UAlbany Students Recognized at NY Business Plan Competition

UAlbany MBA student and football player Sam Hogan presents his plan at the NY Business Competition.
Sam Hogan, who is pursuing his MBA at UAlbany, recently took first place in the NY Business Plan Competition in the “Learn, Work & Live” track. (Photo by Jenny Huang/Blackstone Launchpad)

By Michael Parker

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 4, 2024) — For UAlbany Massry School of Business students Sam Hogan and Jacob Webb, meeting the challenge of competition is nothing new. After finding success on the athletic field, both have now earned recognition at the New York Business Plan Competition.

Hogan’s company, Hirebird, won first place in the “Learn, Work & Live” track of the statewide finals, held at ETEC on April 25. Webb’s startup, Starlight, finished in third place in the “Software & Services” track. Winning teams win both prize money and ongoing support, with first place garnering $10,000 and third place $1,000.

“The New York Business Plan Competition was phenomenal,” said Hogan, the kicker and punter on the NCAA national semifinalist UAlbany football team, who is pursuing his MBA while also starting his own company.

Hogan, who also recently took first place and a $2,500 award in the inaugural Syracuse University Blackstone LaunchPad Investor-Ready Pitch Competition, has secured office space in Manhattan to take his company to the next level.

“We have a team of seven to eight down here now and we're looking to build Hirebird out as one of the fastest (if not THE fastest) growing hiring tool in the United States for Gen Z and early career candidates,” said Hogan.

He credits Jenny Huang, manager of Blackstone Launchpad at UAlbany, for her support and encouragement as he pursues his goal of running his own firm, as well as Assistant Professor of Marketing Aleksandra Kovacheva and adjunct Jim Pascarell.

In the case of Pascarell, the CEO of Pivotal Optics Inc., Hogan goes to him for advice on several entrepreneurial issues.

“I bounce my pitch deck and financials off Jim frequently for his advice as a multi-time founder,” said Hogan.

Meanwhile, Kovacheva provided the flexibility for Hogan to succeed in the classroom while juggling football and business responsibilities.

“I'm extremely grateful for her as I would've missed out on great opportunities had she not been so supportive of me,” said Hogan.

“Sam was always engaged in class, frequently contributing interesting and innovative ideas to our discussions and projects. I’m glad to see Sam’s hard work and determination pay off,” said Kovacheva. “I congratulate him for his success at the New York Business Competition as well as with his company. It was a pleasure to support him over the past academic year as he balanced his academic, athletic and entrepreneurial pursuits.”

Hogan's advice to fellow students is to never stop learning, whether it’s in the classroom or in the boardroom.

“I went to Cornell University, Utah State University and UAlbany, and while college is a phenomenal tool to build your base skill set, it's not enough to push you to the next level,” said Hogan. “As a person building a company around early career hiring, I see hundreds of students every month struggling to find work after college. I thoroughly encourage any students to participate in events like the NYBPC, clubs or simply just make their own company, no matter how big or small.”

Hogan’s also made connections with his fellow competitors at NYBC. Webb is a junior majoring in business administration while Hogan has about a year left on his MBA.

Webb is a member of the men’s lacrosse team, where he is in charge of film for practice and games. After originally committing to play for the Great Danes, Webb found he had a medical condition his senior that prevented him from taking the field. But with the support of Head Coach Scott Marr, Webb was a part of the team that recently gave defending national champion Notre Dame all it could handle before falling in the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Tournament.

The business plan competition began with 340 student teams, made up of more than 700 students from 58 colleges and universities. The teams first competed in their classrooms, on their campuses and in their regions before advancing to the statewide finals.

UAlbany students Russ Fugal, Omar Cunningham and Ehdoh Kyi also advanced from the regionals to the statewide finals.