Baruch student-run startups win cash prizes from Blackstone LaunchPad competition

Fariha Alam

Four students from Baruch College will advance their startups after winning $1,000 each from the campus-based preliminary round of the Blackstone LaunchPad Ideas Competition.

Blackstone LaunchPad provides university students with the resources, mentorship and opportunities they need to turn their ideas into profitable ventures. The program’s competition enables students to develop startup ideas and entrepreneurial skills while also competing for cash prizes.

A panel of three judges from the Lawrence N. Field Center for Entrepreneurship picked the winners among a pool of 40 entries for the preliminary round held at Baruch in fall 2022 semester.

Jack Kasindorf and his music therapy program, Djembe Joy, won in the social impact category.

Inspired by Kasindorf’s time playing music with a child with developmental disabilities, the program utilizes drumming as a way of enhancing the quality of life for individuals with mental and physical disabilities.

“My greatest passion is music, but I’ve always had a desire to help others, and I also have a business mind,” Kasindorf said, according to a press release from the Larry Zicklin School of Business.

To move Djembe Joy forward, Kasindorf said he’s seeking partnerships with local organizations, musicians and New York City the Department of Parks & Recreation to further promote the startup to local communities.

Lily Lo and her e-commerce website, Mugu Vintage, won in the consumer goods category.

Inspired by Lo’s frustration with purchasing second-hand luxury items and launched in July 2022, Mugu Vintage specializes in vintage clothing and accessories. The startup also refurbishes vintage items and verifies knockoff items.

She said she envisions a long-term impact on the fashion industry by advocating for vintage clothing as a more ecologically responsible alternative to fast fashion.

“This idea is to make vintage designer shopping easy, sustainable and safe,” Lo said in the Zicklin School’s press release, adding that “buying secondhand items reduces textile waste and saves money.”

The startup generated $36,000 in profit since its launch, without Lo spending any money on advertisement. Lo also obtained a fellowship from a previous Blackstone LaunchPad competition, which gave her the money and resources to launch Mugu Vintage.

Kristov McKinnon and his mattress company, Mattress Evolved, won in the health and life science category.

Inspired by the effect smart device usage has on posture, McKinnon founded the startup, which creates customized mattresses based on customers’ body types and sleeping habits. The startup advertises itself as a company that can enhance people’s health and well-being.

“Sleeping is healing, but a lot of people don’t know that how they sleep can contribute to their posture problems,” McKinnon said in a press release.

To move his startup forward, McKinnon is now developing and testing a prototype for the mattresses.

Bogdan Carp and his real estate listing website, SityHub, won the general category. Inspired by the feedback Carp received from real estate clients and brokers, the platform aims to simplify the apartment renting process for renters, brokers and landlords to make it more secure, straightforward and profitable. 

Carp told The Ticker in an email that his win “was a big step forward” for him to continue working on the platform.

“One of the main issues for the majority of startups is determining whether the idea is worth it or not and finding the product market fit,” Carp said. “Getting recognition from such a selective and prestigious program like Blackstone LaunchPad, as well as competing against so many strong applicants who are very talented and smart entrepreneurs, brought more confidence in the idea and motivation to keep working.”

In addition to developing SityHub, Carp serves as the president of Baruch’s chapter of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization and works as a real estate agent. He hopes to move the platform into its beta testing phase.

The Blackstone LaunchPad program is running in its second academic year at Baruch. Campus Director Christopher Meyer noted that the program will offer a $2,000 prize at another pitching competition run by the Baruch CEO chapter. The deadline is on April 9.

Meyers added that “being able to be innovative and entrepreneurial is important regardless of what career path and type of work students pursue.”

The four winning Baruch students will enter the national round of the competition, which offers a $10,000 top prize.