LaunchPad Lift “was the most impactful incubator/entrepreneurship program I have participated in. The cohort not only connected me to experts in a wide range of fields (branding, fundraising, HR) but was incredibly personalized and practical. Every single meeting made a difference. The program provided structure for me to see the concrete steps I need to take in order to scale my business from a student venture to a successful startup.” – Hailey Scofield, Combplex, Cornell University
Student entrepreneurship is on the rise, and Techstars, the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed, in partnership with the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, have collaborated to work with universities around the globe to support the best student entrepreneurs through the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars entrepreneurship program. Together, we help students learn about entrepreneurship, find great mentors, and start successful companies.
This spring, Techstars and Blackstone launched a new program, LaunchPad Lift, a 10-week virtual mentoring program designed to increase the probability of success for student entrepreneurs. Ventures were chosen from across the Blackstone Charitable Foundation’s LaunchPad global network, which supports student entrepreneurs on college campuses.
LaunchPad Lift paired these students with mentors for guidance as they approach major company milestones and prepare their startups to go to the next level. Through a combination of virtual 1:1 mentorship and subject-matter expert Q&A sessions, LaunchPad Lift expands each student’s network beyond their college campus and into the Techstars worldwide network.
“LaunchPad Lift is a fantastic opportunity to gain an overview of the topics and themes most relevant to leading a successful startup. Connecting weekly with a mentor who is committed to your growth and who has experience starting and growing a startup is a truly irreplaceable experience. I gained perspective, got regular support and feedback, and broadened my network.” – Alyssa Petersel, My WellBeing, New York University
We learned a lot through this inaugural program. Most importantly, we saw the huge impact a virtual program can have on a growing venture.
The Power of the Network
One of the biggest challenges of being a student founder is finding ways to make useful connections outside of the college campus. Students in LaunchPad Lift told us how helpful the program was at doing just that. During the program, the teams made over 50 new connections to potential investors, partners, vendors, and customers.
“Working with world-class mentors from Techstars and gaining access to their impeccable network of successful entrepreneurs and investors has been a huge boom for us. During the program, we used the enormous amount of resources provided by Blackstone and Techstars to improve our customer value proposition and secure new partnerships that will allow us to expand quickly in the future. – Ian Howard, Shower Stream, University of Texas at Austin
Gaining Entrepreneurial Skills
Entrepreneurship is all about action. But action, and how to act, is hard to teach.
We took a module from the Techstars Entrepreneur’s Toolkit, “How to Make Progress with Goals and KPIs,” and incorporated it into LaunchPad Lift. In the first week of the program, Techstars Managing Director Zach Nies taught students how to track goals and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), and they used these tools during the entire program to assess and direct their progress.
We received overwhelmingly positive feedback from students about how important these tools were in helping them figure out how to move their companies forward, prioritize tasks, and get stuff done.
“Our accomplishments exceeded our expectations, as we managed to enhance even areas of our business that we did not plan for. The bi-weekly sessions were hugely beneficial, especially the talks on founder relations and branding & fundraising. The program focused our attention on achieving relevant and urgent milestones that would benefit our startup. Our mentor was instrumental in helping us refine our pitch deck and project plan.” – Barry McCann, NUA Surgical, National University of Ireland, Galway
Refining Strategies with Mentors
During LaunchPad Lift, teams worked one-on-one with mentors on their personal goals. Whether the goal was to refine a pitch deck, talk to customers, expand their network, or re-work a business model, students saw the use and importance of a fresh and knowledgeable perspective on their companies.
“Our company has come a long way since the start of LaunchPad Lift! When we began the program, we were at a crossroads in our business. We had seen traction and growth and we had acquired customers, but we needed help creating a strategy to move forward. Since the start of the program, we’ve learned how to set goals in a way that has increased our efficiency and productivity. We have a much clearer brand identity now, which has given us a leg up as we speak with various retail buyers. We have better margins, a clearer strategy for how to move forward and an improved business model. I know we wouldn’t be where we’re at without this program, and I’m so thankful for all of the mentorship, help and genuine care we’ve received while in the program.” – Chelsea LaFerla, Petitas, University of Southern California
Path to the Next Big Thing
It’s amazing to see what a group of driven students can accomplish in 10 weeks. We saw one team secure nearly $200k in funding, four new customers and one new key partner. Another team grew their user network by 20% and achieved 75% revenue growth. Others accomplished key milestones, such as pivoting their business model, refining a new brand strategy, and defining a critical path to product launch. The culmination of their hard work and success was celebrated at event at Blackstone in New York where each team received $10,000 and had the opportunity to meet with Blackstone senior leadership.
