By: J.D. Ross
Centscere, the philanthropic student venture that began last summer in the Syracuse Student Sandbox, and entered the Syracuse StartupLabs competition earlier this year, was awarded the top prize of $150,000 in the StartupLabs contest.
At the Centerstate CEO annual meeting yesterday where the results were announced, it was also revealed that the business won the Market Ready Award, which brings $50,000 in marketing and branding assistance from Eric Mower and Associates.
The premise behind Centscere is simple. It allows users of social media services to donate a portion of their online activity to different charities. Users can attach a donation amount to each Tweet they send on Twitter, Facebook Like, and/or status update they write.
The company was up against two other firms in the StartupLabs competition. Regattable, a foldable sailboat company, and fellow Sandbox participant, and Crowsnest.io, a networked Internet camera management company from Rochester.
Those three firms were selected from a field of nearly 90 applicants in the fall of 2013.
Centscere has been working with local charities, including the Central New York Community Foundation and the Connective Corridor, to fine-tune their product in a series of trial runs. 200 people are currently using Centscere to donate to about 30 different charities.
“We are absolutely ecstatic about winning Startup Labs, and we are eternally grateful for the continued support we have received from both Syracuse University and Central New York’s business community,” said Centscere co-founder Mike Smith, a 2013 graduate of the masters program at Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management, and a 2012 graduate of the dual undergraduate degree program with Whitman and Syracuse’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication.
“This influx of funding and marketing support will allow us to strengthen our partnership with leading non-profits across the nation,” explained Smith.
The company also plans to add more members to the team, as well as expand the number of charities that they work with.
In addition to Smith, the Centscere team also includes co-founders Ian Dickerson (a 2013 graduate of the communications and rhetorical studies department at Syracuse’s College of Visual and Performing Arts) and Frank Taylor (a 2013 graduate of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse, and currently enrolled in the Newhouse School for a public communications masters degree).
“Good entrepreneurs have a vision of where they want to go and along the way, they listen to feedback from coaches, advisors and most importantly, the customer,” said Student Sandbox director John Liddy. Liddy worked with the company during its 12-week stint in the incubator, and also taught the class where the idea was originally born.
“Centscere has made many alterations from its original inception in my What’s The Big Idea (IDS 401) class, but they never took their eye off of the desire to help others by making giving easier for millennials,” said Liddy. “We constantly challenged them in the Sandbox and they responded by wrapping their arms around the customer and fully understanding their motivation.”
In addition to the big win at StartupLabs, Centscere was also awarded $8000 at the Raymond von Dran (RvD) IDEA Awards this past weekend. The RvD competition has provided seed funding to help student entrepreneurs launch their ventures since 2009. Awards are funded, in part, by the RvD Fund at Syracuse University. The fund was named after the late dean of the School of Information Studies, Raymond von Dran.