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Tiny Desk ‘Cuse series launches this week

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Tiny Desk ‘Cuse launches this week with a short series of Intimate concerts, recorded live at Bird Library.  The series, supported by the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University Libraries, will showcase campus creatives who are music entrepreneurs.  The first in the series is Thursday, October 14 at 7 p.m. in the Peter Graham Room (114), first floor of Bird Library featuring Erin Manion, a singer/songwriter from Summit, New Jersey.

While she studies Jazz and Commercial Music at Syracuse University, Manion launched her musical career by writing, singing, playing, and collaborating.  Her debut single “Cracks” produced by Nick Fichter was just released in September 2021. Influenced by folk legends like Joni Mitchell, she creates an introspective and nostalgic feeling for listeners with unique melodies and open, airy progressions.

The event is open to the community.

The Tiny Deck ‘Cuse series is designed and curated by Jackson Siporin ’22 (College of Visual and Performing Arts, majoring in the music industry program), who is doing an internship this semester with the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University.  He was inspired to create the series by the popular NPR Tiny Desk series, which encouraged him to launch his own creative series, as well as mentoring other students interested in developing startups in the music industry sector, for his internship with the LaunchPad. 

As a musician and writer, born and raised in New York City, Siporin spent his adolescent career playing shows, billing and planning art installations and writing for school publications covering art. At Syracuse University Jackson has applied his music industry courses to build and brand his own band and venue as well as programming for music festivals on campus. Jackson has been a part of planning shows featuring artists such as Khalid, 21 Savage, Michael Che etc. 

Siporin is also co-founder and saxophone player for NONEWFRIENDS., a band formed in 2018 by five Syracuse University students, Elizabeth Stuart ’22, Jack Harrington ’22, Jackson Siporin ’22, Peter Groppe ’22, and Scott Greenblatt ’21.  The band has a tremendous following on Instagram and Spotify ( and regularly drop songs on Apple Music and Spotify.  

In addition to talented musicians, the band has recruited dozens of talented photographers, designers, videographers, publicists, and students with social media experience from across the university.

Siporin picked Bird Library as the venue because he has spent a great deal of time studying, working and recording at the Belfer Audio Laboratory and Archive which is part of Syracuse University Libraries. He appreciates its unique assets related to sound and music. Bird Library’s Special Collections Research Center’s collection of sound recordings and related items has grown to over 500,000 items. The collection includes formats from the earliest experimental recordings on tinfoil to modern digital media. The Belfer Audio Laboratory and Archive maintains equipment capable of playing back all of these formats, and performs preservation, digitization, and delicate restoration work on deteriorating recordings. The Belfer Cylinders Digital Collection of cylinder records is one of the largest held by any private institution in North America.

The Belfer Laboratory has a Live End/Dead End recording studio and control rooms designed by Chips Davis, nationally recognized acoustic expert and recording studio designer. One control room is furnished entirely with digital equipment by Syracuse University’s Setnor School of Music. It is used as a teaching laboratory for students in the music industry program, where they learn the principles and processes of contemporary studio recording.

Announcing our first ever virtual IDEAS Competition with $1,000 prizes for top campus winners and a chance at a $10,000 grand prize

Do you have an early stage idea? Do you need funding to work on it? Or maybe just some motivation to act on it? The Blackstone LaunchPad is pleased to announce our first ever virtual Ideas Competition. The program is designed for students who are brand new to the world of innovation and have very early-stage ideas. The new signature program, supported by cash prizes through the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, is designed to help encourage students to take the first step with a simple and easy chance to compete virtually for campus awards, as well as the opportunity to move on to a network-wide round. The competition is completely virtual, so Syracuse students from any discipline, as well as those studying abroad, are welcome to participate.  Applications are already open and are due by October 21. It’s simple, easy and fun.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Participants will need to select from one of the following four tracks:
  • Social and Climate Impact: Sustainability, education, human rights, poverty alleviation, racial and social justice
  • Health & Life Science: Biotech/sciences, health & medical science, healthcare
  • Consumer Products & Services
  • General 

2. After selecting a track, there are just a few questions.  You will be asked to briefly describe your idea, your target customer, a plan to generate revenue, your passion and your leadership potential.

