The Blackstone LaunchPad now has more than 1,300 entrepreneurs from 46 countries engaged with its programming. It has rapidly become a cross disciplinary and cross-cultural gathering place – somewhere students from across different program areas can form teams and get a global perspective.
With those opportunities come challenges, because college students in the United States face special restrictions as F-1 visa holders when it comes to entrepreneurship and business formation. U.S. law is very strict about what students can and cannot do while in the U.S. on various visas. Generally, students on an F-1 visa cannot work at an outside job, and face legal hurdles launching ventures, depending on whether they have active roles in the company (prohibited) or merely serve as passive partners (possibly permitted). F-1 students on OPT (optional practical training) may be able to become self-employed business owners in limited circumstances, with required business licenses, in a field directly related to his or her studies.
The penalties for getting this wrong can possible include deportation, so it is essential that international students consult an immigration attorney to understand what visa classifications mean, guidelines for each, and how they might eventually change status, depending on how much they want to invest.
Regulations change frequently, and students need the most up-to-date information. With that in mind, Diethard Struelens G ’17 will assist the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University in building an international startup advisory council at Syracuse University, comprised of immigration and business attorneys, as well as experienced international entrepreneurs and business experts.
Struelens will help organize a one-day conference this spring for faculty, staff and students on this topic, with a goal of providing information by legal experts to international student entrepreneurs, in order to help them better understand the “do’s and don’ts” of venture development.
As an international graduate student entrepreneur working on his own venture, Struelens is developing Artfuse, which he plans to incorporate after graduation.
With roots in both Belgium and The Netherlands, Struelens has a background in classical music, psychology and entrepreneurship. At age 16, he applied to the Lemmens Institute, a Jesuit boarding school for performing arts in Leuven, Belgium, to pursue a career in classical music performance. Following graduation, he moved to Maastricht, The Netherlands and obtained his Bachelor’s degree in 2015.
Struelens started his first company as a teenager — a live music performance business named Chez-la-Main. From 2011 to 2013, he grew this business from a one group ensemble to a production company that offered musical flash mobs in three different countries. During this time, he discovered that entrepreneurship is his path, and that solving problems in the creative industries and social sphere is his true passion.
Looking for new ways to develop his skill set further, Struelens found the Janklow Arts Leadership Program at Syracuse University during the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp at Whitman School of Management, in fall 2015. He started the Janklow graduate program in June 2016, while developing Artfuse, a social media platform that solves the disconnect in the creative industries and helps artists to become more successful. His Artfuse team has grown to 12 students with combined skills in finance, marketing, business, communication and technology. The team is preparing to launch their prototype at the end of March, and is competing in the upcoming RvD iPrize and Panasci Business Plan Competition.
Struelens is a board member at Civic Morning Musicals, Senator-at-Large at the Graduate Student Organization, and member of the International Student Advisory Board. He is excited to add Blackstone LaunchPad Global Fellow to his portfolio.
He will be joining Yong Zhang “Lawrence” Lin ’19, Quentin Rene Marcel Rosso ’19, Amanda Chou ‘19 and Amos Cohen ’20, as Global Fellows. Lin is from Beijing, Rosso is from Paris, Chou is from Taiwan and China, and Cohen is from Tel Aviv.
To connect with any of the LaunchPad Global Fellows, e-mail LaunchPad@syr.edu