Syracuse University student startups Selim Dangoor ‘23, founder of MUNCH Jerky, and Sandhya Iyer ’20, CEO of Geek Girl Careers, have been selected for the Summer 2021 cohort of the Blackstone LaunchPad Fellowship. Both are active members of the LaunchPad at Syracuse University Libraries. The Blackstone Charitable Foundation and partners will support 55 student entrepreneurs from across the global network with $250,000 in grant funding and eight weeks of entrepreneurial resources, mentoring, and support through the summer program.
Over the program participating student founders will receive a $5,000 grant to support their time working on advancing their entrepreneurial ventures, as well as other resources and support, including weekly workshops, community-building activities, and mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs and executives in the LaunchPad network. The program also includes intensive LaunchPad campus director coaching sessions. Students will also have the opportunity to join the LaunchPad-supported Startup Grind Student Program and participate in the Techstars Empower Collective.
“We’re excited to welcome another cohort of bright entrepreneurs to the LaunchPad Fellowship,” said Blackstone Charitable Foundation executive director Amy Stursberg. “In spite of the many challenges of the past year, this diverse set of students has taken impressive strides towards bringing their ideas to life. We look forward to supporting their innovation and drive this summer, and can’t wait to see the companies and careers they develop in the future.”
Dangoor, studying public relations in the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications and finance in the Martin J. Whitman School of Management, became fascinated with the creation of flavorful jerky during the pandemic. He used his passion for food entrepreneurship to create artisanal beef jerky with high quality cuts of tender flank steak. This past academic year he worked with the LaunchPad, competed in business plan competitions, winning the Hunter Brooks Watson Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award from judges who loved his energy and passion. He also made important business connections and learned USDA and Department of Health regulations, connected with commercial kitchens, and built a network of entrepreneurial agri-business producers as advisors. He incubated in the LaunchPad to his love of premium, high-protein artisanal jerky to life as a commercial venture, and to build a roadmap to launch into the marketplace and scale. He is also the recipient of a recent Innovation Fund Award from the LaunchPad.
Sandhya Iyer, a graduate from S.I. Newhouse School of Communications in Public Relations and from the Martin J. Whitman School of Management in Marketing, hopes to empower young women to find a career they love in a tech field. As CEO of Geek Girl Careers, she is helping young women find careers in tech that align with their passions and personalities. Geek Girl Careers is committed to increasing representation in tech by broadening the pathways in tech fields. Women make up nearly half the American workforce but hold only 26% of computing-related jobs. The problem starts as early as middle school, but only becomes more apparent in high school and college is especially apparent in college — in 2020, women made up only 18% of undergraduate students who earned a degree in computer science. Geek Girl Careers helps young women discover careers in tech that align with their existing passions and skills and connects them with other Geek Girls and mentors. Iyer is a regular speaker at Syracuse University LaunchPad events and mentors other campus female tech founders.
The LaunchPad Fellowship program originally begun in response to intern, job, and entrepreneurial opportunities lost by college students at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and has now grown into a signature program of the Blackstone LaunchPad network. These Fellowship helps students learn by doing, growing and strengthening entrepreneurial skills like leadership, problem-solving, and communication as they complete customer discovery interviews, launch initial marketing and sales efforts, add talent to their teams, and seek additional funding and support.
The program is funded by the Blackstone Charitable Foundation and coordinated through the Blackstone LaunchPad network and Future Founders.
About the Blackstone LaunchPad network
The Blackstone LaunchPad network builds next-generation companies and careers. We work with higher-ed institutions to deliver proven startup resources, facilitate access to a global network of mentors and advisors, and offer unique virtual and physical convening opportunities so thousands of diverse college students can go further, faster. Students learn by doing, gaining knowledge and critical skills to help them succeed as a founder or contributor to the innovation economy. LaunchPad’s ever-expanding network encompasses campuses with predominantly underrepresented populations. For more information, see www.blackstonelaunchpad.org
About the Blackstone Charitable Foundation
The Blackstone Charitable Foundation was founded at the time of Blackstone’s IPO in 2007 with substantial commitments from the Firm’s employees. Influenced by the enterprising heritage of the firm and its founders, The Blackstone Charitable Foundation is directing its resources and applying the intellectual capital of the firm to foster entrepreneurship in areas nationwide and globally. Through its investment expertise across several asset classes and geographies, Blackstone has a unique perspective on the global economy and a heightened understanding of how entrepreneurial activity is often the crucial catalyst in the growth of successful businesses, industries, and communities. For more information, see http://www.blackstone.com/foundation.
About Future Founders
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. For more information visit www.futurefounders.com.