Applications are being accepted now through March 15 for the School of Information Studies’ (iSchool) Raymond von Dran (RvD) iPrize pitch competition and the Hunter Brooks Watson Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award. The concurrent competitions are open to all full and part-time undergraduate and graduate students at Syracuse University. The event will be held virtually Friday afternoon, March 26. Apply here through the common app.
The event is also the regional qualifier competition for Compete CNY, the New York Business Plan Competition (NYBPC), which is open to student teams from across Central New York. Registration for the RvD iPrize automatically enters students into the NYBPC competition, to be held virtually on May 7.
The competitions are coordinated for the iSchool by the Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars at Syracuse University Libraries.
“Each year the excitement around these entrepreneurial and innovation competitions grows, and the caliber of applications is always impressive,” says David Seaman, dean of Syracuse University Libraries. “Cross-campus partnerships, like our strong collaboration with the iSchool, is what makes the Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars at Syracuse University Libraries such a successful program at Syracuse University.”
The RvD Fund is named after former iSchool dean Raymond Von Dran, who served from 1995 until his passing in 2007. Von Dran was a longtime academic entrepreneur and staunch supporter of student innovation. He started several innovative programs in higher education. To honor his memory and ensure that her husband’s infectious spirit for innovation continued, his wife Gisela generously created the RvD Fund. Prizes totaling $40,000 will be awarded to top performing Syracuse University students across categories through the RvD Fund, and an additional $10,000 will be awarded to Syracuse University student teams through the Hunter Brooks Watson Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award. All monies will be awarded as non-dilutive seed funding, so students will not give up any equity in their proposed business venture.
“We’re proud to support this competition as part of our ongoing investment in innovation and student entrepreneurship,” says Raj Dewan, dean of the iSchool. “This program is an excellent reflection of dean Von Dran’s legacy, and we look forward to seeing what exciting ventures come out of this year’s class.”
The RvD iPrize and Compete CNY competitions will compete in six virtual break out rooms based on categories selected in early May by the NYBPC steering committee. Students can pitch their ideas for products, services, technologies or creative ventures as either for-profit or non-profit impact enterprises. Teams must upload a one-page executive summary and answer a brief questionnaire which will help indicate which category they will be grouped with.
After completing the common app, campus teams will receive important updates and information, invitations to pitch practice workshops and other tools to help prepare for the competition. Workshops will be coordinated by the Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars in Bird Library.
Participating teams will be asked to provide their pitch decks in advance of the competition. The top Central New York student teams will be selected by a panel of independent judges to move on to a chance for more funding at the statewide virtual finals coordinated by the Capital Foundation of New York with the Upstate Capital Association of New York.
iSchool alumni who won the RvD iPrize and went on to launch successful companies include Josh Aviv ’15 G’17, Josh Jackson ’17 G’19 and Ryan Taggart ’21.
After winning the RvD iPrize, Aviv then captured the grand prize at the NYBPC and used his winnings to help launch SparkCharge, a platform that is bringing portable ultrafast chargers to the electric vehicle market. He has since raised nearly $5 million in funding, including a $1 million deal he secured on Shark Tank in fall of 2020. He is now manufacturing, and has operations in both Boston and Buffalo, with sales operations in cities around the country.
Jackson used his RvD iPrize winnings to help launch Promptous, a tech platform that makes it easy for companies to save on dental benefits through seamless self-funding. The Promptous team has also raised funds and launched into the market. It has offices in Long Island and Syracuse.
Taggart used RvD iPrize winnings to develop Itemize, an app to keep track of items for insurance purposes. He continues to work on his venture while pursuing a career as a cloud applications consultant for Oracle.
For more information or to schedule coaching, e-mail LaunchPad@syr.edu.