Claire Howard

Kwaku Jyamfi ’18 brings clean energy to communities around the world through Farm to Flame Energy

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In Ghana, a family uses noxious diesel generators to power their home and charcoal to light their ovens and stoves. Clean energy is utterly lacking in many parts of the world.  Kwaku Jyamfi ’18, who majored in chemical engineering at the College of Engineering & Computer Science, hopes to change that. He co-founded Farm to Flame Energy with Will McKnight ‘18, a graduate College of Arts and Sciences and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.  Starting as a student venture, the company has gone on to launch and is now scaling production of smokeless and odorless biomass-powered generators for use in communities around the globe.

Jyamfi’s passion for creating an environmentally conscious generator stems from his own experience and family background. Much of Jyamfi’s family is from Ghana, and he’s witnessed firsthand the reliance on diesel generators and charcoal. “Charcoal has a lot of particle matter that’s bad, and then the kids take that in,” he said. The use of charcoal to cook in kitchens or diesel generators for over 8 hours a day is not just an environmental problem, it’s also a public health problem.

When McKnight, who is a friend of Jyamfi’s, told him his grandfather had designed a combustion process for biomass that burns odorless and smokeless, Jyamfi was immediately intrigued.  Together, they began working on the patented idea, created a business model for Farm to Flame Energy and began pitching in business campus competitions, winning some initial seed funding for the idea during their studies at Syracuse University. The team incubated in the LaunchPad and worked with mentors from both the LaunchPad and the SyracuseCoE.

After Jyamfi graduated, he spent a summer working tirelessly at the Technology Garden in downtown Syracuse to design Farm to Flame Energy’s generators. The team hired several students studying mechanical engineering to assist them in the technological development of the generator. After a series of 60-hour weeks and tireless devotion, Jyamfi and his team created their model of the generator that successfully powered buildings while remaining carbon neutral.

Development of the company was made more complicated when Jyamfi moved on to graduate study at Carnegie Mellon University to get his degree in Environmental Engineering and Technology Innovation Management. In an entirely different city away from his team, Jyamfi worked full time on Farm to Flame Energy on development and investment while completing his graduate studies, showing his level of passion and dedication to the company. During quarantine he even built a small demonstrative generator on his porch, using the time and isolation to propel the company’s growth.

Farm to Flame Energy’s most pivotal growth came on a trip to Nigeria they took in the first semester of developing the company. They visited a hospital powered by diesel generators, which cost approximately 2 million US dollars per year. During that visit, they wrote the hospital a letter of intent promising that with their generators, their hospital could be powered sustainably for a cost of only 1.2 million US dollars per year. After the COVID-19 pandemic, Jyamfi and his team traveled back to Nigeria in 2021 and turned that letter of intent into a contract. They delivered their first commercial generator to that hospital in 2021 and have then since been developing more commercial generators with the ability to power commercial buildings using carbon neutral, clean energy.

Today Jyamfi works full time as the CEO of Farm to Flame Energy, finding investments and markets to turn their successful model of a commercial carbon neutral generator into a company that powers commercial buildings all around the world. His path from an engineering student with an idea to the CEO of a company that has developed and implemented a technologically successfully clean energy power source speaks to the large-scale positive contribution every person can make with just an idea.

Story by Claire Howard ’23, Global Fellow; photo supplied  

Maya Tsimmer ’23 turns her passion for beekeeping into an organic honey business

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In the solitude of the spring 2020 COVID-19 outbreak, a passion for beekeeping was born. Maya Tsimmer ’23, studying advertising in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications with marketing minor in the Martin J. Whitman School of Management, created Bethel Sweet Honey during the pandemic and launched herself into the world of locally sourced honey.

Tsimmer’s interest in locally sourced honey begins as a love story to the upstate New York countryside.  Raised in New York City, her family owned a country house in Bethel, New York complete with floor-to-ceiling glass windows to capture the surrounding rolling wooded hills. 

When the family house unfortunately burned down in 2008, her family was devastated but Tsimmer always maintained her love for the beauty of Upstate New York and an appreciation for its rich biodiversity and agricultural produce.

“We spent so much time working the land — planting pine seedlings so that pine trees would grow and keep on growing with the family history,” Tsimmer recalled of the home she lost in the fire. “People overlook Upstate New York.  But it has so many incredible foods and it remains undiscovered when it comes to organic food.”

