AJ Damiano - PowerSpike | Upstate Venture Connect

Dorm Star to Techstars: AJ Damiano and PowerSpike

Deep in the dorms of universities across the world are students either thinking about or working on building a company. One such student, AJ Damiano, started his company, PowerSpike, from his dorm room at Syracuse University back in 2014, while beginning his freshman year studies in Marketing and Entrepreneurship. PowerSpike is an e-sports influencer marketing and analytics platform that connects livestreaming influencers and potential sponsors.

Like many good startup founders, AJ has personally experienced the problem he is now solving for his customers. AJ describes the frustrating experience of seeking sponsorships while developing content as a Twitch streamer. The story goes that of the many potential sponsors he reached out to, only 2 bothered to respond at all, and both were rejections. PowerSpike’s platform makes live streaming sponsorships measurable and verifiable and leverages two major trends – more companies attempting to employ influencer marketing, and the increased adoption of video game live streaming.

“As former streamers, they’re acutely aware of the challenges PowerSpike aims to solve, and they are already on the right path,” said Seth Berger, Managing Director at Sixers Innovation Lab Crafted by Kimball. “Streaming is a rapidly growing space we believe will continue to explode.”

Along the way, AJ met his co-founder and COO Michael Paris who was a fellow YouTuber and collaborator at a tech startup called Gamer’s League. Conveniently, Michael also decided to attend Syracuse University where he is studying Communications Design and plans to graduate in 2020. The final co-founder, Eric Rice, attended Binghamton University and rounds out the team as CTO. AJ truly believes in the complementary mix of hard and soft skills amongst the co-founders. Michael Coh, MD of Techstarts Atlanta agrees, “We believe AJ, Eric & Michael have the grit and tenacity to take full advantage of this unique opportunity.”

On campus, the PowerSpike team took advantage of the many resources on campus and what AJ described as the “amazing ecosystem” available to them. AJ tell us, “It’s the people we met along the way drove us to success. A lot of mentors were willing to sit down with us and give first in the NYS ecosystem. This was one of the most important pieces in getting the company started.” One mentor, Brian Corrigan, is also an investor in PowerSpike and founder of MadGlory (recently acquired by PUBG). During AJ’s last semester, he describes the atypical experience of working alongside Brian and his team in Saratoga Springs for an informal, in-house accelerator.

UPDATE! Brian Corrigan to present at the 2018 Upstate Unleashed Conference on progress in turning the Capital Region into a national gaming hub: Get tickets! 

The Blackstone LaunchPad at SU Libraries and the Couri Hatchery at the Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship, in particular, seemed to play a vital role in getting PowerSpike up and running. For example, PowerSpike was invited to participate in the Blackstone/TechStars Global Venture Pitch Competition following the 2-Day Training Camp in NYC. As a result, PowerSpike was accepted to the prestigious Techstars Atlanta, where they are currently participating through Oct 15th. Joining the PowerSpike team at the Techstars Atlanta program is James Ransom ’17, who is serving as the head of business development.

PowerSpike has one of the most interesting fund development strategies they used bootstrap their company. For the first two years, PowerSpike survived on the winnings of multiple business plan competitions. At Syracuse University alone they won several competitions including the Panasci Business Plan Competition, the RvD iPrize, and Compete CNY. They also advanced to the nationals of the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA) and won the top prize in the software/information technology division of the 2017 New York State Business Plan Competition. When all is said and done, AJ and the company won $46,000 pitching. They have more recently taken a different approach to fundraising…

Just this week, they announced that they have raised their first series seed round of $500,000 from The Sixers Innovation Lab Crafted by Kimball, Techstars Atlanta in partnership with Cox Enterprises, Dorm Room Fund, and other outside investors. AJ and the PowerSpike team met these additional investors, primarily New York State angels, at business plan competitions, through BlackStone Launchpad, Upstate Venture Connect and the numerous networking events for entrepreneurs across Upstate New York.

Moving forward, the Techstars experience, continued mentorship, and the funds they’ve raised will help them get to market and scale faster. In the shorter term, the PowerSpike team will be pushing to the next level by reworking and rebuilding products to ensure it is something its growing customer base of 8,000 live streaming content creators with a combined audience of 20+ million viewers, and prominent brands such as Soylent, Camp Mobile, and Creative Labs will love.

Finally, PowerSpike is HIRING! Over the next 6 months, they are looking to add another 3-4 people to their team and would love to hire locally. Currently, there is a job posting for a Senior Front End Developer, but keep an eye out for future positions available!

For more information on PowerSpike, you can contact Angelo Damiano at 518-681-6791.

2018 Upstate Unleashed Conference | Upstate Venture Connect

Want a chance to connect with the people and resources needed to help grow your startup?

Join us on October 2 at the 2018 Upstate Unleashed Conference featuring NetFlix Co-founder Marc Randolph and several CEOs at the helm of some of Upstate NY’s fast-growing companies!

Get tickets: 2018Unleashed.eventbrite.com


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