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Syracuse iSchool Professor Michael D'Eredita leads Student Start-Up Accelerator project with Chancellor's Leadership grant

School of Information Studies (iSchool) Professor Michael D’Eredita received a $150,000 Chancellor’s Leadership Project grant to support the Syracuse Student Start-Up Accelerator: A Collaboration of Syracuse University and the Technology Garden. The project aims to leverage university and regional business resources for training a new generation of entrepreneurial students and seed a high-tech economy for Syracuse.

D’Eredita is collaborating with Nasir Ali, vice president of the New Venture Development for the Greater Syracuse Chamber of Commerce and director of the Tech Garden; Whitman School of Management Professor Craig Watters; Suresh Santanam, deputy executive director of the Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems; Lucinda Havenhand, chair of the College of Visual and Performing Arts Department of Design.

The team has laid out a four-stage process to develop young entrepreneurs who will have ties to the Syracuse community. Another critical piece of the project involves iVenture, a student-run group in the iSchool focused on matching students with projects while providing a single “go-to place” for any Syracuse University student interested in exploring any aspect of starting their own business.

“Our goal is to build a revitalized Central New York fueled by a thriving community that is passionate about innovation and entrepreneurship,” D’Eredita says. “This will result in a local culture of start-ups and growth with the ability to both retain and attract talent. It is our hope that the combined effect of this funding, the courses, iVenture, alumni, and all the resources that the Tech Garden brings to the table will be just what the students need to start their businesses and blaze a path for the world.”

The first two phases of the project build from a successful pilot course launched last fall called Technology Entrepreneurship, which was co-taught by D’Eredita and Ali at the Tech Garden in downtown Syracuse. From this course emerged a two-semester course series for seniors that will provide the structure for new business ideas to grow and take root in Central New York. The courses are cross-listed in the iSchool, L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science, Whitman School of Management, and the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

The first course, What’s the Big Idea?, debuting this fall will focus on selecting a problem that can be solved through a new service or product, developing that solution, and identifying potential markets. Students will present their ideas at the end of the semester to local venture capitalists, angel investors, entrepreneurs, and alumni. A sub-group of ideas will be selected for intensive business development in the spring semester course.

In the spring, students will flesh out those half-dozen ideas in Technology Entrepreneurship, a course that will be held in the Syracuse Technology Garden. They will develop prototype business plans, conduct competitive analysis, create financial models, and come up with a strategy to get the ideas to market. The course will include on-going evaluation and guidance from venture capitalists, angel investors, entrepreneurs, and alumni.

From those ideas, the ones with viable business models will be invited to join the Student Sandbox at the Tech Garden. Recent SU graduates working on these projects will receive technical, legal, web development, and business support to prepare their ideas for the marketplace while maintaining ties with the University’s faculty expertise and the local business community. The expectation is that these student-initiated businesses will then move into incubator start-up space in the Tech Garden or into commercial properties throughout the city.

“I couldn't be more excited for the students,” D’Eredita says. “This campus is full of talent and ideas! Not only does this grant emphasize the Chancellor’s commitment to them and the community, it will help to turn some of the brightest ideas on campus into a viable reality.

“Consider this a call to all the trailblazers on campus and alumni willing to have a direct impact on the success of these students,” he says. “We are listening and eager to work with you!”

About the Chancellor’s Leadership Projects
Funded by a combination of the Carnegie Corporation and Hendricks Foundation grants totaling $2 million to Syracuse University in the Chancellor’s name, the Chancellor’s Leadership Projects were awarded in a the highly competitive process to 19 projects across the University. The projects exemplify the University's vision of Scholarship in Action and bring together faculty, students, and experts from various disciplines to address critical societal issues affecting the Central New York community and the larger world. By investing “seed money” in these projects, the University affirms the mission of each project as well as their potential for enriching the student experience while making a difference in the world.

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