The culmination of every student’s business education at the Martin J. Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University is what is known as “Capstone,” a three-credit course designed to inspire graduating students’ entrepreneurial spirits and teach tangible skills. The final product of this course is a persuasive and profitable business plan for a completely novel good or service. Ultimately, the practical skills and heightened business acumen gained from this course help to launch students into the professional world with a better understanding of what it takes to create a startup.
On December 7, each of the 60 teams in Capstone courses for the fall 2018 semester pitched their business plans to panels of judges, which included professors and real-world entrepreneurs. This year’s finalists pitched ideas that ranged across a wide variety of industries, including consumer goods, healthcare, gaming, food and beverage and clean energy.
SolRX, the winning project, creatively harnessed the power of existing concentrated photovoltaic technologies and a patented process to refurbish decommissioned solar panels, extending their useful life and avoiding environmental harm, all while offering them at a large discount versus new panels. As a team, Matthew Alnwick, Julia DiPersio, Anne Fitzgerald and Logan Zucchino came together and mastered the art of collaboration to make this idea into a winning business plan.
“Working as a team all semester and being dedicated to making our business plan as strong as we could took plenty of time and there were certainly some roadblocks,” said Julia DiPersio, a member of SolRX and a senior under the direction of Ken Walsleben.
These challenges and setbacks that many, if not most, teams face along the path to completing the business plans typically end up becoming the strongest learning moments. Time after time, teams that use research and problem-solving to quickly move past these setbacks come out on top.
The second-place team, Gamercraft, tapped into the power of analytics and the rising popularity of video gaming to offer competitive gamers a proprietary gameplay analytics software and complementary coaching platform. These offerings work to improve players’ skill level and overall gaming experience. Brad Eckersley, Jose Javier Garcia-Rovira, Olivia Huang, Julia Perroncello and Paul Matos developed the idea under faculty advisor David Lucas.
“Capstone for me, was the beginning of a new train of thought,” Jose Garcia-Rovira noted. “I was really passionate about the idea and might even start the business.”
The third-place team, Krafted Cups — with teammates Sam Mooney, Peter Morrissey, Renee Nian and Erin Gallagher — created a product that would allow coffee-lovers to brew beans from small, local coffeeshops using environmentally-friendly K-cups.
Honorable mentions went to the fourth and fifth place teams, DiaBuddy and Scerenity, respectively. Both companies aimed to help improve the health of their customers. DiaBuddy worked to ease the challenges of living with juvenile diabetes, and DiaBuddy team member Nicole Anes added, “The energy in the auditorium was incredible, and everyone was so supportive of each other.” Scerenity’s company mission is to create a multi-sensory therapeutic experience for people suffering from anxiety using weighted blankets.
Under the direction of David Lucas, John Torrens, Mirza Tihic and Ken Walsleben, each and every student that completed Capstone this semester gained invaluable experience throughout the course — regardless of their winning status.
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