The sound of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” filled the lecture room at the Syracuse Technology Garden as iSchool student entrepreneurs Jerrell Perry ’10 (keyboardist) and Joe Gennaro ’11 (bassist) introduced their emerging business, JamLynx, during the 2010 Syracuse Student Sandbox Demo Day on August 18. Their online gaming platform enables independent musicians to connect, collaborate, and compete with other musicians from around the world.

The musical team was the first of 12 student start-ups to introduce their companies to a standing-room only group of business people, mentors, educators, peers, and community members.

Upon arrival at the event, attendees were given five fake $100 bills to invest in their favorite ideas based on the student presentations and their follow-up interactions with the teams at their spaces within the Sandbox. The student teams were vying to collect the most money from the would-be venture capitalists, and earn themselves an actual $1,000 check, courtesy of Hancock + Estabrook and USA DataNet.

Black Orchyd, founded by SUNY Morrisville students Robert Petillo and Alonzo Murray, won the $1,000 check for their hot sauce company. The students, who are both native of the Caribbean, explained during their presentation that they decided to create their own hot sauce when they couldn’t find a product in Central New York to create Caribbean-style dishes.

They also explained how they work with the local Nelson Farms to use only natural ingredients and how they plan to distribute to specialty food stores, CNY colleges and restaurants, and grocery stores such as Wegmans.

This is the second annual Sandbox Demo Day, which sprung from the Syracuse Student Start-Up Accelerator. The Start-Up Accelerator is a three-prong initiative developed by iSchool Assistant Professor Mike D’Eredita involving: sequential coursework in fall and spring semesters; followed by the Student Sandbox experience; and incubation support in the form of mentors, professional legal, financial, and marketing services, and Orange Tree Funding.

SU Entrepreneur in Residence and Sandbox Coach John Liddy told the audience that the program is growing exponentially from four start-ups last year to 12 this year, and from four mentors last year to 40 mentors this year.

“There’s real evidence of an ecosystem of entrepreneurship happening here in Central New York,” Liddy said.

Tom Blanchard, the chief economic development officer of CenterState CEO, congratulated all of the teams for their hard work and perseverance in founding their own companies.

“We’re very fortunate that you have made the decision to invest your time and energy in building your businesses here in Central New York,” Blanchard said. “We understand how critical entrepreneurs and innovators are to the future of the city, of the county, and of the region. The Sandbox is designed to collect student talent from the region’s colleges and universities and help propel their innovative and service ideas into market-ready status.”

One of the 12 student start-ups, a creative online fighting game called Grafighters, will graduating from the Sandbox to the incubator space under the auspices of another venture,, a storytelling company owned by iSchool Assistant Professor of Practice Anthony Rotolo ’02, G’06 that helps businesses communicate in a new media landscape. Grafighters was founded by iSchool students Dave Chenell ’10, G’11 and Eric Cleckner ’10 (VPA), G’12.

This is second the company who graduated from the Sandbox Demo Day., online reputation management company founded by iSchool student Pete Kistler ’11 and Robert (RJ) Sherman ’09, G’11, has grown to occupy two offices in the Tech Garden and has entered into contracts with Syracuse and Elon universities to provide reputation management services for some of their graduates. Brand-Yourself also donated its service to all 12 Sandbox companies for free.

2010 Syracuse Student Sandbox Companies

Black Orchyd

Student entrepreneurs: Robert Petillo, Alonzo Murray
The Big Idea: All natural hot sauce inspired by the Caribbean
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Brewing History

Student entrepreneurs: Jason Newton, Krysten Reilly, Eric Altman
The big idea: A brewery dedicated to brewing old-time recipes and new innovative recipes, connecting Central New York with its historical brewery roots.
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Campus Mosaic

Student entrepreneurs: Brian Weinreich, Alex Piliouras, Tory Gentes
The big idea: A dual venture that includes Cuse My Campus and Squeeze My Tees. Cuse My Campus is a website with uncensored satirical news, articles, pictures, and videos for the SU community. Squeeze My Tees is an apparel business focusing on comedic t-shirts and creative, student-generated designs.
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Student entrepreneurs: Andrew Farah, Justin Breese, Shay Colson
The big idea: A web services company that generates its primary revenue from web design.
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Dream Fetcher

Student entrepreneurs: Kyle McShane, Gerald Decelian, Austin Curtis
The big idea: A web-based service that matches job seekers with the positions and employers of their dreams.
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Student entrepreneurs: Dave Chenell, Eric Cleckner, Kevin Holmes
The big idea: The first online game for your hand-drawn characters. Upload your sketches and watch them battle it out.
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Student entrepreneurs: Joseph Gennaro, Jerrell Perry, Justin Perry, Brian Goetsch
The big idea: A web-based social networking/gaming service that allows musicians to upload their songs, play each other’s music, compete, and collaborate.
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Student entrepreneurs: Cameron Lassiter, Paulina Kernacova, Jimmy Brunner
The big idea: A community-based collective that specializes in redesigning reclaimed building components, using them to patch and revitalize decaying structures, or create new structures.
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Student entrepreneur: Kate Gaffigan
The big idea: A waste upcycling service that repurposes used cooking grease and oil from local restaurants by making it into handcrafted, scented soap.
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Safe Sip

Student entrepreneurs: Colby M. Morgan, Meocha Belle, Putman Davis
The big idea: A drinking straw that detects the presence of date rape drugs in a beverage by changing color.
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Skill Addiction

Student entrepreneurs: Ray Williams, Taylor Louie
The big idea: A skill gaming website that lets players connect and compete in tournaments for cash and prizes.
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The Front

Student entrepreneurs: Stephen Klimek, Chris DePalma, Molly Poes
The big idea: A non-profit that triggers urban development in Syracuse by renovating abandoned storefronts into prime real estate and securing long-term tenants.
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