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Syracuse iSchool student entrepreneurs featured in The Post-Standard

The Post-Standard recently featured an article about graFighters, the innovative gaming company created by Syracuse University School of Information Studies (iSchool) students, Dave Chenell G’12 and Eric Cleckner G’12.

The article describes Chenell and Cleckner’s two-year journey as young entrepreneurs. The company started as one of the original class of startups in the Syracuse Student Sandbox, where it earned seed funding. This spring, the two graduate students secured a $200,000 investment from X.Million Venture Capital.

graFighters is a unique online fighting game that allows players to create their own, hand-drawn characters, which are then uploaded to the site using a computer or mobile device. Players watch as their sketches transform into animated fighters, competing against friends and other players in battle. The game is unique in that players don’t control the fighting. The winner of each fight is determined by an algorithm that analyzes the properties of each drawing.

“It has huge potential,” Djois Sronipah, a partner in a firm called X.Million Capital Ventures, said in the article. “It’s very unusual to ask potential users to ‘lose control’ and shift focus from physical playing skills to the game aesthetics, which makes a better, broader appeal.”

Chenell and Cleckner have had a clear vision for graFighters since the beginning, but convincing other people of its value has been a different challenge. Business advisers have suggested they focus on specific age and income demographics, while the two graduate students prefer to focus on people that like to draw. Others have suggested that they develop a way for people to draw directly on the computer.

“Who really wants to do that?” Chenell asked. “We see the drawings we did in fifth grade. Let’s start with what some kid draws on his placemat.”

Chenell and Cleckner have learned not to let these challenges stop them.

“It’s so motivating when someone just says, ‘Nope. I don’t believe that idea is going to work,” Chenell said.

Learn more about graFighters by watching this video, featured on The Post-Standard.

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