Syracuse University’s InVenture Prize winner: Kate Beckman of Fresh U advances to the ACC finals

Student at whiteboard

Kate Beckman, founder of Fresh U, will represent Syracuse University at the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) InVenture Prize Competition on March 30-31 at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

The ACC is comprised of 15 member universities that compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)’s Division I. The ACC InVenture Prize brings that spirited collegiate competition to the “turf” of ideas, pitting the best innovators and entrepreneurs from each campus against each other, Shark Tank-style, before a live audience and panel of expert judges.  The first-place team will be awarded $15,000 to continue development of their invention or product. The second-place team will receive $10,000, and $5,000 will be awarded to the fans’ favorite invention, as determined by online and text voting during the televised final round.

Fresh U will compete in the preliminary round on March 30 in Atlanta, facing off against campus winners from Boston College, Clemson University, Duke University, Florida State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, North Carolina State, University of Notre Dame, University of Louisville, University of Miami, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, University of Pittsburgh, University of Virginia, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University, and Wake Forest University. The winners of that round will participate in the finals on March 31, which will be broadcast on PBS Television and streamed online.

“This competition was an invaluable opportunity for our students to stretch their entrepreneurial skills while competing for the chance to showcase their great ideas at the national level,” says Vice Chancellor and Provost Michele Wheatly. “Congratulations to the winning team of Fresh U, who I know will represent Syracuse proudly and well at the finals. And congratulations to all the students who participated. Their innovative ideas and creative vision made for a very exciting competition.”

The Fresh U team is led by Kate Beckman, a senior at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Fresh U is a national online publication geared toward college freshmen. Since launching in June 2015, Fresh U has grown to a staff of 300 contributing writers on over 100 campuses and has a media partnership with Teen Vogue. The publication’s content ranges from the new experiences of college life to surfacing local news stories on college campuses using its network of contributing writers. The publication offers brands the opportunity to reach a group of newly-minted, Gen-Z consumers who are making hundreds of purchasing decisions as they prepare for college life. Founder Kate Beckman is supported by a team that includes Matt Gehring, Mia Cole, Katie Czerwinski, Amanda Morrison, Sabrina Sooknanan, and advisors Sean Branagan and Melissa Chessher.

“I’m so excited to represent Syracuse while pitching my startup on a national stage. The ACC competition is a great opportunity to meet student founders from other schools, while also gaining real-life experience pitching my company. I think it will be a challenging and rewarding opportunity,” said Kate Beckman, founder of Fresh U.

Beckman represented Syracuse University last March at Student Startup Madness at SXSW. She is an accomplished public speaker on content development and marketing trends, opportunities and issues related to Gen Z, and has also been invited back to Austin this March to participate in a national panel at a pre-SXSW event.

The InVenture Prize attracted 21 teams for the Syracuse University qualifier, with novel ideas for products, services and technologies. Seven semi-finalist teams were selected to pitch in a juried round: Comfortwear, Fresh U, IIID, ModoScript, Ravel, Savofair, and SORB.  A panel of cross-campus judges then selected two finalists, Beckman and Fresh U, and Jack Phillips, founder of IIID, for an “audience choice” face-off. In an exciting final pitch round, a live audience selected Beckman in a close vote that added to the spirit of the competition.

IIID, founded by fifth-year architecture student Jack Phillips, creates 3D printed architectural applications using shale and clay powder for historic replication and preservation projects. The 3D printing process brings detail, precision and affordability to the construction and building materials industry, especially for the restoration of architecturally significant buildings with ornate elements that can typically only be reproduced by skilled craftsmen using hand tooling.  Phillips has achieved proof of concept, is working on his patent strategy, and partnering with preservation architects, engineers and historic preservation organizations.

“I’m delighted that the Blackstone LaunchPad at SU Libraries was able to coordinate this campus-wide competition and help to prepare the competitors” said David Seaman, Dean of Libraries and University Librarian, “and impressed by the very strong slate of student entrepreneurial endeavors who entered from Syracuse University.”