Syracuse University

SU News

Student startups win more than $150,000 at Emerging Talk

April 06, 2012

Stacey Keefe
(315) 443-7086

Thirty-seven student startups won a combined $153,200 in seed funding at the third annual Emerging Talk conference on March 30 at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. More than 300 students, faculty, entrepreneurs, investors and community members came out to watch students pitch, display their businesses and ideas at Startup Alley and win seed funding to take their ventures to the next level. 

emergingThis year, in the interest of fostering closer collaboration among aspiring entrepreneurs throughout the University community, two startup funding competitions were held together at Emerging Talk. 

The Raymond von Dran (RvD) IDEA Awards competition is part of the Raymond von Dran Innovation and Disruptive Entrepreneurship Accelerator (IDEA) and has provided seed funding to help student entrepreneurs launch their ventures since 2009.  

The L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science Invention & Creativity competition, now in its second year, aims to encourage engineering students to apply their training and skills to create novel, commerciable product ideas. This competition was open to any team consisting of at least one L.C. Smith student. 

Students from Syracuse University, Clarkson University, LeMoyne College and SUNY-ESF pitched to panels of judges comprised of alumni, entrepreneurs, and investors. The companies ranged from products that improve on the modern walker and horse boots to a mobile app that allows spectators to track athletes during events. The student teams were comprised of an interdisciplinary mix of talent and a diverse range of majors, including civil, mechanical, electrical and bioengineering; real estate; physics; finance; fashion design; philosophy; information management; public relations; and architecture, to name just a few.  

“The judges were impressed again this year with the quality of business ideas, talent and excitement in our student entrepreneurs,” says Bruce Kingma associate provost for entrepreneurship and innovation at Syracuse University. “The number of applications tripled from last year, so it was very competitive to make it to the final pitch round. We hope that even more students know about these competitions next year so that we continue to grow as a resource for student entrepreneurs.” 

Clarkson University sent 11 student teams to participate in the RvD IDEA Awards this year. The teams won a combined $7,000 in startup funding. Marc Compeau, director of Clarkson University’s Reh Center for Entrepreneurship, found the event provided more than just startup capital for winning teams. “Participation in the event was valuable not only for our winning teams, but also for those who competed for the first time.  In fact, seven of our teams were made of engineering students; for them to get excited about moving their innovations to market will have a lasting impact across campus,” says Compeau. 

This is the first year that the L.C. Smith Invention and Creativity Competition was held at Emerging Talk. “The winners of this year’s Invention and Creativity Competition exemplify the drive and entrepreneurial spirit of the students of our College,” says Laura Steinberg, dean of the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science. “This competition encourages students from all disciplines to come together to solve challenges using the engineering expertise they have developed through their studies. We are proud of the quality of ideas and products that were submitted and look forward to helping to support these student ventures.” 

Funding is awarded to student companies to cover start-up expenses, including salaries of company owners and employees, space rental, marketing, legal, website and proof-of-concept development. 

“The RvD IDEA Award will enable Craftistas to begin to fulfill our vision, which is to initiate a movement that revolutionizes the way creativity is expressed,” says Camille Malkiewicz, Newhouse graduate student in advertising. “Because of the generous award, Craftistas is now able to afford the initial inventory required to assemble our first round of kits. The RvD IDEA Award means so much to our team and we are more than grateful for Ray von Dran's contribution and belief in entrepreneurship.” 

Winning teams from Syracuse University will be required to meet with Entrepreneur-in-Residence John Liddy to outline the deliverables, company calendar and business plan, after which they will receive the first half of their funds. They earn the remaining half of the Ray von Dran IDEA Award in six to 12 weeks, based on their work in implementing the plans discussed with Liddy. 

“The grant I received has given me the flexibility to jumpstart the process of bringing my business concept to a company launch,” says Joshua Anderson, Syracuse University master's candidate in information management and founder of Uvalue. 

The Ray von Dran IDEA Award recipients were recognized during Emerging Talk, an event that pulled together student entrepreneurs from universities and colleges across Central New York, as well as business members and others interested in entrepreneurship. Sixty-four student teams took part in Startup Alley, where they had the opportunity to talk about their venture with investors, faculty, students and community members. Flat Shoes Tattoos won $500 for Best Display, the Bly Project won $500 for Crowd Favorite and Backflip won $500 for Best 90-Second Pitch, given on Thursday evening at Emerging Talk. 

“Ray [von Dran] was an academic entrepreneur and, like the student entrepreneurs, embodied the ‘can-do spirit’,” says Gisela von Dran, professor emeritus at Syracuse University’s iSchool and benefactor of the RvD IDEA Awards. “The students’ drive to bring about change through new ideas, innovations, products and services—and their determination and hard work—makes them stand out as role models. I am proud to support their endeavors and to keep their talent here in Central New York.”  