What’s next for the LaunchPad Lift teams? For starters, all participants plan on applying to Techstars mentorship-driven accelerator programs. Beyond that, all are working on major milestones, such as holding a new customer trial with an improved MVP, preparing for beta testing and a soft launch within the next 12 months, clinical trials, raising seed or Series A rounds, or pivoting their business model and developing a new MVP.
We’re so proud of these amazing student entrepreneurs, the newest members of the Techstars Network!
Read about all the student-led ventures in the first LaunchPad Lift Cohort in our blog series.
Learn more about Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars.
Being a student entrepreneur comes with a unique set of challenges. Student founders need guidance from a community that understands not just what it takes to build a company, but how to balance—and get the most out of—being both a full-time student and a full-time entrepreneur. As part of their mission to help student entrepreneurs succeed, Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars is launching the inaugural 2019 LaunchPad Lift Cohort, a personalized mentorship-driven program for LaunchPad student-led ventures from the United States and Ireland.
“The Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars entrepreneurship program offers students valuable on-campus support through content and mentors. Through this program, Techstars, the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed, is dedicated to supporting those students through the entrepreneurial journey from inspiration to IPO,” said David Cohen, Co-CEO of Techstars.
LaunchPad Lift will help bridge the gap between the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars programming available on each college campus and the next big steps student-led ventures need for their companies. Whether the ventures are planning to apply to an accelerator program, raise capital, or make their first hire, the LaunchPad Lift Cohort takes ventures through a personalized experience with an assigned Techstars mentor to help them succeed. In addition, ventures will be exposed to experts from the Techstars network who will share their best practices on building a business.
We asked some of our LaunchPad student-led venture founders to tell us about the impact of the program. Here’s what one wrote: “Our Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars mentors have been critical to our success. Between mentorship and connections, we have grown and accelerated our progress tenfold by being a part of this community!”
We’re excited to announce that seven student-led ventures, who presented at the 2018 LaunchPad Training Camp, were selected to join the inaugural LaunchPad Lift Cohort. These seven ventures are from the LaunchPad Global Network and the founders represent seven schools in four states and two countries, with ventures in seven distinct industries. Additionally, over 50% of the startups in the 2019 LaunchPad Lift Cohort have diverse founding teams that include women and people of color.
Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars selected these ventures based on several factors: live pitches and peer voting at the LaunchPad Training Camp, mentor feedback, and a review process conducted by the Blackstone and Techstars team to assess the strength of each team’s business model and concept, coach-ability, and venture stage, as well as the team’s passion and their ability to fully utilize a mentor to grow.
“Over the course of the 2018 LaunchPad Training Camp, I had the opportunity to meet with ventures from over twenty universities, hear their pitches, and get to know the entrepreneurs. I was incredibly impressed by these student ventures—the diversity of ideas, the commitment to entrepreneurship, and the potential for scalable impact were all exceptional,” said Amy Stursberg, Executive Director of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation.
LaunchPad Lift will run for 10 weeks, from January 28 through April 1, 2019. Each participating student-led venture will receive a $10,000 grant upon program completion, and join the Blackstone Charitable Foundation and Techstars team at a closing event in New York City.
Meet the Seven Ventures:
CALM (Temple): CALM is a small device that uses pulses of vibrations to influence the brain and de-escalate rising stress and anxiety attacks.
Combplex (Cornell): Combplex is an innovative solution to beekeepers’ number one problem, eliminating the parasites killing their bees.
Lazarus (Texas A&M): Lazarus provides a unique degree of lethality by designing projectiles that penetrate a threat, then minimize blood loss post-penetration in order to preserve life.
My Wellbeing (NYU): My Wellbeing connects therapy-seekers to compatible therapist and coach matches in NYC.