3. Once you have prepared your answers, the application itself will only take a few minutes to complete.

4. The top track winners of the campus round will each take home $1,000. Then, four finalists from each campus will advance to the network round to compete for an additional $10,000 and coaching by experts to develop branding, technology and product strategy.

Eligibility guidelines:

  • Must be a current student (undergraduate or graduate-level) ​ 
  • Must be a “founder/co-founder” (i.e., the person with the original idea) 
  • Must be in the earliest stages, meaning just at the idea stage and have just started thinking about it
  • Must apply as an individual or in teams of two​

Key dates:

  • October 4:  Applications open for campus round
  • October 21:  Deadline to apply for campus round.  Apply here.
    • All applications must be submitted by 11:59PM ET on Thursday, October 21
  • October 23:  Fun team building event at Bird Library, “Startup in a Day” (watch for details)
  • October 25 to November 15:  Campus deliberation period
    • Applicants will be evaluated and scored 
  • November 15:  Campus awards announced
    • Winner from each track across each school will be announced
    • Campus winners will be invited to the finalist network round, competing against the 46 schools in the LaunchPad network
  • December 1: Deadline for LaunchPad network round finalist participation and a chance at $10,000

This competition is particularly geared to first time entrants.  Are you part of a Syracuse Learning Community?  Are you taking a EEE class in Whitman and working on an idea for a class project?  Are you taking an IDS class in the iSchool and working on ideation?  Are you exploring a digital media platform in Newhouse?  Are you playing around with an idea related to sports entrepreneurship or food entrepreneurship in Falk?  Are you a VPA student thinking about launching a career as a creator?  Are you a Maxwell student thinking about impact engagement and how you can make a difference in the world?  Are you an education student thinking of ways that system could be improved through programs or new technology?  Are you a School of Architecture student who has an idea about a design project?  Or, an Engineering and Computer Science who has been drawing product ideas in a notebook, or fooling around with an idea for a new app? 

We want to hear from you, even if it is just the earliest seed of an idea.  Because that’s where creativity and innovation start — at the very beginning of a journey.

We’re excited to discover some of the best ideas germinating on campus. Submit them here for a chance to win cash awards for the top ideas.

For questions, email

Story by LaunchPad Global Fellow Sasha Temerte ’23

Ze Zeng ’23 advocates diversity and inclusion for international students

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Ze Zeng was a recent recipient of an Orange Circle Award which recognizes altruistic members of the Syracuse University community who have done extraordinary things in the service of others.

When the alarm goes off at 8 a.m., a college town in Upstate New York just had its second rain.  The  ground and air are full of freshness.  So are many students who are starting their day.  Ze Zeng ’23, a Whitman student studying finance, supply chain and business analytics, would never miss his daily routine of reading financial news before going to the morning classes. Yahoo Finance and Global Times are the primary resources for him to understand the global market. He believes that this kind of immersive study can help him better analyze and make rational decisions.

One word couldn’t sum up Ze.  He is the Todd B. Rubin Diversity and Inclusion Scholar and peer mentor at Syracuse University Blackstone LaunchPad.  He is the president of WeMedia Lab. He is the Diversity & Inclusion Leader at Whitman School of Management Dean’s Office.  He is the recipient of multiple scholarship, an RA at Flint Hall, assists with the Syracuse Welcome Office and the Office of First-Year & Transfer Programs.  He was one of the creators of A Hand for Wuhan project at Syracuse University.  He has been working on ideas for his own future venture.  The list goes on. 

Ze thinks it’s a compliment that people regard him as a global citizen. He was born in Guangzhou and raised in Beijing, China. He attended high school in Boston, MA, and then came to Syracuse University to major in finance and business analytics.  He is very much an integral part of the Syracuse community.

He gathers his inspiration from his surroundings, and accordingly, he has explored every continent through travel and exchange studies. 

“Many people come to Syracuse, thinking of leaving it one day,” he notes.  The international student community is a relatively small group and consequently, not many students genuinely get involved in on campus. The four-year college journey is just one chapter in an expedition in their lives.  Many are already planning to return to their home country, to or make a life somewhere else in the world.

Ze felt the same before. While he was in high school as an international student, he encountered many difficulties at the age of 14, such as cultural differences and language barriers. He realized at that time that he had to find ways to both financially and mentally support himself in order to survive in this society.