Tsimmer began to fully appreciate the agricultural richness of New York when she took up beekeeping as a hobby during COVID-19 isolation. While her family did not rebuild the home, they still visited the land often and stayed with family nearby. As she taught herself to tend bees and harvest honey on the family land, she began to see honey as more than product but as a storytelling of the New York ecosystem and an experiential joy.

 “Our goal is to elevate honey, to go beyond honey as an accessory to tea or coffee, and to bring appreciation of seasonal varieties with uniquely local taste profiles and multiple uses that take a front row seat as a healthier alternative to sugar-rich spreadables, candy and much more,” said Tsimmer regarding the experience of honey. “When you take a spoonful of Bethel Sweet, you will think of your best summers, the lakes, the woods and Catskill mountains.”

With the desire to share honey as a joy and homage to the nature of New York, Tsimmer along with the help of her brother launched Bethel Sweet Honey, selling small batch unprocessed honey.  The unique element of Bethel Sweet Honey lies in Tsimmer’s self-discovered straining process which creates tiny sugar crystals in the honey, creating a more interesting flavor profile and silky-smooth buttery texture.

In addition to regular honey harvested from her bees, she also created a wildflower honey, which includes berries natural to New York State as a tribute to its local environment.  She also hopes to highlight the remarkable health benefits of honey, from immunity support, anti-allergen, and healing properties to increased nutrition compared to other refined sugars.

At present Bethel Sweet Honey is sold mainly through private markets and through a partnership with VR World, the US largest virtual reality entertainment center in New York City.

While Tsimmer right now must balance her passion for beekeeping with academic life in Syracuse, she hopes to expand Bethel Sweet Honey’s market and pursue its growth fulltime after graduation. Bethel Sweet at present is managed and operated by Tsimmer and her brother, but she’s currently looking to outsource more of the honey production to other local beekeepers, dedicated on preserving the local roots and artisanal quality of Bethel Sweet Honey.

Tsimmer’s story of starting her own business during the pandemic echoes experiences of many who found new directions in a time that fostered creativity during a period of isolation and stillness. For Tsimmer, her redirection pointed her back towards the childhood land she felt deeply connected to. Bethel Sweet Honey is a celebration of the beauty and farming of upstate New York and reflects Tsimmer’s desire to share the life of New York’s land with others.

“In a lot of ways, Bethel Sweet is a part of the land that was lost,” said Tsimmer.

Story by Claire Howard ’23, LaunchPad Global Fellow

Josh Alter ’22 helps startups focus on their finances for growth

Personal finances are tricky enough. But managing finances for a business, particularly a new startup business, is an entirely different domain of stress and complexity. At the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University, Josh Alter ’22 works diligently to help startup teams keep track of finances and focus on growth.

The finance major in the Martin J. Whitman School of Management with a sports analytics minor in the Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics, is the LaunchPad’s resident financial advisor and of this year’s Launchstars.  Alter has always loved tackling projects and leading business teams and this role is a perfect fit.

He connected to the LaunchPad in an uncommon way — through a chance friendship. In 2017, Alter met Sam Hollander, the LaunchPad’s Program Manager, on a trip to Australia. Alter and Hollander, who lived hundreds of miles away from each other, did not see each other again, but kept in touch.  When they both committed to Syracuse, their shared travel experience turned into a great college friendship.

Through Hollander’s connection to the LaunchPad, Alter himself began to work with one of LaunchPad’s businesses, Popcycle.  Run by Jackson Ensley and Paul Hultgren, two LaunchPad team members, Popcycle creates popups and spaces for student artists and creatives to sell their work, from woven tote bags to handprinted jean jackets. “The concept is amazing,” says Alter. “We have something we’re passionate about and so many talented student innovators are on campus. It was amazing to make a space for them.”

Alter worked with Popcycle to organize its finances, manage multiple revenue streams, and create budget forecasts for future projects. It was through this role that Alter was first immersed in the world of startups. He loved it. “A lot of the work I did then was a learning experience. Everyone who works in a startup wears all the hats,” says Alter.

Like most people, Alter’s college experience changed significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. The rapid shift from a packed academic schedule and rich social life to virtual Zoom classes within his bedroom was for him, like it many, debilitating for his mental health and wellbeing. After missing an on-campus fall 2020 semester, he needed a change. He said goodbye to his roommates, packed up his belongings, booked a flight to Honolulu, and spent the next semester alternating his time between a sunny Hawaiian beach and completing online coursework. “I kind of dropped everything,” says Alter. “There’s nothing like sun, water and warm weather to turn everything around. It was probably the best three months of my life.”

