Michael Gursha ’10: An Early Entrepreneurial Calling

Michael Gursha ’10 visited campus on two separate occasions in April. The first was to judge the Panasci Business Plan and RvD IDEA competitions, which provide seed funding for student ventures and innovations at Syracuse University. The second time was to receive Whitman’s Jonathan M. Holtz Young Alumnus Award, which recognized Gursha for doing things, such as judging the entrepreneurship competitions just 20 days prior.

“I had a great experience at SU,” said Gursha. “I feel very strongly about staying involved and helping students bring their creative ideas to life.”

Gursha is the vice president of strategic initiatives at Curemark, a New York-based startup biotech company focused on the treatment of autism and other neurological disorders.

Growing up in Palo Alto, Calif., in the ‘90’s fueled Gursha’s innate fascination with innovation. Despite moving to New York when he was 13, his affinity for the West Coast remained strong—so much so that he found work for himself there every summer during high school beginning with Sunset Magazine where he helped maintain their famous gardens. After Sunset, Gursha’s interest in technology led him to Google where, at the age of 18, he worked in new business development at the Mountain View headquarters. He got the job by writing an old-fashioned letter that landed a meeting with the director of business development. Upon meeting, they hit it off, and she later hired him for the next two summers.

“She took a chance on me at a very young age,” shared Gursha. “I was treated like any other employee and given major responsibilities, assisting the team responsible for improving the Google Search Index and working on early stage partnerships for Google Health. I learned the very valuable lesson that persistence and passion can lead to amazing opportunities.”

At the end of the first summer at Google, Gursha headed for Syracuse as a freshman in a dual degree program in entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises at Whitman and television, radio and film at Newhouse.

Gursha’s fascination and love of media, as well as his early and sustained desire to “build businesses,” led him to believe there was no better fit than earning a dual degree from two amazing schools while sharing an alma mater with his mom, Cathy Lehman Gursha, who graduated from Newhouse in 1978.

During his sophomore year, Gursha was a founding team member of Dream Water, which won first place and $25,000 at the 2008 Panasci Business Plan Competition. “Participating in the Panasci Competition was a tremendous learning experience,” added Gursha. “It gave me a real life perspective of how the start-up process worked and an entrepreneurial foundation that led me to Curemark.”

Gursha met with the founder and CEO of Curemark very early in the company’s history. He was offered an internship after his sophomore year, which led to continued work and involvement right up until he accepted a full-time offer after graduation.

“I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur,” said Gursha. “My choices after graduation were to start a business myself or continue to help grow Curemark as a member of the initial team. Realizing the value of working within a well-funded, innovative company with the potential to change the world, I chose the latter.” He has been promoted three times since and is currently leading strategic initiatives for the company, working across the entire organization on everything from business development to regulatory strategy.

Since commencement, Gursha has been an active alumnus. In addition to judging competitions, he is a member of Generation Orange Leadership Society of New York and an advisor to the Digital Media Entrepreneurship Center at Newhouse.

Last fall, Gursha was brought to Whitman to address students as a guest speaker for the Goodman IMPRESS program. He concluded his talk by sharing his takeaways for success: “Always be curious. Ask questions and listen. People are everything. Don’t be afraid to fail. Make mistakes and learn from them. Don’t listen to naysayers. Create opportunities. Be yourself. Have fun! If you do these things, the sky is the limit.”