The winning companies are:
 Raymond von Dran IDEA Awards

For profit/Private enterprise

  • ChaseMyRacer, a mobile/web platform that supports race spectators by allowing them to follow their favorite athletes along the course and navigate through the race day with ease, created by Jennifer Hawk (SU, master's in information management) and Keisuke Inoue (SU iSchool Ph.D. candidate), $5,000
  • Craftistas, a monthly subscription website that sends premium do-it-yourself craft kits to your doorstep each month, created by Camille Malkiewicz (SU, advertising), $10,000
  • Danielle Rose Bean, a self-taught one-woman show with a fascination for turning old trinkets and treasures into unique and one-of-a-kind wearable jewelry art pieces, created by Danielle Quigley (SU, writing), $5,000
  • Fiesta Frog, a website that automatically updates users about what is happening in their area and allows promoters to easily advertise events, created by Kyle McShane (SU, master's in information management), Gerald Decelian (SU, information management and technology), Benjamin Joseph (SU, philosophy), and Dylan Hsu (SU, physics and applied mathematics), $5,000
  • Innovative Delivery Systems, a web app that enables stadiums and arenas to reach spectators during events, created by Dietrich Diehl (Clarkson University, global supply chain management) and Andrew Wegner (Clarkson University, finance information and analysis), $5,000
  • Little Tinker, a company that builds physical products that bring the digital world into the real world, created by Isaac Budmen (SU, policy studies) and Christopher Azar (SU, graphic design and public policy), $5,000
  • New Histories Jewelry, a line of rings based on important pieces from more than 100,000 years of jewelry history, created by Tessa Kennedy (SU, master's in jewelry and metalsmithing), $5,000
  • UpFront, a mobile app that changes the way people wait in line for a table at a busy restaurant, created by Nick Mancini (SU, information management and technology),  $10,000 

Nonprofit/Social enterprise

  • Cinecuse, an organization dedicated to fostering independent filmmaking in the city of Syracuse, created by Theodore Schaefer (SU, film), Jamil Munoz (SU, film), and Vasilios Papaioannu (SU, master's in film), $5,000
  • Know Your Neighbor, which provides literacy enrichment, cultural exchange and entrepreneurial services to refugee women in Syracuse, created by Daniel Cowen (SU, political science/policy studies), $5,000
  • Moriartsy, an arts entrepreneurship and sustainability agency offering research, consultation and event coordination for the creative industries, created by Caitlin Moriarty (SU, music industry), $5,000
  • Vitality Magazine, which provides a platform for aspiring artists in fashion, music, art and literature by enabling them to publish, promote and sell their work, created by Alexandra Ruffing (SU, public relations/marketing) and Debbie Lechtman (SU, magazine journalism), $5,000 


  • Cliquer, which offers high school students a simple and more social way to transition from high school into college, created by Joshua Langtry (Clarkson University, innovation and entrepreneurship), $2,000
  • MOUNTech, which designs innovative, easy to use mounts for the burgeoning field of action sport videography, created by Nathaniel Forer (SU, aerospace engineering), Niel Lewis (SU, aerospace engineering), and Geoff Carr (University of Arizona, physiology),  $2,000
  • poke&swipe, a low-cost diabetes testing device used by patients to check their daily glucose levels, created by Seong-Yoon Cho (SU, bioengineering), Sangeun Cho (SU, electrical engineering), Keonwook Nam (SU, bioengineering), and Jonathan Chu (SU, finance and public relations), $2,000
  • PsyQic, a mobile/web service that allows people to exchange questions and predictions about the future on various topics, created by Keisuke Inoue (SU iSchool Ph.D. candidate) and Bin Zhu (SU, master's in information management), $2,000
  • ShowCode, a software application that will provide architects, contractors, builders and engineers with real-time building code analysis for computer-generated models, created by Nathan Aleskovsky (SU, master's in entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises) and Michael Holborn (Yale University, master's of architecture), $2,000
  • Tension-Based Prosthetic Control System, a force-based prosthetic platform, in the form of an orthotic and prosthetic system, for amputees, created by Ian Gellman (SU, bioengineering) and Ginger Gunnip (SU, bioengineering), $2,000
  • The Palette, an e-commerce site and mobile pop-up shop where Syracuse University students can promote and sell their artwork, created by Emelia Natalicchio (SU, fashion design) and Gianna Foltz (SU, fashion design and entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises), $2,000
  • Uvalue, a social e-commerce marketplace that allows students to share items they no longer need with other students on campus, created by Joshua Anderson (SU, master's in information management),  $2,000 

