, a Web 2.0 company created by a team of Syracuse University students, is among 10 semi-finalists vying for $200,000 in New York’s Creative Core® Emerging Business Competition. The competition, sponsored by M&T Bank and New York Business Development Corporation (NYBDC), seeks the most innovative and growth-oriented emerging business in the twelve-county Central Upstate region.

Brand-Yourself is run by:

  • Pete Kistler ’10, a student in the School of Information Studies (iSchool), who serves as CEO;
  • Robert Sherman ’09, G’11, an iSchool/Whitman School of Management alumnus, iSchool graduate student, and an Engagement Fellow, who serves as CTO/CFO;
  • Evan Watson ’11, a Whitman student, who is chief evangelist; and
  • Patrick Ambron ’09, an alumnus of the Newhouse School of Public Communications, who serves as CMO.

Brand-Yourself is the first web platform that empowers individuals to manage their entire online reputation from one central hub, and establish a remarkable web presence by harnessing the power of social media. The platform makes it easy for customers to control how they are perceived online from their Google results to their social networking profiles, and helps them network by tapping the data of the social web.

“These ten businesses represent a wide array of industries, from the latest in green innovations, to advances in computer software technology, to manufacturing of bio-medical devices,” said Robert M. Simpson, president and CEO of the MDA. “These industrial clusters reflect areas that our region has demonstrated strength in with strong potential for future growth.”

“The ten semi-finalist companies represent a key regional asset – world-class academic institutions where unparalleled talent is fostered,” said Allen J. Naples, regional president, Syracuse Division of M&T Bank and title sponsor. “This competition draws attention Central Upstate’s innovative and entrepreneurial spirit. Our region’s colleges and universities are driving the transfer of technology leading to regional business development.”

Seven of these ten semi-finalist businesses have connections to research conducted at area universities (Cornell University 5, Clarkson 1, Syracuse University 1). Brand-Yourself was a finalist in last year’s college emerging business competition, organized by New York’s Creative Core.
Brand-Yourself has already attracted a lot of attention. won second place and $10,000 in the Whitman School of Management’s Panasci Business Plan Competition in spring 2009, and in April 2009, the Kairos Society named one of the top 100 most innovative student startup companies in the country and recognized the team with the Best Marketing Award.

In March 2009, co-founder Sherman was named one of Syracuse University’s first ever Engagement Fellows, a yearlong program supported by the Kauffman Foundation that contributes to paid employment locally and arranges remitted tuition for courses at SU and professional and faculty mentors. The fellowship enables him to stay in Syracuse to continue developing, which is currently housed at the Syracuse Tech Garden, and call on a well-developed network of support and resources.

The company was also among five finalists in Entrepreneur Magazine’s College Entrepreneur of 2009.

“The local business community is committed to helping these companies grow,” said Patrick J. MacKrell, president and CEO of NYBDC. “As companies go through the process created by this competition they gain exposure to local, regional, and national media, new customers, and investors. Additionally, they gain a better understanding of what it will take to succeed.”

Now in its fourth year, this competition has doubled its grand prize, making it the largest privately-funded competition of its type in the nation. This year’s contest also features a $15,000 prize for Innovation in Agribusiness, highlighting new technologies and the strength of Central Upstate’s agribusiness industry. A $6,000 prize will be awarded for the best individual business idea submitted by any high school or college student in the twelve-county Central Upstate region. As part of the student prize, $1,000 will be awarded to the institution the student attends.

The impetus for this event grew from the findings of The Essential New York Initiative®, the Metropolitan Development Association’s (MDA) strategic plan to transform the region to a globally competitive knowledge-based economy. The study showed that Central Upstate was lagging in new business formation, patent growth, and venture capital investment. Among its findings was the need to support key industry clusters and retain talent across the region. The Emerging Business, Innovations in Agriculture, and Student Business Idea competitions are growth programs developed as a direct result of Essential’s recommendations.

New York’s Creative Core® $200K Emerging Business Competition Semifinalists:

Brand Yourself, LLC, Syracuse: Brand-Yourself is the first web platform that empowers individuals to manage their entire online reputation from one central hub, and establish a remarkable web presence by harnessing the power of social media. The platform makes it easy for customers to control how they are perceived online from their Google results to their social networking profiles, and helps them network by tapping the data of the social web.

Eco-baggeez, LLC, Cazenovia: Eco-Baggeez are a cost effective, consumer friendly, and environmentally sound substitute to the traditional plastic sandwich bag. The sandwich bag is constructed of sturdy, absorbent paper-based product made from FDA approved material and food-safe permanent and re-positionable adhesives. The design provides for temporary food storage and maintains freshness.

Floodwatch, LLC Ithaca: FloodWatch has developed a patent pending cost-effective optical based water sensor. Typically mounted on the ceiling, this technology is able to detect very small quantities of water (and other fluids) in a safe and reliable manner, while supporting a wide range of applications. The water sensor detects the presence of moisture, leaks, or flooding without touching the surface that it monitors. It is placed upwards of 14 feet from the floor and has a detection circle of 40 inches in diameter. The FloodWatch solution will notify building owners on a local or remote basis, including through security monitoring systems, building management systems or via a simple cell phone text message or email.

GeneWeave Biosciences, LLC, Ithaca: GeneWeave Biosciences is commercializing a disruptive bacterial detection technology developed at Cornell University. The diagnostic testing technology will rapidly determine drug-resistance and toxicity of bacteria with results accurate to the genetic level, while requiring no laboratory or expensive equipment, at one-tenth the production costs of competitors.

Impact Technologies, LLC, Syracuse: Impact’s initial design is a Verticle Axis Wind Turbine which features a patent pending generator that solves many of the problems inherent in conventional small wind turbines. The technology can start up with winds as low as 1mph, and a generator that adjusts to varying wind speeds, it is under 300 pounds and is only 8×8 or 3×3 with no high towers required for mounting. It can also harness turbulent winds.

Microgen, LLC, Ithaca: MicrGen’s energy harvester prototype chips are synergistic with batteries including advanced long-life batteries. It harvests the energy created by vibrations which can then be used in a range of applications. They have successfully fabricated 3 wafer MEMS which have demonstrated increasing voltage, power and yield.

Orthogonal LLC, Ithaca: Orthogonal has developed a suite of non-toxic photoresist and the process to manufacture organic electronics in a more cost-effective and efficient manner. Their product, which can be used in an array of applications including lights, computers, and televisions, enables manufacturers to produce organic electronics on industry standard photolithographic equipment without a large investment.

Sound Reading Solutions, LLC, Ithaca: Sound Reading Solutions provides Reading Therapy software to improve reading abilities in children and adults by using proprietary cognitive learning methods. Sound Reading creates Reading Therapy to effectively help the brain match sounds to the symbols on a written page.

Three Brothers Wineries & Estates, LLC, Geneva: Three Brothers Winery and Estates is a unique farm winery with three unique tasting rooms, 38 brands of wine, a microbrewery, café, and event center on the north east side of Seneca Lake. The Estate has already created significant tourist traffic to the Central New York region.

Timbre, Inc, Potsdam: Timbre Inc.’s mission is to introduce the first integrated structure supervisory platform for oversight of wind turbine support components to signal adverse operating conditions for active mitigation of collapse. Their software capabilities, applications expertise, and intellectual property can successfully advance On-Board Diagnostic platforms to monitor the operational health of wind turbines structural towers and prefabricated highway bridge components.

GeneWeave Biosciences, FloodWatch, Three Brothers Winery, and Timbre are previous competition contestants. Geneweave and Three Brothers were both finalists in last year’s competition.