Before COVID-19 first reached Syracuse, Ze and four Chinese students had already started feeling the strain and gathering resources to build a fundraising platform on campus for communities in China, especially places that needed help the most.

Marvelously, through their work, they quickly raised $55,000 on the platform they created. On May 7, 2020, the Chinese community, mainly SU parents, donated $40,000 to the city of Syracuse for medical supplies.

This international demonstration of love shows the toughness and comradeship among students and families. “SU isn’t just a school or a place for education. It’s where I met my best friends and a place I grew.” Ze said.

Ze likes to be the first one who breaks the ordinary. He’s the first international student to run the president of Module UN in his high school, one of the few Chinese student representatives at the Student Association, and the first couple of Chinese student resident advisors.

His presence and intention encourage other internationals to see the possibility of experiencing remarkable college life.

Ze Zeng at a recent Whitman freshman welcome event, engaging new students in community building

As a self-starter, Ze feels motivated when like-minded people surround him.  Ze enjoys the creative explosion and energy that comes from people who have different backgrounds. “There are so many exciting ideas popping up at the LaunchPad every day.”  That’s one of the reasons he joined the Blackstone LaunchPad at SU Libraries as a peer mentor for student startups.

He engages students, specifically international students, to support and give them advice at the early stage of establishing their startup, such as finding resources, connecting with the industry professionals, and dealing with financial and legal services.

It’s also a mutual learning process for Ze. He can have hands-on experience to assist startups and networking with professionals while helping students.

Ze wants to bring more international students to this entrepreneurial environment that values creativity and diversity. He finds international students are big on innovation. “There are interesting ideas among fellow internationals but lack support. They are like trapped in a bubble.” For example, he’s currently helping a group of architectural students building a platform to connect designers and architects with local constructors.

Looking back at his journey Ze, he says, “I truly believe in every student who invests themselves, whether it’s reading the news or exercising every day.” 

Ze also proves the value and worth of investing in others, as he truly gives of himself to help other students on their Syracuse journey.

Story by LaunchPad Global Fellow Aorui Pi; photos supplied

Join Marcus Cook ’19, founder of The Success Bug, on October 15 for a LaunchPad Startup Social

Young man wearing a suit jacket in front of a brick wall

The well-planned life is not always the best path success. The hallmark of true personal success can actually be making a pivot. Marcus Cook ’19, a Whitman School of Management grad, exemplifies the power of knowing when to change direction and chart a smarter course that will lead to happiness and financial success. He’ll be talking about how he used his innate entrepreneurial skills to seize opportunity and launch The Success Bug, a fast-growing multi-media platform. The company excels at digital storytelling, blogging, growth marketing, social media strategy, SEO optimization, and business consulting. The journey, and the team he built, is a great story. Join us October 15 at 3 p.m. in the LaunchPad for a casual conversation over pizza, and learn how Cook built a platform with impressive monthly recurring revenue that gave him freedom, flexibility, and financial success. Learn how to effectively develop content strategy to create a venture, drive product growth, expand audience engagement, increase recurring sales, and achieve personal satisfaction and success.

Kelsey Davis ’19 G’20 selected for Google for Startups Black Founders Fund

two people in front of the LaunchPad
Kelsey Davis with Dean of the Libraries David Seaman in the LaunchPad on the day that Google announced her selection for its Black Founders Fund. She was in Syracuse from Los Angeles, where CLLCTVE is now based, for ’20 graduation ceremonies. She also spent time on campus visiting Newhouse, Whitman and the LaunchPad and speaking with student founders and creatives.

Congratulations to Newhouse ’19, Whitman G ’20, Blackstone LaunchPad and Techstars alum Kelsey Davis on being among a select group of 50 Black startup founders building great companies as part of the Google for Startups Black Founders Fund. The program provides non-dilutive cash awards to Black led startups that have participated in Google programs or have been nominated. Founders selected for the fund receive up to $100,000 in capital along with Google Cloud credits, Ads grants, and hands-on support to help their startup grow.  

Learn more about the program here.

Davis started CLLCTVE with a Syracuse University student team as an undergraduate, winning numerous competitions and seed funding for her idea. She quickly expanded it to a national multi-campus portfolio platform and network that connects GenZ creators.  Davis, who was recently named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, leads CLLCTVE with her co-founder, Syracuse University alum Brendan O’Keeffe.  She has employed numerous Syracuse University students as interns and early employees.

