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UAlbany Students Place Second Nationally in Blackstone LaunchPad’s ‘Solve a Campus Challenge’

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 19, 2016) -- A University at Albany cross-disciplinary team of student entrepreneurs was awarded a top prize in a national business plan competition to identify and suggest solutions to campus problems.

Blackstone LaunchPad’s “Solve a Campus Challenge,” asks students to define a problem they experience on their campus and recommend a solution in a one-minute pitch video. From a pool of 500,000 students across Blackstone LaunchPad’s global network of 17 higher education institutions, 144 pitches were submitted.

UAlbany undergrads and company co-founders Anthony Escamilla ’16, Jordan DiLapo ’16, and Jake Ruth ’16, pitched Youni, Inc., a campus-specific social networking platform for students. It placed second in the competition, garnering a $2,000 cash prize.

“We couldn't be more thankful to the entire Blackstone LaunchPad organization as not only did it give us great exposure for our company, but also provided us capital to continue working towards achieving our dream,” Escamilla said.

“This competition has given us the opportunity to step up as young adults and as entrepreneurs. We were told greatness starts with step one, so we are committed to making each step a meaningful one,” DiLapo added.

Youni's co-founders
Jordan DiLapo (left), Anthony Escamilla (middle), and Jake Ruth (right), are the co-founders of Youni, a campus-specific social networking platform for students.

The Blackstone Charitable Foundation and Blackstone Public Affairs viewed all submissions that received more than 200 “likes” from a public voting platform. Those viewing within the organization then added their vote, identifying the top three winners. Youni received the most public votes of any submission (2,973).

Outside of Youni, eight other UAlbany student teams also submitted pitch videos to the competition. Their ideas varied from solutions to parking issues, to access to water on campus.

View each pitch video here:

Blackstone LaunchPad at UAlbany:

Last October, the Blackstone Charitable Foundation announced the expansion of its Blackstone LaunchPad entrepreneurship program to five New York State universities, including UAlbany.

Through the program, UAlbany’s 17,300 students are given access to individualized coaching as well as seminars and training sessions related to building their own business. Interested students can write business plans, complete financial analyses, and design marketing campaigns, while also being teamed up with external mentors and business incubators.

In April 2016, Blackstone LaunchPad held its first business plan competition on campus. It was held in UAlbany’s Massry Center for Business, and invited angel investors and venture capitalists to judge presentations from 35 UAlbany student teams. Winners were awarded cash prizes totaling $30,000. Advanced Modular Instruments, pitched by Tony Hoang, chemistry Ph.D., and Antoinette Fraser ’16, M.S. forensic biology, placed first, winning $17,000.

To learn more about the program, visit its official website. You can also contact executive director, Jan Woodcock, directly by email, or visit its location in the University’s Campus Center (adjacent to the Student Association offices).

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A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.