By: Diane Stirling
(315) 443-8975

Measured by participation numbers and attendee reviews, the third annual Emerging Talk conference was an overwhelming success in and of itself, and a win for School of Information Studies (iSchool) students, too. iSchool entrepreneurship teams came away with a great deal of recognition, a good share of prize money, and some invaluable intellectual camaraderie.

Overall, the event awarded 37 student startup teams a total of $153,200 in seed funding to continue their startups. A total of 129 team applications were received for the RVD IDEA awards competition, and 68 startups finalized their entries. Attendance-wise, more than 300 students, faculty, entrepreneurs, community members and investors participated in the event. 

The fact that the conference has doubled in size each of its three years illustrates how the Syracuse University-hosted event “continues to grow and to make a significant statement with  student entrepreneurship,” said Bruce Kingma, Associate Provost for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Syracuse University.

The conference helps put SU in the position of being “clearly the university at the center of student entrepreneurship in New York State. We’re the place all of the colleges connect with. That has brought SU to a point of leadership in New York State, but also leadership by national and international standards because of what we’re doing getting students started in their ventures,” Kingma added.

Those sentiments were echoed by the enthusiastic assessments of involved iSchool students.

Sam Morrison’s spur-of-the-moment decision to enter the 90-second pitch competition paid off in several ways. First, the goal helped the iSchool junior crystallize the project idea he’d been formulating for some time. With conversations with keynoter and entrepreneur Philip Kaplan for inspiration, Sam scratched together his presentation in the hallway while the competition was underway. Being near the end of the list gave him time to flesh out the concepts he’d been mulling for months. Then, in 90 seconds, he told of his “365 project,” an online outlet to let others track and share their “do one thing a day” pursuits.

Sam earned the prize for best pitch, but more so, the setting provided him his “aha moment.” To Sam, “the conference is amazing. It’s not every day that you get to speak with somebody like Phil Kaplan and get feedback on your idea. I met him on Spring Break in Silicon Valley, and he remembered me here. I don’t think that happens at any other school.”

Similarly, iSchool entrepreneurship student Isaac Budmen described the conference as “Just awesome. It brings in people from all over the state, and all of a sudden you have this really special event, all these minds of similar interest in one place. Everyone just wants to know everyone else. So many people are coming up, being supportive, and are really interested in helping students,” he said.
While his Little Tinker Co. win going towards prototyping materials to get his team’s venture to its next stage, Isaac says Emerging Talk also has another kind of value. “Without it, we wouldn’t have gotten the winnings, but we wouldn’t have been able to interact and engage with all these people, and that’s even as much as – or more valuable,” he observed.

Student teams from Syracuse University, Clarkson University, LeMoyne College, and SUNY-ESF teams entered the competitions. Winning entries included the following iSchool student-affiliated teams.

Raymond von Dran IDEA Awards: For-Profit/Private Enterprise category:

Chase My Racer (Jennifer Hawk, master’s student in Information Management, and Keisuke Inoue, Ph.D. candidate); $5,000; a mobile/web platform that supports race spectators by allowing them to follow their favorite athletes along the course and navigate through race day

Fiesta Frog (Kyle McShane, Information Management master’s student and Gerald Decelian, Information Management and Technology; along with SU Philosophy major Benjamin Joseph and SU Physics and Applied Mathematics major Dylan Hsu), $5,000; a website that automatically updates users about what is happening in their area and allows promoters to easily advertise events

Little Tinker (iSchool entrepreneurship courses student Isaac Budmen, who also is finishing his Policy Studies undergrad at SU; with Christopher Azar, SU Graphic Design and Public Policy major) $5,000; a company that builds physical products and brings the digital world in the real world

UpFront (Nick Mancini, Information Management and Technology); $10,000; a mobile app that changes the way people wait in line for a table at a busy restaurant.

RvD IDEA awards for Idea/Product/Service:

•  PsyQic (Keisuke Inoue, iSchool Ph.D. candidate and Bin Zhu, master’s student in Information Management), $2,000; a mobile/web service that allows people to exchange questions and predictions about the future on various topics

•  Uvalue (Joshua Anderson, master’s student, Information Management), $2,000; a social e-commerce marketplace that allows students to share items they no longer need with other students on campus.

Best Pitch, 90-Second Quick Pitch Competition:

•  Sam Morrison (Information Management), $500; “Backflip.”

A number of other iSchool students, staff, and faculty were involved in panel presentations, judging and other aspects of the conference.

Winning teams from Syracuse University are now required to meet with Entrepreneur-in-Residence John Liddy of the iSchool-hosted Student Sandbox to outline the deliverables, company calendar and business plan, after which they will receive the first half of their funds. They earn the remaining half of the Ray von Dran IDEA Award in six to 12 weeks, based on their work in implementing the plans.