The team recently graduated from the Techstars LA accelerator, which it joined after incubating at the LaunchPad at Syracuse University.  Davis is a virtual Entrepreneur in Residence for the LaunchPad at SU Libraries and continues to mentor Syracuse University startups. She continues to do work with the City of Syracuse focused on youth leadership and talent development.

Read more about CLLCTVE’s participation in the Google for Startup Black Founders Fund on its website here:

Team Sweatration is tackling the dangers of dehydration for athletes and fitness enthusiasts

Student team practicing in the LaunchPad
Zach Stahl ’23, Anthony Mazzacane ’24 and Paul Franco ’22 practicing their pitch in the LaunchPad during Invent@SU

During last summer’s Invent@SU program, the Sweatration team identified a problem: “80% of NCAA athletes had suffered from dehydration.”  Paul Franco ‘22, Zach Stahl ‘23, and Anthony Mazzacane ‘24 put their heads together to come up with a solution. The trio invented a wearable hydration status monitor that can be worn on your wrist, head, or wherever else you sweat, and can notify you when you are becoming dehydrated. 

The team comes from different academic backgrounds. Paul is a Physics major in Arts and Sciences; Zach is an Aerospace Engineering major and Computer Science minor in the College of Engineering and Computer Science; and Anthony is a Computer Science and Mathematics dual major in the College of Arts and Sciences and College of Engineering and Computer Science. 

Franco recalls the start of the summer Invent@SU accelerator program as going by quickly and being a whirlwind of ideation. The first two days were hectic as students had to come up with their concept to work on prototyping over the next six weeks.

The team initially considered how to tackle heat stroke using just a wearable device on the skin. However, as they researched the science of body heat and dehydration, they realized that tracking internal body temperature wasn’t accurate with a wearable device on the skin.  Undaunted, the team did not give up.  It took a step back and pivoted – the hallmark of smart innovators. 

By narrowing their research and drilling deeper, they realized that dehydration is a symptom of heat stroke and Mazzacane soon found a study which revealed that sodium ion spikes translate to higher levels of dehydration. That finding was the light at the end of the tunnel which they pursued with vigor.  If they could invent a way to monitor that spike in sodium ion conductivity, then they knew they were on the right path. 

The trio worked with determination and resilience throughout the six-week program. In the program’s fifth week, they competed in a trial presentation run with the opportunity to win a cash prize.  The team placed lower than they had hoped, and Stahl said that they felt “a fire was lit under them” to persevere.

The next day, they went right to work and finalized their initial prototype. Prior to the final demonstration, the three students proved that this device could accurately track when an athlete reached levels of dehydration. They continued to research.  The listened to feedback by guest evaluators.  They worked with peer mentors and staff of the LaunchPad to refine their thought process and focus.  They continued to work off hard data to support their findings.

They kept learning and iterating.  They welcomed coaching and subject matter expertise.  They did user discovery and testing.  They fabricated a working prototype that Zach used to test their theories based on solid research.  It worked.

Sweatration proceeded to walk away with Invent@SU’s top prize.

While reflecting upon their experience, Franco noted that entrepreneurship is “the best way to reward yourself for having a great idea” and valued the lessons he learned “by seeing it through.” Additionally, entrepreneurship “gives you the opportunity to be your own boss and have a lot of control over your career and the projects you undertake.”

Mazzacane added that compared to working for someone else, entrepreneurship means that “you have to figure out your own direction, which is more work, but you have greater freedom of choice.”

This week, they will be competing again for top prizes in ‘Cuse Tank, sponsored by the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University.  This fall they’ve continued to work on their idea with the LaunchPad staff and its network subject matter experts, alumni and peer mentors, along with the assistance of the LaunchPad’s talented student team.  They are working on their IP roadmap and exploring the FDA landscape with the help of the College of Law’s Innovation Law Center.  Their goal is creating a more sophisticated working prototype to get to full proof of concept, work with a professional design firm to finalize the hardware, create a functioning iOS app with an experienced UX team, and finalize their patent.