Alter’s biggest growth that happened in his time away from campus was independence. Away from the professional and social networks that a university provides, he was forced to form new networks independently and grow in a self-sustained way.

It’s this independence and self-courage that he applies to his work today and is part of what he loves about the LaunchPad.  “It’s such a real space,” says Alter about the LaunchPad. “In the classroom you’re doing a lot of theoretical work, but here these students have passion and ideas and I get to help develop those.” 

This drive to realize the grand ideas of others into reality through financial services has led Alter to create a career where he does just that. After graduation, he’ll be working for Deloitte on an account for a large sports-related client, where he’ll audit and advise the client on their financial model.

From financial forecasting for small student startups to a prestigious global company, Alter uses his financial knowledge to help people and companies cement their dreams into reality. His power lies not just in his passion, but his ability to create space and growth for himself through every difficulty, like his choice to spend a semester in Hawaii.

“We get very wrapped up in our jobs and our future and it’s important that we take a breath and look at what we’ve done to see that things are going well.”

Story by Claire Howard ’23, Global Fellow; photo supplied

Sebastian Gonzalez ’22 curates his wellness brand Ataraxia

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Stress is perhaps the most well-understood word in the modern individual’s dictionary. The burden of managing a multitude of responsibilities in an increasingly fast-paced modern world has left individuals burnt out, overwhelmed, and struggling with anxiety in an attempt to meet all expectations.

Enter the world of nootropics — natural supplements that can improve cognitive function and reduce burnout. Sebastian Gonzalez ’22, studying real estate in the Martin J. Whitman School of Management and psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences and founder of Ataraxia, a brand selling nootropic supplements to enhance cognitive performance.

Ataraxia, a Greek word meaning a state of serenity free from worry, was inspired by Gonzalez’ own personal experience with the importance of mental health and his lifelong mission to support mental wellness in himself and others. He studies psychology for that precise reason — to understand how the brain works and what strategies to implement for its health and happiness. For him, simple strategies such as taking cold showers in the morning or meditating before starting the day have significant effects on his focus and presence.

Another behavior he’s found revolutionary in improving productivity and calm? The answer lies in Ataraxia – taking nootropic supplements.

Gonzalez’ business of artisanal supplements started a few years ago when he traveled to Japan and visited the green tea market in Kyoto. There, in the city known for producing the world’s finest tea, he was introduced and fell in love with Japanese matcha. As obsession for green tea made its way to America in the form of ice creams, cakes, and lattés; Gonzalez decided to begin selling ceremonial grade matcha, touting its many health benefits and advantage as an alternative to coffee.

Through sleek, elegant packaging and intentional care, Gonzalez quickly found customers for his premium matcha. Hoping to expand more into the world of supplements for cognitive function, he began developing a nootropic blend in one pill from several different mushroom powders. His current supplement contains ashwagandha, which reduces stress and anxiety, chaga, which improves memory recognition, and lion’s mane, which increases focus and attention. 

“Stress and anxiety is the number one factor that decreases our energy. Nootropics increases your brain’s productivity.  If you take it in the long term, you’re going to feel less stressed and more energetic,” said Gonzalez of the profound impact nootropics can have.

With his passion for mental wellness and intentional cultivation of his wellness brand Ataraxia, it’s no surprise that Gonzalez is already seeing funding and interested customers run towards him. Gonzalez was one of four winners at the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University’s Startup in a Day competition, where individuals gathered from across the Syracuse community to give one-minute pitches of their business idea for the chance to win $1,000 as part of a collaboration with Startup Tree.

As the winner of the Consumer Products and Services categories, Gonzalez now gets to move on to a nationwide competition competing for the chance to win $10,000 in funding for Ataraxia. Gonzalez, who signed up for the competition after he saw the LaunchPad team pitching it in Bird Library, is so thankful that he saw that LaunchPad table that one day and propelled his path toward funding and recognition.

With the past year’s rise in mental health struggles, motivation, and productivity due to world forever changed by COVID-19, Gonzalez hopes that nootropic supplements can help people find more focus and energy in their day-to-day life. His resolve to create a brand that helps people cultivate wellness and mental health via remarkably powerful brain supplements contributes to the creation of a modern society that is well, not stressed.  

Story by Claire Howard ’23, Global Fellow.

