Syracuse University 2020 Panasci Business Plan Competition Winners

first place winners, Nick Barba and David Fox, pose with a large check

Syracuse University 2020 Panasci Business Plan Competition Winners

Each year, the Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises Program at Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management hosts the campus-wide Panasci Business Plan Competition. This event encourages students to think entrepreneurially and allows them to showcase their innovative business ideas.

A $1 million endowment from the late Henry A. Panasci, founder of Fay’s Drugs, funded the University-wide entrepreneurial competition, which is open to Syracuse University and SUNY-ESF students. On the 20th anniversary of the competition, family member David Panasci ’80, founder of DHP Consulting, donated prize money and observed the final presentations.  

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this spring’s competition was postponed to fall 2020 and held virtually via Zoom.

“It was very rewarding to see the presentations for Saturday’s finals,” says Todd Moss, department of entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises chair and associate professor. “The students were well-prepared and weren’t letting the current pandemic dampen their enthusiasm for building their fledgling businesses. The judges were also impressed with their passion and determination.” 

While winners of the competition are awarded cash prizes, all participants are given the opportunity to further refine their products by gaining valuable feedback from a panel of distinguished industry professionals.

The winners of this year’s $20,000 first-place award were Nick Barba ’20 and David Fox ’19 (iSchool) for Smarta, is a software as a service (SaaS) organization meant to change the way college students lease off-campus housing. It delivers users free access to the web and mobile application that allows students to find, apply for and sign a lease for off-campus housing. For owners and managers of student rental properties, Smarta automates the sales process — from booking a tour to signing a lease, while digitalizing operational tasks like rent and security deposit collection.

Barba and Fox were also awarded the Dambach & Four Brothers Disruption prize, which is awarded to the team with the most potential to disrupt their industry. 

“The Smarta team is honored to have received first place, as well as the Dambach & Four Brothers Disruption prize at the 2020 Panasci Business Plan Competition. We want to thank the Whitman School and its donors for the opportunity they've provided our team,” says Barba. “With the prize money, Smarta will be taken through development and launch in September of 2021. Keep your eyes peeled, because we'll be launching in Syracuse.”

Samuel Hollander ’22 (WHIT/NEW) took home the $7,500 second-place prize for his company Financial Services for College Lending (FSCL). FSCL is a financial service business for college students that specialized in using innovative and alternative solutions to finance higher education using technology.

Hollander was also awarded this year’s Gilded Social Rising Entrepreneur Award, which is awarded to the presentation that shows the persistence and passion to see the idea through and create a true business. 

"I’m incredibly humbled and excited to have been chosen for second place in this year's Panasci Business Plan competition, as well as being the recipient of the Gilded Social Rising Entrepreneur award. This money will go a long way in being used to further develop our minimum viable product (MVP). Winning these prizes reaffirms to us that we're onto something. We are happy to see that the judges understood our mission and believed in what we're doing. Our vision is to transform students' lives by reducing their financial stress. Receiving this award is going to make us exponentially closer to doing just that," says Hollander.

Abigail Covington ’19 (A&S) G’20 (NEW); Kelsey Davis ’19 (NEW) ’20 M.S.; Daniel Fatade ’20 (ECS); and Brendan O’Keeffe ’20 (iSchool), earned the third place prize of $2,500 for their platform CLLCTVE. CLLCTVE connects college creatives (marketing freelancers) with businesses targeting Gen Z consumers. Their exclusive direct-to-consumer access enables brands to connect with Gen Z consumers and Gen Z content creators. 

Honorable mention was awarded to Deyu Li G’20 (ECS) ’22 M.S.; Chen Luo ’18 (ECS) ’22 Ph.D.; Zeyi Luo ’21 M.S.; Han Mo ’21; Jie Ren G’20 (ECS); Mengtao Tang ’20 (ECS); Siling Yin G’21 (ECS); and Yixiong Zhen ’21 M.S., for their platform The Fair App. This app provides comprehensive information about the Central New York Regional Farmers Market. Another honorable mention was given to Bruno Gonzalez Hauger ’21 (WHIT/NEW) and Marco Gonzalez Hauger for the platform Ambassador Technologies. This app connects Instagram influencers with small businesses looking to advertise via social media.

Thanks to the generous donations from the Panasci, Friedberg and Dambach families, Whitman was able to award more than $35,000 in prize money to the top teams whose new venture ideas represent the best potential for growth and attracting outside financing.

The 2021 Panasci Business Plan Competition will be held in April. Stay tuned for more information about that and other upcoming pitch competitions.

For more information about the opportunities students have to further their entrepreneurial ideas at the Whitman School, visit the Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship webpage.

Kimmy Kimball