Franco, Stahl, and Mazzacane highly recommends the Invent@SU program and firmly believe that more students should apply for it. Stahl notes that it provides a huge advantage for any engineer with entrepreneurial ambitions by forcing them to step outside of their comfort zone. Public speaking might not always be at the forefront of a STEM education and the opportunity to pitch in front of seasoned industry veterans—such as Bill Allyn, retired CEO of Welch Allyn (now Hillrom / Baxter) —is an incredible opportunity to refine one’s communication skills. 

After achieving tech execution during Invent@SU, Sweatration now has a working prototype. They will continue focusing on product refinements in order to bring it to market. Additionally, they will participate in business pitch competitions this year working with the LaunchPad, refine their business model, expand the team, and eventually beta test the device with athletes as the last testing stage prior to a commercial launch. They are currently looking for help with industrial design, graphic design, general business, and intellectual property.

If you’re interested in joining their team, reach out to them through the LaunchPad: or come see them October 8 at ‘Cuse Tank in Bird Library.

Story by LaunchPad Global Fellow Selim Dangoor ’23; photo by LaunchPad staff

Sydney Grosso ’23 on new beginnings

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In the ever-changing environment that makes up Syracuse University, an active junior has great ambitions to get involved. Sydney Grosso ‘23, a double major in Public Health in Falk College and Policy Studies in Maxwell, is determined to use her degree to build a foundation for a meaningful career as a trailblazer.

Sydney, from the Syracuse area, decided to attend SU because of her interest in a biomedical degree. However, she soon discovered her passion for public health and policy studies. Creating new policies that will benefit the public for the greater good was her new commitment. Helping others gives her purpose to what she does, “I am building my skills and knowledge now so that one day I can give back to those who gave to me and many more,” Sydney stated.

Throughout Sydney’s three years at Syracuse, she has used her leadership skills and creative ideas to support residence halls through Resident Hall Association (RHA). She continued building on those skills by becoming an RA in Marion hall and involving herself to become more immersed in the Syracuse community.

She has also given back countless hours to local community members by volunteering to write to the elderly during the heart of the pandemic and tutoring kids in need.

Sydney is actively applying her studies by working with the NYS Grange, a non-profit organization, to relocate their meeting facilities and creating districts within the state to assist with current changes in the organization. She can showcase her leadership and communication skills by using pre-existing surveys and information to ameliorate discomfort in members as well as minimize the decrease in membership. While learning new business strategies and using creativity, Sydney has begun applying these new skills to work towards her upcoming business idea.

As a result of her new idea, she sparked interest in surrounding herself with people who are reliable, intelligent, and more than willing to assist with her aspirations. Sydney said, “Once you become a part of LaunchPad, you become more inspired every day to be the best version of yourself and exceed more than what you ever thought you could accomplish.”

Sydney is currently working with the LaunchPad’s writing team to meet new individuals and display their stories and the value they contribute to the LaunchPad team.  She is also a Zaccai Foundation working with the Intelligence ++ program, an inclusive entrepreneurship program that is a partnership between the LaunchPad and SU Libraries, InclusiveU and VPA’s School of Design.

At the LaunchPad, she aspires to advance her concept for a sustainable product. Furthermore, she aims to continue building connections with previous, current, and upcoming LaunchPad members to hopefully establish business and personal relationships.

“If there is one thing I could change, it would be joining LaunchPad freshman year, so I could have developed more confidence in myself while being surrounded by like-minded people.” Sydney knew she had aspirations outside receiving good grades, she just didn’t know that with the right code, she could unlock more of herself and her ideas.

As Sydney continues her RA role, she has a desire to inspire people to propel out of their comfort zone and to create new ideas. Sydney is continually working towards regaining her social skills with her residents similar to pre-covid times. As many others would agree, “The social strain Covid-19 left on the community has made it difficult to retreat to what it used to look like,” Sydney said.

She is continuously looking for ways to reconnect with her residents, so she can motivate them to reach their full potential.

One struggle Sydney faces is balancing work life and creating time for herself to take a break. “Working thirty-two hours a week, taking eighteen credits, and being involved in extracurricular activities makes it hard to find time for myself,”she said. Learning how to balance all her activities has been one of her greatest challenges thus far.

Making time and prioritizing herself has been a work in progress. But with her new understanding, she has implemented community events to help other students learn how to multitask and create time for themselves.

