By: Diane Stirling
Startup entrepreneur Camille Malkiewicz found out that going last among 15 presenters in the RvD IDEA Student Sandbox Demo Day competition had its benefits, after all.
Her company, Craftistas, took first place, winning $1,000, a travel stipend, and most importantly, a highly-sought spot on the presenters’ stage at the Early Stage East Venture Capital Showcase this fall. The slot represents a huge chance to attract serious potential investors and to obtain funding to take the subscription service do-it-yourself fashion-kit company to the big time.
“I’m estatic, I’m so happy,” Camille enthused after winning. “There were so many solid teams. The last few months I’ve been working alongside them, and I think highly of every single team, so I was really so surprised to win,” she said. Camille also is thrilled to be attending the Early Stage competition. “You have to apply, and there are hundreds of thousands of applications to present,” she said. “And to get the golden ticket—wow! It is so exciting!”
Camille, of Syracuse, graduated from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications with her master’s degree in advertising in May. She spent the last 12 weeks in the Student Sandbox, further developing the company along with her team member, To Thu Tra, who is a current student in the Newhouse advertising program.
The idea for a service that curates fashion trends and delivers them monthly to subscribers has been on Camille’s mind for some time. Into crafts as a girl, she let her creative side go when soccer overtook most of her secondary-school spare time. Eventually, she longed to get creativity back into her leisure hours, and that’s how the idea originated.
Fourteen other startups pitched to an audience of about 250 fellow students, mentors, Sandbox staff and SU and other college supporters at the Demo Day competition. The presenting teams were selected from among 34 teams initially brought into the Sandbox this summer.
The objective of the Sandbox is to accelerate the process of ideation, development and deployment through mentoring and coaching. The experiential-based program’s objective is producing revenue-generating entities or investment-ready firms, according to John D. Liddy, entrepreneur-in-residence there, and an adjunct faculty member at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies (iSchool).
More so, the experience provides a taste of real-world startup life within a backdrop of support, guidance, and access to resources. Students who spend their summer in the Sandbox enjoy a dimension and scope of practical experience that wouldn’t otherwise be obtainable before they step into the real world, he said.
“It helps them recognize that having the idea is not enough, that you have to execute on that idea, and that execution takes lots of parts and pieces,” Liddy noted. “The experience portion is vital; through the process of doing it, you become much better at it—and by that, students will have a much richer education.”
The Sandbox has experienced tremendous growth, going from a modest start in 2009 with five teams, to 12 in 2010; 21 last year; and 34 in 2012. There also has been tremendous growth in the number of mentors active in the program: from four initially to the 115 who assisted with all aspects of guidance this year—including entrepreneurs, professors, technologists, subject matter experts, attorneys and accountants, Liddy said.
iSchool students and their team members who competed were:
Scrapsule: a highly visual and personal application that automatically stores and organizes your digital memories and experiences; iSchool student Ying Lu, along with SU students Dee Carter, Rich Murphy, Heather Rinder, Tony Shaw.
UpFront: an app that makes waiting for a table in a busy restaurant fun and easy by allowing customers to place themselves in line with their smart phone; iSchooler Nick Mancini.
SYR/Bazaar: a web-based platform that sells regionally-manufactured products designed by up-and-coming designers as well as established ones; students Gianna Folts and Emelia Nataliccio.
Little Tinker: a company that builds meaningful experiences and brings them to life with intelligent electronics that interact with online events; Isaac Budmen and Chris Becker; plus Newhouse student Chris Azar.
Courspree: an online e-commerce student-student marketplace that aims to provide college students a more practical way to succeed academically while earning an income; Danish Nadeem and LeMoyne College student Kayla Lombardozi.
PsyQic: an easy and fun way to share predictions on mobile and web platforms; ISchool students Keisuke Inoue and Bin Zhu, plus team members Jennifer Hamilton, of SU’s College of Visual and Performing Arts; iSchool graduate Gabrielle Gosselin, and Newhouse graduate Meocha Belle.
Tagglynx: a startup that takes online discussion to a new level called social browsing; Joseph Gennero and Jerrell Perry.
You Should Date Me: leveraging anonymity and data from social networks to eliminate creepiness and irrelevance of matches in online dating; Ariel Norling, Terence Nip and Rich Tehan.
Blue Arc Media: advertising in-store via digital signage; Ross Lazerowitz, a sophomore IM&T major; and Whitman student Scott Friedberg.
Also presenting in the competitions were these teams, whose students were from other schools:
Full Circle Feed: reducing the costs for companies disposing food, saving money for local animal farmers, and creating local manufacturing; Michael Amadori.
AmplifyU: retailing audio, Lighting, and DJ equipment to a collegiate demographic, while aiming to revolutionize in the A/V and retail industries; Barnett Klane of Whitman/SU.
ChimpDig: Peer-to-peer lending and equity crowdfunding for real estate; Joey Jelinek, Columbia College.
Uvalue: a web-based community marketplace where college students can rent or sell their unneeded, or homemade items to other students on campus; Joshua Anderson and Tyler Cothren.
Waterport: a portable and self-sustained rainwater harvesting and filtration system to bring additional potable water to impoverished villages; Christopher Grant and William Crane, the Whitman School at SU.
Judges were entrepreneurial leaders David Freschman, Christine Tate and SU University Professor Carl Schramm.