By: Diane Stirling
(315) 443-8975

Several School of Information Studies (iSchool) student startups were named winners­­­­­­­—some multiple times—in a trio of venture competitions conducted at the Emerging Talk Conference at Syracuse University this past weekend.

The venture of iSchool Ph.D. student Keisuke Inoue, “PsyQic,”took a second-place award and a prize of $10,000 as a winner in the Panasci Business Plan competition.  

Taking third-place in that competition, and a $5,000 prize, is Blu Arc Media. The company, run by iSchool student Ross Lazerowitz together with Whitman School of Management student Scott Friedberg, also took the Panasci idea award, worth $3,000; and won another $5,000 by being selected as winner of the RvD IDEA products and services category. Blu Arc Media also is advancing to the NYS Business Plan competition finals. The company currently runs an eight-venue digital signage advertising network that has experienced continuous growth over its seven months of operations. 

Additionally, these three iSchool student-founded startups took home honors and prize money as follows: 

Elbow Room founded by a team that includes Ryan St. Pierre, an iSchool Systems and Information Science undergraduate, won $5,000 in the High Tech category of the RvD IDEA competition; plus $3,000 in the College of Engineering and Computer Science’s Invention and Creativity Competition (product and business development category). Elbow Room also is advancing to the NYS Business Plan finals. The venture is a people-counting infrastructure that takes information about the physical world and turns it into actionable data that can be used to solve micro-scale and macro-scale problems. The team also includes SU students: Mike Escalante, Computer Engineering; Austin Williams, Computer Engineering; Sebastian Benkert , Print & Media Technology/M.S. New Media Management; and from McGill University, Jacob Beard, who is studying computer science.

MoreStick, and founder Deborah A. Little, won a $5,000 award in the RvD IDEA competition’s products and services category. Little is an undergraduate Information Management and Technology student. Her company ’s new product permits lipstick wearers to gain easy access to the lipstick that is stuck at the bottom of their used lipstick tube, extending the life of the product and saving them money.

Tricky won $5,000 in the RvD IDEA competition information technology category. The company, started by Will Bater, Information Management and Technology undergraduate student, focuses on providing exposure to skaters by having them compete with each other, push each other to do better through competition, and bring the skateboarding community together.

Feedback as Learning

Inoue, who happened to defend his Ph.D. dissertation the same day of the Panasci presentations, said that now that he is graduating, he is excited to continue working on his venture full-time. “We learned a lot from all the business competitions we participated in last year,” he noted, which made it enjoyable “to go back to Panasci and present our progress from last year. If those business plan competitions hadn’t given us a chance to present our idea and learn from the feedback, we would not have come this far,” he said.

Inoue said the company used the experiences and three prizes won in 2012 (2nd place, $5,000 prize in the IT category, New York State Business Plan finals; $2,500 and the Goldberg Prize for Technology and Innovation in the Panasci competition; and a RVD Idea Award for $2,000) to incorporate the company and to implement its business plan.

Inaugural Board Meeting

In addition to student representation during Emerging Talk Weekend, a number of iSchool alumni and faculty members attended the inaugural meeting as members of the Board of Advisors of the RvD Innovation and Disruptive Entrepreneurship Accelerator, including:

Robert I Benjamin, Professor Emeritus of the iSchool in the field of information technology-enabled change;

Richard Calagiovanni, customer solutions analyst at the Verizon Fiber Solution Center, Syracuse, and iSchool alumnus (MS, Telecommunications and Network Management;

Andrew Farah, iSchool alumnus, MS, information management; and co-founder of Rounded Development, a company in the Syracuse Tech Garden incubator;

Darren Paul, managing partner of Night Agency and co-founder of; an alumnus with a degree in Information Management and Technology;

Jeff Rubin, CEO of SIDEARM Sports, a faculty member at the iSchool, and an iSchool alumnus who has an undergraduate degree in information technology and a master’s degree in telecommunications and network management;

Gisela von Dran, director emerita of the iSchool’s MSLIS program and wife of the late Raymond von Dran, former dean of the iSchool; and

Bruce Kingma, a professor in the School of Information Studies and the Whitman School of Management.