Sydney is eager to learn more about LaunchPad and establish new relationships within its network. With her drive for success, commitment to helping those who surround her, dedication to seeing others succeed, and contributing to the process, Sydney will find more than just co-workers, she will find a home in LaunchPad.

Story by Blackstone Global Fellow Sydney Grosso ‘23

Orange Tank applications due October 22

Calling Whitman students to jump into Orange Tank. Applications are due October 22 for this fall’s annual Orange Tank business pitch competition.  The competition is open only to student and alumni teams with a Whitman founder or co-founder. Learn more here and apply.

Teams will vie for $42,000 in cash prizes. A grand prize of $25,000 will be awarded to the competition’s top finisher. Monetary awards will be given to the ventures finishing in first, second and third place in both the student and alumni category.

The application deadline for all teams (both student and alumni based) will be Oct. 22, 2021 by 11:59 p.m. No exceptions. Please submit your executive summary to:

Finalists will be notified by October 26, 2021.

The final live event will be November 4 at Whitman, with the three teams in each division delivering an extended elevator pitch to finals judges with extended Q&A earlier in the day.  Alumni can be virtual and student presentations will be live. Winners will be announced at a reception and networking event at Whitman that evening.

Apply for over $250,000 in cash and prizes

Are you a student entrepreneur with big dreams? They can become a reality with the 2022 Baylor New Venture Competition. Applications are now open through November 1 for the the 11th annual Baylor New Venture Competition, a business plan competition where students will gain valuable feedback, useful tools, and seed capital for their ventures.

The business plan and elevator pitch competition showcases collegiate student created, managed and led ventures from across the globe. The competition provides participants with personal and professional development through:
industry-specific mentorship towards sustainable business plans; exclusive access to accomplished experts and fellow innovators; and a chance to compete for over $250,000 in cash prizes and vital resources.

The competition is open to all not-for-profit accredited university students and recent alumni. There is no limit to the number of teams from a single university that may apply. Teams must be comprised of a group and not just a single individual founder.

For further information on team eligibility, visit the 2022 Official Guidebook for details.

Questions? Feel free to contact event organizers via email at

LaunchPad’s Nick Barba ’20 named to program manager at Future Founders

The Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University is thrilled to join Future Founders in announcing that Nick Barba ’20, will join the Chicago-based national organization as Program Manager, Startup.  Reporting to the Senior Director of Startups and working in close partnership with the President & CEO of Future Founders, he will be responsible for supporting Future Founders Fellowship and alumni programming for diverse 18 to 30-year-old founders from across the country. A 2020 graduate of Syracuse University Whitman School of Management, Nick was previously the university’s program manager for its Blackstone LaunchPad, an initiative run by the Blackstone Charitable Foundation that makes entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial skills accessible for all college students to help them build thriving companies and careers.

Linda Dickerson Hartsock, Executive Director of the Blackstone LaunchPad Program at Syracuse University, said, “I have had the pleasure of working closely with Nick for more than three years, both as an adjunct faculty member in the Martin J. Whitman School of Management and through the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University, where he also served with distinction as a Blackstone LaunchPad Global Fellow. In short, Nick is one of the most outstanding students I have ever met in my more than 30-year career as a faculty member and university administrator. The impact he has had here is profound.”

In making the announcement, Future Founders added that it “is excited to welcome such a talented and promising young individual to join our staff of entrepreneurs as we work to build the nation’s largest inclusive community of intentional young founders.”

The LaunchPad network partners with Future Founders, a national nonprofit organization immersing young founders in experiences that inspire and empower them on their entrepreneurial journey. The organization’s multiple accelerator programs are offered free of charge, and focus on pairing a strong peer community of like-minded founders with intensive coaching from seasoned entrepreneurs. Future Founders is a non profit organization that helps 18 to 30-year-old entrepreneurs create and scale ventures across all industries. The organization’s multiple accelerator programs are offered free of charge, and focus on pairing a strong peer community of like-minded founders with intensive coaching from seasoned entrepreneurs. Over the last four years alone, Future Founders has helped hundreds of companies collectively generate over $33 million in revenue, raise $36 million in capital, and create 543 jobs.

To learn more about Future Founders visit: