic year? Stay tuned …
Dr. John Torrens, ‘G93, Professor of Entrepreneurial Practice and deputy chair of the Department of Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises at Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management has just published, “Lightning in a Bottle: How Entrepreneurs Can Harness Their ADHD to Win,” now available on Amazon.
Among the topics Torrens explores in the book are how to use ADHD “superpowers” such as laser focus, sensation seeking and quick thinking as advantages, while better managing ADHD challenges such as distractibility and impulsive decision-making. Torrens helps teams understand how to more effectively work with an ADHD boss, while helping those with ADHD understand how to work more effectively in teams, finish projects more efficiently, and reach their full potential with greater productivity and life-work balance.
The book has already risen to #1 in new releases in the Learning Disabilities category with five-star reader ratings. Scott Gucciardi wrote in a review, “Based not on theory but on real life experiences, this book is compelling, insightful, and personal. It includes valuable advice and actionable suggestions to harness the ADHD traits that will be helpful in driving greater success in entrepreneurial ventures.”
“Lightning in a Bottle captures the essence of the entrepreneurial journey for those with ADHD,” says Matt Shumer, founder and CEO of Otherside AI, a LaunchPad venture. “As a leading expert on the subject, Torrens’ teachings have empowered me to harness my ADHD, changing it from a distraction into an entrepreneurial superpower. If you have ever felt like you can’t concentrate, or are easily distracted, John will help you leverage the power of your ADHD to build a world-class company.”
“I felt seen, heard, and encouraged on every page,” added Kelsey Davis ’19 G ’20, founder and CEO of CLLCTVE, another LaunchPad venture. “This book empowers entrepreneurs with the tools to turn their ADHD into a superpower, providing a mindful path forward to lead any tribe. Whether you personally have ADHD or conduct business with someone who does, this is the book for you.”
Dr. Torrens, who is also the LaunchPad Faculty Entrepreneur in Residence, is a healthcare and education entrepreneur with 25 years leading high growth companies. He has extensive experience in developing high-performing teams, raising capital, and both buy/sell side M&A. He is currently acting COO of Saluber MD, a global telemedicine company in which he is also an investor. Previously, Dr. Torrens joined the management team of Vertical Companies, a vertically integrated cannabis company, for a year in order to take on special projects.
His research interests include the link between ADHD and Entrepreneurship, and he is a frequent guest speaker and executive education instructor in the areas of entrepreneurship, strategy, and corporate innovation.
His TEDx speech “ADHD as an Entrepreneur’s Superpower” which explores recent research and his own personal experiences has been viewed more than 100,000 times.
He is quoted frequently in print media, has written several articles, and has delivered multiple presentations on the business of healthcare. He holds a Ph.D. in healthcare administration.