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TIA blog series: Participating in TIA, not as a student, but as an alum by Olivia Straub ’12

By Contributing Writer on March 28, 2014
Olivia Straub '12

Olivia Straub ’12

I am the anomaly in the TIA Student Incubator this year. While most TIA participants are in their prime Colgate years, I am not taking the course as a current student, but as an alumna. I graduated from Colgate in 2012 with a BA in Peace and Conflicts Studies. After graduating, I moved to Baltimore and fell in love with this city. I became inspired by all the potential Baltimore City has to offer. In the peak of being enthralled with this city and happy about the direction my life has taken, I began to think back on my journey and how I got to where I was.

I come from an immigrant family. Although my mother instilled in me early the notion that I would attend college, I would have never even known to consider attending a college such as Colgate University without the assistance of the various programs that I was a part of through my middle and high school educations. I was fortunate to participate in a program that prepared high achieving, low income middle school students for private high school, increasing my chances of applying to and being prepared for a private college. During high school, I had the amazing opportunity to hold long term volunteer positions and internships, boosting my resume. When I was accepted to Colgate, I was also able to participate in a program called OUS, which helped to prepare me for the rest of my college career.

While I was a student at Colgate, when TIA first came to existence, I desired to participate in the course; however, it never seemed to coincide with my schedule. Now, a couple of years out of Colgate, I began to envision a project that I wanted to see through ENGAGEbased on all of the aforementioned experiences I was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to have. While looking at my own past and at the potential future of Baltimore, ENGAGE developed in my mind. ENGAGE (Empowering the Next Generation, Advocating for Greater Education) is a college preparatory program for Baltimore City public high school students which would also give them the opportunity to become politically and socially active in their communities. As my idea was developing, I thought, what better place to get support and knowledge than TIA?

Participating in TIA this year as an alumna has been nothing short of a challenge. In addition to a couple of other obligations, I have a full time job as an AmeriCorps Choice Service Learning Fellow, which takes on average 60 hours of my week. The shortage of time and the 6 hour car ride to Hamilton each way (often times starting at 3am day of the class) have made TIA demanding. However, I continue to go back every month because, just as challenging as the class has been, TIA has definitely been rewarding. Not only have I met and connected with numerous inspiring and motivating Colgate graduates and entrepreneurs, but I have also learned a great amount about how to develop a successful project. Although other constraints have prevented me from making as much progress as I would have liked on my venture this year, I now have the structure, the knowledge, and the support to push myself to new limits to make my vision a reality. Without TIA, I would still be thinking about my project without even knowing how to make the first step. With TIA, I now am confident that I can make ENGAGE a viable and successful program.

Editor’s note: When Olivia first contacted the TIA team about the possibility of participating as an alumna, we were unsure whether this would work. We decided to trial the option with Olivia and it has been a positive experience for everyone involved. There are challenges as Olivia discussed above, but while the TIA Student Incubator will continue to be student-focused, we may consider taking a small number of alumni each year if there is interest.

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TIA blog series: Sapling Advisory by Josh Lasker ’14

By Contributing Writer on March 25, 2014
Josh Lasker '14

Josh Lasker ’14

“The majority of client problems I have seen over my long tenure in the business, are due to personal differences”, one financial advisor told me in the fall of 2012. Just a few weeks before, my brother who is a young financial advisor in long beach California, Colgate Class of ’10, called me to say he tried some online lead generation services and saw much room in the market for improvement. He was interested in meeting new clients and was looking for innovative tools to do so. He said that existing techniques like cold calling were barely helpful at all.

I had interest and success in entrepreneurship prior to coming to Colgate, so it didn’t take long for me to decide that this market opportunity was worth pursuing. I recruited my roommate, Daniel Swiecki, to bring saplingon his computer science knowledge and his own entrepreneurial experience. We proceeded to analyze the marketplace and talk to as many financial advisors as we could. It was through these conversations that we learned that professional compatibility and personal compatibility are intertwined. We learned that we needed to build a service that didn’t just provide names and phone numbers to financial advisors, but also provided value to the clients that signed up: a service that could help financial advisors get leads of interested and compatible prospective clients, while simultaneously offering a free concierge-like service that can find someone a professionally competent and personally compatible financial advisor matched with their goals and expectations. I am proud to say that while we still have a long way to go, we have built that service.

Daniel Swiecki '14

Daniel Swiecki ’14

Our business, Sapling Advisory Inc., is like eHarmony for financial advisors and prospective clients. We match financial advisors to clients, not just based on the services they offer, but also based on a large variety of personal attributes proven to lead to a more trusting relationship. Trust is important in all relationships, but it is especially important when it comes to someone’s financial future.

Sapling makes it easy for the nearly 300k financial advisors in the US to find leads of interested, and compatible clients quicker and easier than ever before, and it allows clients to find an advisor that is more suitable to fulfill their individual goals than one that was recommended by a friend or had a smooth cold call pitch. We are simultaneously revolutionizing both the way America finds financial consultation and the way financial advisors find new clients.

The Thought Into Action Student Incubator has played a critical role providing us with mentorship on how to best take our product to market. We needed the expertise of professionals to guide our efforts. TIA is an incredible educational experience – the perfect complement to the traditional liberal arts education. Our lessons in coached experimentation and risk-elimination will continue to serve us as we embark on our journey after Colgate. This complement to the traditional liberal arts is what the liberal arts of tomorrow should look like across America. Truly, Colgate is leading the way.

Sapling Advisory Inc. is now fully functional, and wading into the marketplace as we speak. We have half a dozen financial advisors signed up as we run a beta test, and are currently focusing on learning about our prospective clients and how we can best reach them. Besides TIA helping to get us to where we are today, we have been overwhelmed by the warmth and generosity Colgate alumni have offered, as we research how to improve our product.

We are incredibly grateful for all of our partnerships Colgate has brought about and are really excited to build Sapling into the leader of the lead-gen market. Please contact me if you are interested in learning more, and in the mean time, I invite you to find your compatible advisor at saplingadvisory.com.

Josh Lasker ’14 is a senior Geology major with a minor in ALST Caribbean Studies which he declared after studying abroad in Kingston, Jamaica. At Colgate, he has served on the Budget Allocations Committee since 2nd semester of his freshmen year and now oversees the committee and the allocation of over $900,000 as Treasurer of the Student Government Association. He has also held leadership roles in Finance Club, Aviation Club, the Benton Scholars, is involved with Sidekicks (young child mentorship program) and occasionally engages with the Colgate Speaking Union through which he is the two time winner of the Kingsford Speaking Competition. He has accepted employment with Proctor & Gamble post graduation in the San FranciscoBay area.

Daniel Swiecki ’14 is a Computer Science and Mathematical Economics double major at Colgate. He is president of the Colgate Computer Science Club and is a former president of the Colgate Finance Club. He hates writing bios and sometimes likes to think he has a sense of humor. He is an editor for Colgate’s satirical newspaper, The Monthly Rag. Prior to coming to Colgate, Daniel had started a web design and development business and created online presences for a dozen local businesses. He has accepted employment with JP Morgan in the Corporate Investment Bank, in the Research & Development group in New York City post graduation. 

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April is a busy month for entrepreneurship in Upstate NY

By Mary Galvez on March 14, 2014

Lots of activity within the Upstate New York entrepreneur ecosystem is taking place in the month of April. Here’s just a sampling of events in which TIA students will be participating:

eweekend_registration-header3Colgate is proud to announce Entrepreneur Weekend 2014, April 11–12. Join us as we kick off this powerful weekend with a superstar panel, featuring experts on the business of creating a business. Ashton Kutcher, actor, entrepreneur, and startup investor, will be the highlight of a panel at 6 p.m. on Friday, April 11th in Cotterell Court. He’ll be joined by CNBC’s David Faber, former Skype CEO Tony Bates, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, and CEO of Chegg Dan Rosensweig P’15’17. Other highlights from Entrepreneur Weekend include a competition between Thought Into Action Student Incubator participants for a $15,000 grant from Colgate’s Entrepreneurs Fund, the launch of the Entrepreneur Professional Network in the Hall of Presidents and student venture demos hosted by General Catalyst Partners co-founder David Fialkow. Also, Julian Farrior ’93, will receive the first Entrepreneur of the Year Award for his achievements with video game maker Backflip Studios. Click HERE for Entrepreneur Weekend schedules and updates.


uvanyUpstate’s colleges and universities have long attracted, trained, and exported the talenthamdi that fuels the most successful companies in the world. Over the past few years, an entirely new model has emerged where entrepreneurial students are able to launch their efforts while still in college and also benefit from access to mentors from surrounding business communities. Colgate’s Thought Into Action Entrepreneurship Institute is one of the sponsors of the UVANY Venture Forum: Ithaca Student e-Ship in CNY “Tomorrow’s Leaders” with Hamdi Ulukaya, founder and CEO of Chobani and featuring top student entrepreneur (eShip) teams. Tuesday, April 8, 2014 from 4:00 – 9:00 pm, Ithaca College, Emerson Suites, Ithaca, NY.


NYBPC Official Logo2014 will be the fifth annual New York State Business Plan Competition (NYBPC). It is a statewide collegiate student business competition representing more than 50 colleges and universities. Since 2010 over 570 student teams have pitched their ventures through this competition. Through 2013, more than $800,000 in cash and prizes have been awarded to New York student entrepreneurs. In 2014 it is expected that there will be $500,000 available in prizes. In 2013, Chicory, a TIA-incubated venture, took first place in the regional competition at Syracuse University, and moved on to the state finals where they placed fourth, out of a field of hundreds of startups. Friday, April 4, 2014 at SUNYIT Kunsela Lecture Hall. The winners of the regional competition will advance to the state level competition to be held April 25, 2014 at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering in Albany, NY.