EmpowerU partners with Wo-manly and the Syracuse LaunchPad for personal and professional growth

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On a quiet Wednesday afternoon in November, amidst the scramble and stress of school in its final weeks, a group of more than 20 students gathered in the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University over freshly baked cookies and holiday blend teas, dreaming together of how they could achieve professional fearlessness.

The first meeting of EmpowerU, a new LaunchPad community started in partnership with Wo-manly, brought together people from all academic disciplines and career goals across Syracuse University. They had one purpose in mind — to form a community supporting and encouraging each other’s personal and professional growth.

After the first meeting, which brought inspiration and reflection from experiences shared of Kelly Davis, CEO of Wo-manly and Linda Dickerson Hartsock, Executive Director for the Blackstone LaunchPad, the initial members of Wo-manly brainstormed ideas to make this new Syracuse community flourish.

That is precisely what EmpowerU hopes to do to grow this community at the end of this semester into the next with their upcoming plans which include:

Mentor Matching

Mentorship is critical to sustained growth in career and personal aspects of life. EmpowerU hopes to provide career mentors for students across different academic disciplines. If you’re interested in finding a mentor, please fill the form here to be matched with one.

Study Hours

Often, the most powerful thing a community can do for its members is simply share time together in the mundane tasks of everyday. As finals loom and studying becomes an all-day activity, EmpowerU is offering study hours with Claire and Kelly in the LaunchPad Mondays from 12-2 pm, Tuesdays 2-4pm, and Wednesdays from 4-6pm for the next two weeks. Please come by and study over with your favorite LaunchPad tea!

Vision Board Party

As organizations hold their last event to wrap up the semester, EmpowerU hopes to offer a de-stressing, recentering time to help you refocus for finals. Stay tuned for our Vision Board Party, where we’ll gather to create vision boards reflecting on this semester and getting excited for the future!

EmpowerU warmly welcomes you to attend and take advantage of all our opportunities here. Please click here to join and hope to welcome you soon!

Story by Claire Howard ’23, Global Fellow

Murray Lebovitz ’23 is championing the craft of artisanal coffee

Each morning, a cup of coffee.  That is the daily ritual for 70% of Americans.  From Keurig machines on nightstands to drip coffee pots in kitchens that keep caffeine coming all day long, most adults survive on coffee to give them a boost of energy to start their day.

Yet despite the overwhelming number of people who rely on coffee as an essential item in their life, coffee sourcing is not often well understood or celebrated as an artisanal craft. Enter Murray Lebovitz ’23, studying Supply Chain Management in the Martin J. Whitman School of Management, determined to create community centered around appreciating and championing the craft of coffee through his platform Keep Coffee Casual.

Lebovitz’ interest in coffee began after working a summer camp job after he graduated high school. As one might imagine, the coffee there was atrocious, probably mixed from an industrial sized instant coffee container. Lebovitz couldn’t stand it and bought his own personal-sized coffee maker.  He soon began taking it everywhere with him.

As he started his studies at Syracuse University, Lebovitz continued his tradition of brewing his own coffee every morning in his dorm. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in his freshman year, Lebovitz used his newfound time to research more into the practice of brewing coffee, curious to discover the intricacies of what had been for him for so long a core, but not understood, aspect of his lifestyle.

Lebovitz’ newfound passion and interest in the art of coffee led him to start his own mini business selling his own cold brew coffee across campus during freshman year. His fascination with coffee grew into him securing a job at the new Salt City Coffee as one of their roasters, working hard to create the perfect, most flavorful roast of coffee for the local artisanal coffee shop.

As Lebovitz dived deeper into the world of coffee, he wasn’t content to let it merely be a personal hobby but wanted to unite and connect with other people around the appreciation of specialty coffee. Enter Keep Coffee Casual, a business focused on creating community for coffee lovers and expanding the specialty coffee community to everyday coffee drinkers.

Lebovitz identified two main problems within the coffee industry today — transparency and consumer accessibility. The coffee industry is sourced from coffee farmers in countries across the world, typically Southern hemisphere developing countries. It unfortunately can be industry that profits off exploitation from poor farmers, without consumer transparency of these practices. “Transparency is huge in the coffee world because the product people are drinking is sourced so far away from most people. Keeping the supply chain transparent works as a benefit for both sides,” said Lebovitz of his hopes to increase people’s awareness about the sourcing of coffee through Keep Coffee Casual.

While standard coffee is readily accessible to most Americans, Lebovitz also hopes to improve accessibility to specialty coffee. Specialty coffee, which highlights carefully cultivated roasts for unique flavors, artisanal methods of brewing from pour over to French press, and often is sourced through ethical fair-trade practices, is typically not accessible to most people because of the price difference and purchasing barrier to entry.

Lebovitz hopes to introduce more people to specialty coffee through Keep Coffee Casual’s  coffee variety bags, which include different roasts following an industry theme. This allows new customers to try various varieties of coffee without committing to the expense of a large bag of one variety that they may not like. Instead, consumers can dip their toes in the world of specialty coffee by trying what aspects they love.

He is working with the Blackstone LaunchPad to refine his business model and begin work on commercializing his venture.  He’s also been offering occasional informal pop-up coffee tastings featuring unique roasts in the LaunchPad for other student ventures, growing a cult following and appreciative audience for his coffee expertise.

The power of coffee lies in its ability to cultivate community.  This is at the core of Keep Coffee Casual’s mission. Through intentional consumption of ethically sourced and specialty coffee, Lebovitz seeks to create community around the care and love for coffee. “Coffee is a great way to bring people together – that’s where the magic happens,” said Lebovitz.

Story by Claire Howard ’23, Global Fellow

Come to EmpowerU on November 10

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Women hold just 10.9% of leadership positions in the world’s 500 largest companies. In companies across the U.S. they hold only 21% of leadership positions across all companies. When women make up half the population and nearly half the workforce, why do we still see stagnation in equality of opportunity and professional growth for women?

At the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University, we are interested in growing the next generation of woman innovators.  EmpowerU is a new LaunchPad community, a space for women and allies to encourage each other in fearless professional growth. Overcoming biases in the workplace, dealing with imposter syndrome, advocating for oneself and one’s work, holding confidence in one’s skills, being unafraid to propose new ideas and projects, not backing down in the face of criticism, and going after one’s visions are just a few examples of what we hope to cultivate in each other in this community.

We would like to warmly invite you to our first EmpowerU gathering on November 10 at 4pm, at the Blackstone LaunchPad located in the glass cube on the first floor of Bird Library. Over coffee and pastries from local women-owned bakeries, we are excited to get to know you and hear your ideas for how this community can best serve you; whether that’s through social gatherings and the sharing of experiences, hard and soft skills-based workshops from coding to self-advocacy, or networking and professional speaker events.

At our first meeting we are pleased to welcome Kelly Davis ’23, LaunchPad Rubin Innovation Mentor and Community Manager and founder of Wo-manly, an online platform empowering women in professional male-dominated spaces.  Also speaking will be Linda Dickerson-Hartsock, executive director of the LaunchPad and adjunct faculty in the Martin J. Whitman School of Management.

Davis will open the event with a talk on her work creating and running Wo-manly as well as the importance of women occupying entrepreneurial spaces, reflected by her own experience as an entrepreneur. Following her, Dickerson-Hartsock will share her experience building a career by becoming fearless.  We’re excited to learn from these women whose experiences have taught them professional and personal courage, and even more thrilled to open the conversation to you and your experiences.

EmpowerU is open to anyone who identifies as a woman, as well as non-binary individuals, gender fluid individuals, and those of all sexual orientations and gender identities who want to grow personally and professionally in an inclusive and safe environment.

Please join us on November 10 to connect with others seeking to fearlessly pursue their goals and join a community focused on empowering you to achieve your dreams. We warmly invite the Syracuse community to join a space to uplift each other towards professional and personal success.

Caeresa Richardson ’07 brings creativity to life at her Ecodessa boutique in downtown Syracuse

On South Salina Street in downtown Syracuse, in a small shop with warm lights and brick walls, women buy beautiful floral dresses and glamorous handbags. These dresses, handbags, and other items of beauty purchased here are no ordinary retail but contribute to environmental sustainability and ethical human production across the world.  Caeresa Richardson ’07 had dreamed of owning her own fashion boutique.  Through her rigorous engineering studies, fast-paced college life, and early career working as a mechanical engineer, Richardson turned to personal style as an outlet for confidence and creative expression. Today, she harnesses that creative expression and entrepreneurial energy in her own fashion boutique Ecodessa.

Richardson, who studied mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering and Computer Science from 2003-2007, always wanted to explore the fashion world beyond personal style, and decided to take several classes in fashion design from the College of Visual and Performing Arts  She discovered there that fashion was not merely a way to dress or a form of self-expression, but an industry in the marketplace.  Like all other industries in business, it requires hard and technical skills to work in, and an entrepreneurial mindset to break into.

She also discovered in her studies of fashion that again, identical to other consumer goods industries, the cost of mass production translates to damaging environmental impacts. For example, the fashion industry in just one year produces 1.2 billion tons of carbon emissions.  Her dream to start a fashion boutique grew into a dream to start a sustainable fashion boutique, with clothing items sourced from ethical producers.  “I wanted to align purchasing power with my values and test out the hypothesis that other women were interested in that as well,” said Richardson on her dream of creating a space for women to shop and buy ethically.

After Richardson graduated with her degree in mechanical engineering, she moved into working for various firms in an engineering position.  She continued working toward a point where she could open her sustainable boutique, but then focusing on gaining professional experience, financial stability, and better knowledge of the market and business creation before taking a bold leap into starting her own business.

In 2019, after several years building her professional career, she decided to take that bold leap. This was no small risk for Richardson. To successfully start her boutique, she had to personally finance her business. Bank loans and grants aren’t given to nonexistent or starting businesses, so her commitment to starting Ecodessa meant betting her own and her community’s savings and income upon her own success. “The hardest part was mindset,” recalled Richardson. “How much of this idea do I believe in to finance on my own?”

In just two years she made her way from popups and obtaining LLC status to a brick-and-mortar business in downtown Syracuse, and her belief in her own ability to succeed validated itself. For Richardson, the building of her business was not merely success, but it was a commitment to her values and freedom to make choices in response to those values. “I stepped away from my career to re-align myself with my values and what I saw as financial freedom.” Her creation of an environment where individuals had the purchasing power to choose sustainably, ethically sourced items instead of items with negative production consequences was the fulfillment of her own values to choose sustainability and follow her lifelong dream.

Today, a quick trip to 312 South Salina Street in downtown Syracuse is a step into a world of beauty. The carefully curated collection of jewelry, accessories, clothing, shoes, and much more is more than just stylish or aesthetic, but actively contributes to the creation of an ethical, sustainable fashion industry.  The power of Ecodessa lies in their culture of fashion as industry not simply commercial, but a celebration of art and human creativity.

“Garment makers make beautiful works of art- someone actually poured their heart and energy into a piece.” Said Richardson. At Ecodessa, clothing purchases contribute to art, creators, and care of the earth.

Story by Claire Howard ’23, LaunchPad Global Fellow.

NEXIS brings tech research to life

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On any given day of the week, a lab room in Hinds Hall brings to life technological dreams and ideas of innovation.  The NEXIS lab, a technological and innovation makerspace in the School of Information Studies, provides a space for savvy students to prototype their many inventions and ideas. With projects in fields from virtual reality to cybersecurity to medical tech, NEXIS gives students the place and resources to dream of a better world through technology.

The leader behind this network of inventors and idea production? Javier Canela Veiga ’22, studying information management in the School of Information Studies, serves as the current director of the NEXIS lab after being a dedicated researcher in the lab his previous three years of undergraduate study.

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Javier Canela Veiga

Veiga joined the lab his freshman year, starting out in the SMART lab project, which developed new processes for lab and student support. The first project that he plunged himself into was a density prototype which kept constant track of how many people were in the lab at any given time, giving them valuable density data. From there he involved himself with a variety of projects over the course of the coming years, all fueling his love for ideation. “I’ve always had passion for technology and innovation, and passion to research,” spoke Veiga in reference to his love for the work of NEXIS lab. 

NEXIS’ greatest barrier over the past year, according to Veiga, has been the difficulty of working through COVID. As a collaborative working space, NEXIS relies heavily on teams of students working together to shape their ideas, test their theories, and continually bounce thoughts off each other. Without full ownership of a physical space, the students of NEXIS struggled to create in the same way that they always had. “It’s a space that heavily grows based on research, and with COVID we couldn’t really do that as we could have only four researchers in the lab. We couldn’t get hands on collaboration and couldn’t access the technology of the lab,” said Veiga about the difficulty of working through a pandemic lifestyle.

