Shawn Gaetano ’21 and Sam Hollander ’22 score top honors at the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards

people on a zoom call
Sam Hollander and Shawn Gaetano pitching at the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards

Shawn Gaetano ’21 (iSchool) and Sam Hollander ’22 (Whitman and Newhouse) took home some top honors for their ventures at the U.S.-Western NY regionals of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA).  The competition, held January 22, 2021 in Buffalo, featured student entrepreneurs who actively run a business while pursuing an undergraduate degree and generating revenue or investments.  Gaetano and Hollander won cash awards and earned second and third place in the competition .  Both are Syracuse LaunchPad startups who are launching their ventures with the support of the university innovation ecosystem.

Gaetano, who graduated early in December, shared his story as founder of Solace Vision, a software platform that builds tailored virtual reality environments.  As a student, he was director of NEXIS, a student run research organization based on emerging technologies.  Solace Vision originated in NEXIS working with researchers and faculty there, and he then participated in the LaunchPad’s SummerStart Accelerator where he continued his commercialization trajectory.  He participated and won prizes in several fall 2020 campus competitions.  As an undergraduate he was also a technology services support specialist from the Whitman School of Management. After graduation he will be joining Eaton while also pursuing his work building Solace Vision.

Hollander is a serial entrepreneur who shared his journey as a founding team member of several ventures going back to his childhood.  His path led him to create FSCL, a pioneering alternative finance vehicle that is a simple, affordable and flexible solution to finance higher education.  He is planning to graduate in December 2021 with a dual major in finance and advertising with an emphasis in financial and investor communications.  Hollander has been involved in entrepreneurship since he first set foot on the Syracuse University campus and is currently an Orange Ambassador and Rubin Family Innovation Mentor at the LaunchPad where he has also been a Global Fellow and part of the organizing team for Syracuse University’s Startup Weekend with Techstars.  He recently completed a Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars Fellowship.  As a Syracuse student he competed in and won numerous campus competitions.  Before coming to Syracuse, he founded SPH Media while still in high school.

Taking first place was Lorena James, a Chinese studies senior at Davidson College in North Carolina who will soon be entering Schwarzman College at Tsinghua University in Beijing as a graduate Schwarzman Scholar. She won for her venture Curly, which curates zero waste hair care products for the African diaspora in Asia. 

EO GSEA is considered the premier global competition for student entrepreneurs who actively run a business.  With more than 1,700 competitors from over 30 countries, EO GSEA is an exclusive opportunity for student entrepreneurs to make connections, find resources and grow their businesses.  It is supported by The Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), a global business network of more than 12,000 leading entrepreneurs in 160 global chapters.

Founded in 1987 by a group of young entrepreneurs, EO enables business owners to learn from each other, leading to greater business success. EO offers resources in the form of global events, leadership-development programs, peer-to-peer learning, an online entrepreneur forum, executive education opportunities and connections to experts.