Petitas (USC): Petitas LA is a clothing brand by and for petite, professional women.
Shower Stream (UT Austin): The Shower Stream is a smart shower head adapter that installs as easily as a light bulb, saves water waste, proves the savings via the web, and is completely unobtrusive to the user.
NUA Surgical (NUI Galway): NUA Surgical is developing a novel medical device to make caesarean delivery a safer and more superior surgery.
The Blackstone Charitable Foundation and Techstars partnership increases the chances for collegiate ventures to succeed by ensuring they have the resources they need to thrive. The Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars entrepreneurship program is accessible by over 500,000 college students globally and designed to support and mentor students, staff, and alumni entrepreneurs regardless of major, experience, or discipline.
The Blackstone Charitable Foundation invites you to join us for a reception celebrating student entrepreneurship in Texas. Event will include a pitch competition featuring student entrepreneurs from Texas A&M, UT Austin, and UT Dallas.
To learn more about our program supporting student entrepreneurs, please visit www.blackstonelaunchpad.org
Today’s students are more entrepreneurial than their parents. Generation Z’s teens are less likely to get jobs in restaurants or retail stores; they’re creating their own sites and using digital media to build small businesses from babysitting and tutoring services to food and beverage and fashion businesses. As students look to university and beyond university, they are not aspiring to traditional corporate jobs.
As David Cohen often says, “Entrepreneurship is not just a life choice, but it’s also a career choice.”
– David Cohen Co-Founder and Co-CEO Techstars
Being an entrepreneur is hard: it gets easier if you have a strong network, work with mentors and learn best practices. That’s exactly how Techstars helps entrepreneurs succeed — at every stage of their journey.
Techstars and Blackstone Charitable Foundation Partnership
With a shared purpose in being catalysts in innovation and sparking entrepreneurship in students, Techstars and Blackstone Charitable Foundation are partnering to expand the capabilities of Blackstone LaunchPad programs to accelerate the chances of success for these collegiate entrepreneurs.
This innovative partnership will enable Blackstone LaunchPad to scale beyond the existing current campus network of 20 universities to reach more than one million new students during the next three years.
Accelerating Collegiate Entrepreneurs
Beginning in 2018, Techstars, the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed, will provide Blackstone LaunchPad participants:
- Access to the Techstars network of more than 10,000 mentors
- Invitations to signature events
- Education through Techstars’ world-renowned content and startup services
In addition, the Techstars network will help student entrepreneurs with:
- Investment fundraising
- Job placement
All of these opportunities and resources are seldom available to campus-based entrepreneurship programs, yet are crucial to the long term success of ventures
“Over the past 10 years, the collegiate entrepreneurship landscape has changed dramatically. I am proud of the robust network we have built across the Blackstone LaunchPad global network. As we look to the future, Techstars is a perfect partner for Blackstone. Their expertise in supporting entrepreneurs and their robust network will meaningfully expand our support for student entrepreneurs on a global scale. I am thrilled that we have found a like-minded organization to work with us in support of a shared goal of increasing global economic impact through entrepreneurship.”
– Amy Stursberg, Executive Director, Blackstone Charitable Foundation
What is Blackstone LaunchPad?
Blackstone LaunchPad is a campus-based experiential entrepreneurship program open to students, alumni, staff and faculty offering coaching, ideation and venture creation support. It is modeled on a successful program originated at the University of Miami and was further developed and expanded by the Blackstone Charitable Foundation. For more information, see www.blackstonelaunchpad.org
UP Global is fortunate once again to have received the backing of The Blackstone Charitable Trust. This year’s Annual Innovation Grant Program awards $3M to support entrepreneurship and innovation.
It’s an honor to be recognized as one of 20 “game changing” organizations. In addition to vital partner support, our organization could not accomplish any magnitude of change without the passion and energy of our communities, their leaders, and the entrepreneurs we serve.
This 200K grant from The Blackstone Charitable Foundation will allow UP Global to continue to provide access to entrepreneurship for people through ecosystems that bridge geographies, ethnicities, and socio-economic backgrounds.
More about the grants: http://goo.gl/lbFpxN