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SU's Entrepreneur in Residence John Liddy writes for Post-Standard and Syracuse.com on supporting local entrepreneurship

In an effort to gain support for local student business ventures, Syracuse University and Technology Garden Entrepreneur in Residence John Liddy penned an article for the Post-Standard and a blog post for Syracuse.com about the importance of cultivating student businesses “Encouraging Entrepreneurs: Playing for keeps in the Syracuse Student Sandbox.”

“The old-school thinking that an entrepreneur needs a huge amount of capital and extensive business experience is no longer valid,” Liddy wrote. “The Internet makes it cost less to start a business — a real possibility for students. We are evolving the entrepreneurial ecosystem and with 150,000 students to seed the crops, there is fertile ground for growth in Central New York.”

The Syracuse Sandbox, a 4,000-square-foot space at the Tech Garden in Downtown Syracuse, opened in June 2009 as a part of iSchool Prof. Michael D’Eredita’s Student Start-up Accelerator program. The Sandbox hosts teams of students through a fourteen-week program in which Liddy serves as a coach to the teams and a conduit to the Syracuse community.

“The Sandbox provides a conference area, 'hangout' space and prodigious whiteboards,” Liddy wrote. “The program provides coaching, mentoring, physical space, and access to investors. Each team has up to five assigned mentors drawn from Central New York’s entrepreneurs, professors, technologists, subject matter experts, attorneys, and accountants.”

In addition to the working space and mentorship, SU Chancellor Nancy Cantor created a stipend entitled the Orange Tree Fund in which students with ideas can compete for capital to start their business. The winning teams are announced at Emerging Talk, an entrepreneurship conference run by students for students held at the Tech Garden.

Liddy listed two success stories of the Syracuse Student Sandbox: the personal branding agency Brand-Yourself.com and social media and digital design firm Enormo.us. Both companies, started by Syracuse University students while they were still completing their studies, have hired and worked with local Syracuse residents and employers.

“Starting a business requires an interdisciplinary team, and that team is not always next to you every day,” he wrote. “The Sandbox provides connectivity for students so that they can find the appropriate team members at other colleges or in the community.”

According to Liddy, this phenomenon of students creating companies instead of finding jobs could stimulate the local economy and is worth investing in.

“Within 90 miles of Syracuse, Central New York’s colleges and universities have 150,000 undergraduate students. Too many of those students leave the area upon graduation ‘because that’s where the money isn’t,’” he wrote. “News reports show this potential work force leaves to find a viable and lucrative job. Can we change this pattern to create a model where the culminating experience of graduating college is not seeking a job, but creating jobs?”

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