Fall 2021 Capstone Competition Winners Announced

A semester’s worth of ideation, concept development, financial planning and research culminated in a two-day Capstone Competition at Syracuse University’s Whitman School on Dec. 10 and Dec. 11. All senior undergraduates completing the required 3-credit Strategic and Entrepreneurial Management course this fall participated, pitching original business plans in groups of four or five students under the guidance of a Whitman faculty member. 

This semester’s competition was the first to be held in-person since the fall of 2019, as COVID restriction and University policy forced the past three semesters’ events to be held virtually.

On the first day of competition, 59 teams presented their business ideas, followed by 10 minutes of challenging questions from a panel of judges made up of faculty, students, alumni and other business professionals. By the end of the day, 13 of those teams were selected to present a series of live elevator pitches. Of those, five team finalists returned the next day to compete for the competition’s top spots. Judging this final round was Professor of Practice John Petosa L’95, Adjunct Instructor Rick Ranucci and Misty Fox, program manager at Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF). 

“We were certainly excited to be able to hold the Capstone Competition in-person this semester, but the real excitement came from the ideas that our Whitman students presented after months of hard work in their Capstone course,” says Professor of Entrepreneurial Practice and Deputy Department Chair of Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises John Torrens. “We congratulate not only the winners but all of our participants, who truly demonstrated the skills and innovative mindsets they have developed not only during this course but throughout their four years at the Whitman School.”

The following teams were selected as winners:

First Place: Multiplier

In first place was Multiplier, a team made up of students Robert Annino ’22, Charles Branca ’22, Ashley Haag ’22, Floriana Niamonitakis ’22 and Ben Olender ’22, under the guidance of Torrens. Multiplier created a patent-pending, all-in-one multi-head plier tool that comes with a universal handle and five separate tips that can be used for a variety of jobs. The team displayed its fifth generation prototype and is actively looking to launch this company. 

Second Place: HoundHaven

Second place was awarded to HoundHaven, comprised of team members Megan Gillard ’23, Matt F. Keenan ’22, Karen Lin ’23, C.J. Sevola ’21 and Caroline Whinney ’22, under the guidance of Professor of Entrepreneurial Practice Ken Walsleben. HoundHaven created an ergonomic and scientifically designed “den” for dogs that suffer from sound/noise anxiety.

Third Place: PomPack

Matt Caceres ’23, Liz Feldman ’22, Ryan Jones ’22, Lucas Marchi ’22 and Eileen Saganey ’22 were the members of PomPack, a company that has commercialized a method of creating single-use serving bowls, take-out containers and carry cartons from pomace, a waste-stream remanent of fruit. Walsleben served as faculty coach.

Honorable Mentions: Living Well and RoomEaze

Two companies received Honorable Mentions in the competition. Living Well, made up of team members Ashley Choi ’23, Gabriella Esposito ’21, Alexis Juszczyszyn ’22, Lena Karakash ’23 (WHIT/iSchool) and David Koslow ’22, under the guidance of Walsleben, created a plumbing product to provide real-time water chemistry feedback to well water users. RoomEaze, comprised of Nathan Hirschberg ‘22, Sam Holland ’21 (WHIT/NEW), Jacob Kogan ’22, Luke J. Leonard ’22 and Sofia Romanoli ’22, with Adjunct Instructor Tamara Demeree acting as faculty coach, created an all-in-one communications platform to streamline the process of living with roommates, including managing chores and splitting expenses. 

Each Capstone business concept is required to be a new product, service or business model unique to the “real world” and includes a novel approach to the creation of its economic value. It must be scalable with the ability to reasonably achieve $3 million in gross revenues by year five of operation and investment by an outside source that exceeds $100,000.

“Winning Capstone was a surreal experience. If you had told me freshman year that I would be winning the Whitman Capstone Competition in my senior year, I wouldn’t have believed you,” says Ben Olender ’22, a member of the Multiplier team who initiated the idea. “Truly, none of this would have been achieved if it wasn’t for the incredible and dedicated team that I worked with. The inception of Multiplier was not intended to be used for the Capstone competition but was something I was actively pursuing outside of school. The dedication and hard work that my team put towards achieving this is what gave the idea the validation needed to continue developing this product.”