College students from across upstate New York pitched their businesses to an audience of potential investors. It was the end of a 12-week program called the Syracuse Student Sandbox, which mentors young entrepreneurs on generating revenue for their startups.
"Teams are coming out of the sandbox at the end of the summer already having some funding, already having products, already having some customers," said John Liddy, the director of the program he helped start in 2009.
The SUNY Research Foundation will give funds to several of its institutions to help foster entrepreneurship, including the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) and Upstate Medical University.
Canada is aiming to woo bright young entrepreneurs with a startup visa program. The plan offers immediate permanent residence to foreign nationals who are able to secure business funding from Canadian investors. But, there are mixed feelings in the U.S. about the benefits of following suit.
Matthew Turcotte works from his office in Clarkson University's small business incubator in downtown Potsdam.
Many 16-year-olds might dream about starting their own business. But it takes a special kind of teenager to turn an operation launched in his parents' basement into a six-figure profit earner in just four years. After succeeding wildly with his web development and design company, North Shore Solutions, Clarkson University junior Matthew Turcotte, now age 20, is embarking on his second venture: commercial real estate.
It’s a Friday afternoon at the Technology Garden, a business incubator in Syracuse. The dozen or so staff members of software design company Rounded Development are sitting around on couches, chowing on Dinosaur Barbeque take-out and chatting up ideas for new products.
It's not hard to think of the Silicon Valley, or maybe Boston and more recently New York City, when pondering the best place to be as a young entrepreneur. But cities all over the country are trying to become just as popular. Some are doing better than others.
Senator Charles Schumer says a new center to open in Rochester will be a model for cities all over the state and the nation. He made the statement at the launch of the new center for urban entrepreneurship in the city.
Sean Branagan doesn't want to get any angry phone calls from the NCAA's lawyers for ripping off their idea, but he took inspiration from a certain national college basketball tournament, held every March, for a new student startup competition.
There is a political debate going on this fall about government's role in supporting entrepreneurship and innovation.
It comes at a time when upstate New York continues to try and reinvent its economy. Small business incubators and accelerator programs are cropping up. The state has also made a major investment in creating a nanotech industry.
"The narrative that government is important? I don’t believe it’s true," says Carl Schramm.
One-hundred long days full of presentations, meetings with mentors and practicing investor pitches is all done.
The first-ever StartFast Venture Accelerator concluded Thursday morning with its Demo Day.
"Saying it was all hard would be an understatement," said Timothy Beckford, a founder of PadProof, a program to help professional photographers sell their pictures more easily. "It was a tremendous undertaking. We worked like crazy."
Nine companies entered StartFast back in May, but only eight made it through. The teams were given seed money, workspace and access to dozens of mentors.
Repetition is the name of the game to turn high schoolers into good entrepreneurs.
All this week, high school students taking part in an entrepreneurship boot camp at the South Side Innovation Center (SSIC) in Syracuse have been forced to practice pitching business ideas and cold-calling clients over-and-over.
"The practical piece is really key," says El-Java Abdul-Qadir, and instructor at SSIC.
This is the first year of the boot camp and twenty kids are taking part, but organizers are hoping it will get bigger next summer.
Four years ago, Erick Cleckner was sitting next to his friend, Dave Chenell, in a class at Syracuse University. But they weren't exactly paying attention.
"[We were] just drawing in our notebooks instead of taking notes," remembers Cleckner. "And we were arguing about whose drawing would win a fight."
Their debate about whose character would triumph didn't end when class was dismissed. Cleckner and Chenell started working on a digital battlefield where their sketches could actually engage in battle.
Ariel Norling, 20, is from San Antonio, Texas. She has a lip ring and a spunky attitude to match. She majored in policy studies at Syracuse University.
Oh, and she's the CEO of her own online dating site called YouShouldDate.me. Tagline: "Online dating sucks, but it doesn't have to."
"We're trying to find the middle ground between 'casual whatever,' which generally just means people hooking up, and marriage," says Norling, describing her site.
She says she didn't really expect to become an entrepreneur - hence the social sciences degree. But last fall, after some convincing by a friend, Norling decided to pitch her idea at a local startup weekend.
Brian Page and Benjamin Onyejuruwa stood in front of the panel of judges with their hands full of groceries in an attempt to show how much easier their invention - an electronic ID and key programmed into a bracelet - could be.
The duo are roommates and freshman at Clarkson University. They made the trip down to Syracuse University on Friday to pitch QuickWhrist for a chance to win seed money from the university's Emerging Talk program.
Even as a freshman, Onyejuruwa already holds a patent for the technology.