Even today, like many campuses and workspaces across the world, NEXIS is still adapting to a post-pandemic world. “In transitioning back to in person there has been a disconnect,” said Veiga. Many underclassmen members are unused to navigating an in-person NEXIS and the leadership transitional process has been slower due to changed procedures and continual adjustment. For Veiga, the key to successfully overcoming these challenges is the quality that NEXIS is built on: teamwork and community. “That’s when collaboration comes in,” said Veiga of his desire to restore NEXIS’ shared productive space.

The Blackstone LaunchPad has been thrilled to work with teams of student inventors from NEXIS over the past few years.  Previous NEXIS leader Shawn Gaetano went on to win prizes in campus competitions and in the Global Student Entrepreneurship Award and become the recipient of a prestigious Blackstone LaunchPad Fellowship.

While NEXIS provides the space, equipment, and skilled team members needed to fashion technology and create complex solutions to modern problems, the LaunchPad provides the necessary funding and mentorship to push those technologies to market. The collaborative spaces and brilliant team members in both NEXIS and the LaunchPad are the powers that can create impactful innovation.

For Veiga, whose lifelong passion has always been innovation through technological development, NEXIS is the Syracuse space that provides that to himself and students. As this year’s director, he hopes to cultivate that space for technological dreams to turn into capable innovations. The scientifically complex and societally impactful technologies that come out of NEXIS only reaffirms the talent and passion at heart in the Syracuse community and the power of harnessing that in collaborative workspaces.

Story by Claire Howard ’23, Global Fellow.

Connor Silva ’23 on the business of sports entrepreneurship

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In a pandemic world, Connor Silva ’23 decided to push the limits of sports engagement at Syracuse University. Silva, currently the director of the Syracuse Sports Business Conference,  undertook one of the greatest challenges facing organizations all over the world last year: recreating a physical community in a digital space.

Silva, studying entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises in the Martin J. Whitman School of Management and public relations in the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications, has always loved sports. Once he entered college, he knew he wanted to build a career in sports and in his freshman year joined the team of SSBC, a Syracuse organization bringing networking, keynote speakers, and panels all in the realm of sports to Syracuse students equally as passionate about sports. In the spring of his freshman year, SSBC had planned for an in-person conference bringing high-profile speakers from all over the country. The planning and excitement for their spring conference was cut short when the conference was canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

How does one carry on a large physical networking event, drawing students across the university and people from across the country in a digital space? This was the question that Silva and the SSBC team asked themselves as they endeavored to keep their community alive and connected while physically separated. The answer for them came in the form of a digital speaker’s series. With 23 episodes and 27 guests, SSBC made the move to an online format by inviting high-profile members in the sports world to share their experiences and be interviewed in an online format.

The resolve to continue their work online didn’t simply start with their digital speaker series. The team began to plan the annual SSBC conference digitally, usually hosted in-person at Syracuse university. On April 14th-15th of this year, the SSBC hosted their conference online, holding 8 panels of speakers over the two days, including individuals such as Cynthia Marshall, the CEO for the Dallas Mavericks team, and other representatives from ESPN, the METS, and NFL agents.

“The sports world is really quickly evolving. Just having people on to educate students who are curious about these exchanges is a good opportunity for people to learn and meet connections. It helps us and sets us apart,” said Silva on the value of SSBC and their networking conferences. For Silva, who hopes to create a career for himself in the sports world, the doors opened, and connections created through SSBC are invaluable to shaping a successful future for himself, and he hopes to help others find that same value through the organization. 

This year, as the director of the SSBC, Silva is working tirelessly to bring successful connections and enriching events to Syracuse students interested in sports. Planning a multi-day conference and hosting weekly speakers for his organization is no easy task. Particularly over the summer, balancing leadership, a full-time job, and now, his academics, has required plenty of early mornings and successful team management. “Leading this team right now has taught me a lot about being in a leadership role, trying to get everyone on the same page and keeping everyone motivated is hard,” admitted Silva about the responsibilities of his role.

Silva’s work has also involved partnership and collaboration with other Syracuse organizations. At the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University Silva is working with other student startups in a new sports entrepreneurship cluster.  He hopes to be part of competitions and other initiatives to raise funding for his ventures. “It’s been a great partnership so far,” said Silva.

Silva hopes his work with the SSBC will lead to increased connections and career opportunities for himself and other students working to break into the field of sports. Along the way, he also cherishes the individual relationships and ways he gets to know other individuals working in sports. “At the end of the day, a person is still a person even though they may run the biggest sports team in the country.”

Story by Claire Howard ’23, LaunchPad Global Fellow