Former SU students win $200,000 emerging business prize

More than 1,000 business leaders took part in CenterState CEO's annual meeting Tuesday, filling the War Memorial arena in downtown Syracuse.

At the meeting, CenterState CEO named the winner of its annual Creative Core Emerging Business Competition. The $200,000 grand prize went to Brand-Yourself , a company which develops web-based software to help people stand out online.

"We are creating a hub for high growth young start ups in the region, and showing that you don TMt have to move to Silicon Valley to grow a tech start-up," said Pete Kistler, CEO of Brand-Yourself. "With this prize we are ready to invest in customer acquisitions with several distribution partners and drive more traffic to the site to scale up business. "

Brand-Yourself was created by four former Syracuse University students, who say the support from Central New York has been great. The creators are all originally from outside CNY, but say the area has the right pieces to make their business work.

Winning an award like this is a kind of testament to both of us. Central New York being one and Brand-Yourself as another. It shows that a company like us can grow in an area like this, said Patrick Ambron of Brand-Yourself.

Brand-Yourself was a finalist in the 2010 Emerging Business Competition, and a participant in the student competition in 2009. They are the youngest group of entrepreneurs ever to claim the top prize, accoring to CenterState CEO president Robert Simpson. ZetrOZ, LLC of Ithaca, a company which makes portable ultrasound equipment, won the $50,000 runner-up prize.

The theme for this year's event was "Engaging Business for Regional Growth.