Four Syracuse University students were selected to participate in the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars Startup Weekend in Los Angeles April 26 – 28. They were part of a cohort of 70 students attendees from 20 universities from six states and two countries, working in teams to “create ventures in a weekend” and pitch to 12 Techstars mentors and judges in a spirited competition. Out of thousands of Startup Weekends catalyzed by the Techstars Startup Weekend network, this was the first multi-campus event to be held in the history of the program.
Alexandra Cianfarani (Whitman ’22), Sam Hollander (Newhouse ’22), Emma Rothman (Falk ’21), and Matt Shumer (Whitman ’22), members of the LaunchPad at SU Libraries, were selected through a competitive campus application process to represent Syracuse University at the event. Student participants at the LA event were named “Student Entrepreneurs in Residence” and are now empowered by Techstars to return to their universities and lead campus Startup Weekends. Cianfarani, Hollander, Rothman and Shumer will work with SU’s LaunchPad staff to create a Techstars Startup Weekend at Syracuse this fall.
The LA event was a great experience, according to Shumer. “We had the opportunity to meet students from other LaunchPads, and quickly formed a team with Cornell, University of Montana, and UC Irvine participants. Over the course of the weekend, we did rapid ideation, customer discovery, product development and a full pitch. We walked from Venice Beach to the Santa Monica pier, and interviewed store owners to glean input to create Last Mile, a platform that could enable customers to order anything on-line from local merchants and have it delivered doorside within two hours. Over the course of the intensive weekend, we developed an app mockup, prototype code, a website, a full pitch deck, and presented it to industry experts and investors. It was an incredible experience.”
Cianfarani and Hollander were also part of the Last Mile team. “I loved the opportunity to grow my personal and professional networks, and represent Syracuse University in such a positive way,” added Hollander. “We are looking forward to creating a Startup Weekend at SU. We want it to be a fun and energetic experience that will enable Syracuse students to develop and grow ideas, and connect with other like-minded innovators across campus.”
Rothman joined students from Cornell, University of Montana, University at Buffalo, and Texas A&M University to create Succint, a web extension to organize web design around individual learning styles and preferences, including text and typography, visuals, color, layout and user experience. She valued the opportunity to be the lead pitch spokesperson for the team. “It was the first time I did a pitch, and it was such a supportive space that was low risk and high reward. I am excited to stay in touch with other student innovators from around the country, and work together this summer to launch a Startup Weekend this fall event at SU.”
“We were completely blown away by the presentations, work ethic, and professionalism at the weekend,” said Courtney Gras, community director of the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars global network. “We are thrilled to hear SU students enjoyed Startup Weekend. It was such an exciting event, and just amazing to see the quality of the students and their ideas.”
Photo caption: Matt Shumer, Sam Hollander, Alexandra Cianfarani and Emma Rothman. All four are members of the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars at Syracuse University.