Green idea/product/service

  • Buffet-Complete, a design for a food service buffet console that utilizes the refrigerator from the salad bar to heat the trays in the hot section, created by Cody Rickman (SUNY-ESF, environmental science), $2,000
  • Eleuthrotech Agri-Solutions, which will market a proven, natural immune stimulant complex to various agricultural operations, created by Danielle Thiele (SUNY-ESF, environmental biology) and Zachary Powers (SUNY-ESF, biotechnology and chemistry), $5,000
  • Environmentali-tee, an environmentally conscious, socially responsible company that promotes this mindset through the form of inside-out screen-printed shirts, created by Matthew Maynard (SU, master's in marriage and family therapy), $5,000
  • ESF Small Municipality Waste to Energy Module, which will convert small town municipal solid waste and sewage sludge to electricity and liquid fuels, created by Richard Bates (SUNY-ESF, Ph.D. candidate in bioprocess engineering), $5,000
  • Green Vendors, Inc., which intends to install and operate electric vehicle chargers modified to simultaneously charge cars and provide outlets for mobile food vendors, created by Michael Dubrovsky (SUNY-ESF, chemistry) and Ben Randolph (SUNY-ESF, natural resources management), $5,000
  • Mean GREEN Pathogen Inactivation Machine, a process to inactivate pathogens in human waste to decrease the spread of disease, created by Rita Edwards, Brent Hill, Yong Chen, Susan Furest, Bianca Joachim, and Ying Zhuo (all SU bioengineering majors)
  • Micro-Hydro Consultants, which is developing a geo-spatial model that can predict the amount of hydropower that can be generated from a stream, created by Prakhyat Jung Thapa (SUNY-ESF, conservation biology), Jonathan McDonald (SUNY-ESF, environmental science), and Nishan Bhattarai (SUNY-ESF, Ph.D. candidate in geo-spatial information science and engineering), $2,000
  • Spirit of Syracuse Distillery, a business located in the City of Syracuse that seeks to produce the finest-quality hand-crafted cider, plain and flavored vodkas, gin and applejack made from locally sourced apples, created by James Smyth (SU, civil engineering) and Jonathan Smyth (SU, geography and public policy), and Tamera Knight (Onondaga Community College, environmental science), $10,000
  • WaterPort, which will create a portable and self-sustained rainwater harvesting system to turn rain into potable water in impoverished villages, created by Chris Grant (SU, finance and real estate), $10,000
  • Zero-Waste Food Processing, which will curb greenhouse gas emissions, reduce demand on the world’s oceans, develop a zero-waste food production operation and make products, created by Michael Amadori (SUNY-ESF, master's in ecological engineering), $10,000 

L.C. Smith Invention and Creativity Competition

$3,000 award for the development of a product or business

  • InstructMe, which connects users to “how to” websites for a product simply by scanning the product barcode, created by Sarita Ram (SU, bioengineering)
  • Spirit of Syracuse Distillery, $10,000
  • Tension-Based Prosthetic Control System 

$2,000 award for the development of a product or business

  • Mean GREEN Pathogen Inactivation Machine
  • poke&swipe, $2,000
  • Vuelo Horse Boot, a horse boot that not only protects the horse’s legs while jumping, but absorbs the impact of the legs upon landing, created by Brooke Zotara (SU, mechanical engineering) 

Most Creative ($300)

  • poke&swipe,

Most Likely to Succeed ($300)

  • Spirit of Syracuse Distillery

Greatest Potential Impact on Sustainability ($300)

  • Mean GREEN Pathogen Inactivation Machine 

Best Presentation ($300)

  • Grace, a product that improves the maneuverability, functionality, convenience, and aesthetics of walkers, created by Gianna Curcio (SU, mechanical engineering) 

This year, the Burton Blatt Institute provided $1,000 for students with a venture, product or service that helps improve the lives of those living with a disability, or a venture that was started by a student living with a disability.  The award was given to Tension-Based Prosthetic Control System.

The Raymond von Dran IDEA Awards are supported by the IDEA Fund, established and endowed by Gisela von Dran, as well as alumni, donors, SU Chancellor Nancy Cantor, the Syracuse Center of Excellence, the Burton Blatt Institute and the Kauffman Foundation via Enitiative, a collaborative partnership that provides contacts, resources and funding support for entrepreneurial projects.  The Invention & Creativity competition is supported by the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science at Syracuse University.  A list of all competition applicants can be found at

Recent News