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MBA Students Bring Home Cash Prize for Startup Idea in Statewide Business Competition

Benjamin Harris and Ryan Deyette Won First Place in the ‘Military and First Responder’ Category

Benjamin Harris is an MBA student in the University's School of Business. (Photo by Christina Primero)

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 30, 2019) – A team of graduate students in UAlbany’s School of Business won first place in the "Military and First Responder" category in the New York Business Plan Competition (NYBPC) last Friday.

Benjamin Harris and Ryan Deyette received $10,000 for their startup idea.

The app, called VetsTogether, would seek to facilitate an online community of social support for veterans to help prevent suicide and provide resources for those suffering from PTSD, according to Harris.

"We are thrilled and humbled to have received this honor and to have represented UAlbany," Harris said. "It is our sincere hope that we will be able to take this idea and make a difference by connecting with those who have served our country in the Capital Region and beyond."

VetsTogether is designed to help veterans obtain the benefits, aid and support they need in an "all encompassing approach" through the interactive platform, according to Deyette. He said that empowering veterans has long been a passion of his. 

"The veteran suicide rate is not just an issue; it's a crisis, and one that will only be solved with everyone's help," Deyette said. 

Harris and Deyette developed the venture as part of a class project for the MBA course, "Creativity and Entrepreneurship," taught by Bill Wales, Standish Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship at the School.

Wales said that the opportunity to see students' ideas mature and transform is one of the most fulfilling aspects of teaching the course.

"Ben and Ryan have developed a very intriguing new venture idea with a great deal of promise, and I look forward to continuing to help them along their social entrepreneurial journey," he said.

The statewide competition, the NYBPC's 10th annual event, took place at The Sage Armory in Albany on April 26. Out of the 92 teams that participated, 28 represented SUNY campuses.

Afolabi Soetan, a first-year MBA student, also participated in the statewide final after winning second place in the "Consumer Products & Services" track in the New York Business Plan Capital Region Semi-Finals.

Photo of Afolabi Soetan at the semi finals competition.

Afolabi Soetan is a first-year MBA student focusing in cybersecurity. (Photo by Christina Primero)

Soetan competed for his startup, Oga Faaji. The luxury accessories company seeks to unite cultures through fashion.

The semi-finals competition was hosted by the School of Business on April 12. Participants included 30 teams from area colleges and universities. 

View more photos from the New York Business Plan Capital Region Semi-Finals. The event was sponsored by Innovate 518, the Capital Region’s Innovation Hot Spot, a NYSTAR initiative managed by UAlbany, and the UAlbany Innovation Center.  

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