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Syracuse iSchool students bring home $5,000 from Ray von Dran Awards, are first team of freshmen to join Syracuse Student Sandbox



Kevin Kettell, a Syracuse University freshman studying information management at the School of Information Studies (iSchool) and finance at the Whitman School of Management (Whitman), started his first business when he was 15 years old shoveling snow for his neighbors. He is now being rewarded for bringing his entrepreneurial spirit to Syracuse University.

“This is just something I’ve always loved,” Kettell said. “My dad and mom run their own businesses so I guess it just comes naturally.”

Before coming to study at the University, Kettell started Rent A Student, wherein members of the community could advertise various jobs and hire high school and college students to work for them, and a carpooling site for parents that used an algorithm to schedule the most convenient rides. That algorithm led to the creation of his latest venture, MeetingSprout, an online-calendar based platform that revolutionizes the way users organize and schedule their lives.

Kettell leads the first college freshman based team accepted into the Syracuse start-up incubator, the Syracuse Student Sandbox. His partners, Whitman freshman Blaine Killen and iSchool freshmen Jeremy Bernitt along with iSchool graduate student Chenyu Lin composed one of 12 student teams awarded $5,000 each from the Ray von Dran Awards.

The Ray von Dran Awards, previously the Orange Tree Fund and held during the 2nd annual Emerging Talk Conference, are part of the Raymond von Dran Innovative and Disruptive Entrepreneurship Accelerator (IDEA). The awards provide seed funding to help SU student entrepreneurs launch their ventures.

Student companies pitched to panels of judges composed of alumni, entrepreneurs and faculty at The Tech Garden. The selected companies range from products that allow devices to be wirelessly controlled to a variety of mobile apps to the renovation of old store fronts. The companies included an interdisciplinary mix of student talent representing a diverse range of majors, including civil engineering, media management, finance, computer science, information management, advertising, real estate, psychology, accounting and architecture.

Funding is awarded to student companies to cover startup expenses incurred in the summer, typically while student teams are working at the Tech Garden in downtown Syracuse. Student expenses may include salaries of company owners and employees, space rental, marketing, legal, website and proof-of-concept development.

Kettell plans to use the money build and improve his platform but also get enough server space to allow for the web traffic he hopes to have. He’s already added two programmers from Cornell to his team and plans to add a graphic designer to help create a better user experience for MeetingSprout.

“I’m really excited for this summer to start,” he said. “We’re working to make the best product possible and having the kind of summer job where you’re the boss is ideal.”

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