By: Diane Stirling
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Seventeen teams of student entrepreneurs pitched their way through their final exercise of the summer, aiming for wider recognition of their ideas and competing for startup prize money at this year’s Syracuse Student Sandbox Demo Day.

As in years past, students showcased how they were turning business concepts into real businesses through 12 weeks of immersion in ideation, development and deployment exercises. This year’s was the fifth annual event since Demo Day was established in 2009. Students enter the summer immersion from the School of Information Studies (iSchool) and other colleges at Syracuse University, as well as other area institutions that include LeMoyne, SUNY-ESF, SUNY-Oswego, and RIT.

Winning Startup

Named winner of the pitch competition and receiving a $1,000 prize contributed by Tech Garden anchor Rounded Development was Regattable. The company has designed and plans to sell portable, high-performance catamaran sailboats that are ordered online and delivered to customers’ doors. The boat components fit into two large suitcases, opening ownership to many more consumers, and promising to “change the way you view boating,” the company says. Regattable also was judged winner of a free-admission prize for the upcoming Syracuse University Whitman School of Management Boot Camp for Entrepreneurs.

The team’s members are: Anthony DiMare, a senior in the L.C. Smith College of Computer Science and Engineering at SU; and Nick Poorman, a graduate of SUNY-Oswego’s computer science program.

Start Fast Pitch Slot

Tricky, a social media and trick-sharing app for skateboarders that offers contests and mobile video sharing, was selected for another prize, a slot to present at Start Fast, a Syracuse entrepreneurship accelerator whose pitch competition is next week. Tricky is founded by Will Bater, a 2013 graduate of the Information Management and Technology program at the iSchool.

The Big Picture

University Professor Carl Schramm provided the event’s opening remarks. He advised students to assess their ideas honestly to determine if they are thinking on a truly gigantic scale. “If you don’t have huge growth innovation, something you can dedicate your life to, go get a job somewhere else; see how they do entrepreneurship,” he advised the young entrepreneurs. He said statistics show that people start companies throughout their lives, not only in their youngest years. “Don’t take the first jump unless you’re ready to commit your life to big growth potential–enormous growth potential. In those words are the revolution of an economy. We don’t change economies with small business, we change them with gigantic businesses,” he said, adding, “when you create jobs, that is absolutely the greatest [form of] human welfare.”

This year’s group was distinguished by the passion of its ideas, according to John Liddy, entrepreneur-in-residence at the Student Sandbox, and an adjunct faculty member at the iSchool. Although the teams “may not have been as far along in the startup process” this year, as compared to other school years, the student teams “were more passionate about what they were doing,” he observed.

iSchool Student Teams 

Companies involved in the Demo Day competition, that have founders who are iSchool students or graduates, include the following:

Elbow Room

A people-counting infrastructure that uses sensors to provide real-time analytics about the number of people occupying a certain a specific location. Partners are Ryan St. Pierre, an iSchool-LC Smith College of Engineering student; Sebastian Benkert, a graduate of SU’s Newhouse School; Mike Escalante; and Austin Williams of the LC Smith School at SU. The startup’s concept is that data collected from those live location assessments is highly valuable and saleable.

Where’s the Rum

In a plan hatched in the day before the pitch competition, the founders, all chiefs in other startups, decided they could build a casual, ad hoc company that offers a subscription service for unique libations – plus pitch it on the fly. In a very short time, the concept has received expressions of interest from hundreds of people, according to partner Ryan St. Pierre, who is teamed with SU grads Will Bater, Roarke Clinton, and Austin Miller on the effort. Where's the Rum is currently running a crowd-funded campaign on IndieGoGo.


iSchool graduate student Koby Brandstein’s startup idea enables students challenged by reading comprehension to use personal experiences to engage with reading material. His technology applies photographs sourced from various locations, then attached to pertinent content, to help jog recollections and provide context. The founder is looking for a web developer in order to move the concept to the next stage.


This company digitizes the usually-awkward Greek Life rush process, and moves it from old-school paper applications to a process that is fully online,  avoiding the whole “speed-dating model” of fraternity bids and applications. Team members are iSchool junior and IT major Max Kaplan; and Serge Efap and Mark Scherzer, both of SU’s College of Arts and Sciences.


Spending his second summer in the Sandbox was Josh Anderson, an IM major at the iSchool, who created a whole new iteration of his company this time. Josh recognized during his EntreTech trip that his initial idea could address a bigger need, he said, “and it convinced me to pivot.” Josh said he “still believes in the proximity marketplace, but there was an opportunity to expand beyond that.”


iSchool IM student Paul Berg and Nate Freschette, a LeMoyne College graduate, have paired to develop a platform that provides small businesses and organizations promotional capability through an interactive application using geo-location.

Additional Companies       

Other teams in the Sandbox this summer included:

Wishr, a concept that lets friends and family go online to fund a person’s desired gifts; the team of  Mark Personick, Whitman/Maxwell senior; Nick Froio, and Michio Aida, an SU graduate;

Vuelo Boots, Inc., an idea to discover a horse’s full potential with equine biomechanics; by LC Smith College student Brooke Zotara;

seeingSounds, combining quality sound with innovative light visuals in speaker format; Nathaniel Rose;

MyManual, an idea to create dynamic manuals based on the products consumers use; SU Whitman student Barnett Klane Sr.;

Platypus TV, an idea to time-stamp conversations around television episodes to provide a shared viewing experience, no matter when viewers watch the programs; SU/Newhouse School students Sarah Roche, Nomi Foster, and Connor Vanderpool;

MarketVuze, a company that provides insightful data and interactive visualizations for financial analysis purposes; by SU Whitman graduate student Josh Shultz;

BeginU, a network to stimulate student talent and success through a freelance web platform; the team of SU graduates Zach Schleien and Roarke Clinton;

SunRaisers, a company that brings solar electricity to Mexican villages through a sustainable micro-finance solution paired with social entrepreneurship; the team of Preston Oakley, Whitman MBA student;

Open Lift, a concept that provides automotive enthusiasts with a clean, safe, professionally equipped workspace to complete their repairs and improvements; Whitman student Nicholas Dorfer.