Smarta and FSCL selected for summer fellowship program

Syracuse University startups, Smarta, co-founded by David Fox ’19 (iSchool) and Nicholas Barba ’20 (Whitman)  and FSCL, co-founded by Sam Hollander ’22 (Whitman and Newhouse dual major) are among 50 entrepreneurs selected for a Techstars summer fellowship to focus for eight weeks on advancing their ventures.  They will join college students and recent alumni from the U.S. and Ireland in a program by the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars global network to validate their strategies and advance their businesses.

During the program, the fellows will participate in coaching sessions as well as mentoring from Blackstone Campus Ambassadors and Techstars Entrepreneurs and Advisors. Students will also have the opportunity to hear first-hand from Techstars CEO and Co-Founder David Brown, as well as entrepreneurs like Allbirds Co-Founder Tim Brown, CareMessage Co-Founder Cecilia Corral, and SparkCharge Co-Founder (and Syracuse University LaunchPad alumnus) Josh Aviv during the “LaunchPad Lessons Learned” speaker series.

David Fox, co-founder of Smarta, at the LaunchPad’s Startup Weekend with Techstars

Smarta is a next-generation property and smart device management system that helps prepare property owners of apartments and other multi-family complexes for the future demand of smart home appliances. Recognizing that current consumer devices don’t have the security or privacy standards necessary to belong in a home environment, Smarta’s blockchain-based system will provide tenants a full smart home experience without impeding upon their rights to network security and personal privacy. During the Summer Fellowship, Smarta hopes to make strong advancements on the development of their property management platform, conduct meaningful customer discovery, and create the blockchain architecture that will support Smarta devices including smart locks, smart lights, and more.

“This Summer Fellowship not only gives Smarta the flexibility to conduct research and development at a faster rate than previously possible, but will also connect us to industry experts and leaders that can guide us through the challenges we are bound to face throughout our go-to-market strategy,”” said David Fox who also serves as president of the company.

Nicholas Barba, co-founder of Smarta (center) with LaunchPad Global Fellows Victoria Lawson (left) and Emma Rothman (right) at the LaunchPad’s Startup Weekend with Techstars

“Funding is the most frightening and common roadblock for startups, and Smarta is no exception,” said Nicholas Barba. “The Techstar fellowship will help us develop our prototype and approach angel investors. I’m very excited for the opportunities, connections, and productivity in store for Smarta over the next eight weeks.”

Sam Hollander, co-founder of FSCL, at the LaunchPad’s Startup Weekend with Techstars

FSCL is creating a simple, affordable, and flexible solution to finance higher education. America is in over $1.7 trillion of student debt, and FSCL is pioneering the use of Financial Technology (FinTech) and alternative finance vehicles to lessen the burden of student debt on Americans. FSCL’s vision is to transform students’ lives by reducing financial stress. During the LaunchPad Fellowship, FSCL hopes to begin identifying and developing strategic partnerships, prepare materials needed for pre-seed investment, and begin product development.

“The LaunchPad Fellowship will provide me with access to invaluable resources to help accelerate FSCL’s growth,” said Sam Hollander, FSCL founder. “Not only will I be able to network with professional mentors, but I will have access to an incredible peer-network of likeminded student-entrepreneurs. I am confident that this program will be extraordinarily helpful to both myself and FSCL, and I’m extremely excited to be a part of it.”

“At a time of unprecedented challenge for college students and recent graduates, entrepreneurship will be a key component of the solution for young entrepreneurs and their local communities,” said Amy Stursberg, Executive Director of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation. “By applying the resources and network of LaunchPad to the energy and ingenuity of these young people, the industry-transforming startups of tomorrow are being built today by LaunchPad Fellows.”

Students that applied to the LaunchPad Summer Startup Fellowship this summer operate startups in a wide range of industries. The LaunchPad Summer Startup Fellowship will create a collaborative network of student entrepreneurs working on ideas in the same and differing industries from campuses across the country and globe. 

In addition to coaching and mentorship from LaunchPad Campus Directors and Blackstone Campus Ambassadors throughout the eight weeks, students will also get the chance to participate in a Techstars Mentor Week. The LaunchPad Student Startup Fellowship will conclude July 31, 2020.

“We are thrilled that Dave, Nick and Sam were selected for this competitive Fellowships from more than 300 applicants,” said Linda Dickerson Hartsock, executive director of the Syracuse University LaunchPad program.  “They scored very highly in the competition, which was open to startups at 24 universities from across the United States and Ireland. This summer they will be joining a network of ambitious, talented and like-minded student entrepreneurs, and given the opportunity to showcase their ventures on a global stage.  We know it will be a wonderful personal and professional development experience, as they take their business to the next stage.”


About Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars

The Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars entrepreneurship network helps students succeed in entrepreneurship and in their careers. Open to all students and recent alumni in all majors, the campus-based Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars network enables participants to access mentoring, grow their network, and access the resources to accelerate the success of their business. For more information, see

About 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

About Techstars

Techstars is the global platform for investment and innovation. Techstars founders connect with other entrepreneurs, experts, mentors, alumni, investors, community leaders, and corporations to grow their companies. Techstars operates three divisions: Techstars Mentorship-Driven Accelerator Programs, Techstars Corporate Innovation Partnerships, and Techstars Communities. Techstars accelerator portfolio includes more than 2,200 companies with a market cap of more than $26 billion.