Highlights of student-led ventures participating in LaunchPad Lift, a program of the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars entrepreneurship network.
How many 13 and 14 year olds found companies? Not many. But thankfully, that is just what sisters Kate and Annie Madden did in 2015 after winning an award at the largest science fair in Ireland, the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition. The sisters came up with the idea of developing the only totally natural product for stomach problems in horses after noticing the gap in the market. FenuHealth provides a range of products for horses with stomach problems. 50% of foals are born with stomach problems and 90% of racehorses develop stomach problems over their lifespan, so it is a huge problem for the industry.
Betting on the Right Horse
FenuHealth is different from its competitors as all of the products are 100% natural and can be used on the day of the race. There are now nine FenuHealth products on the market that resolve stomach issues like gastric ulcers and encourage horses to eat their feed again. With nine employees on the team, and existing sales in 15 countries, these sibling co-founders are prepared to win.
“Being a student entrepreneur can be really challenging at times,” said Kate. “Trying to balance college life and business life, giving both your best effort, is tough – it can take very different disciplines! Thankfully, the Blackstone LaunchPad on our campus atin University College Cork (UCC) provides a space for quiet calls, teamwork and meetings, and people always willing to lend a helping hand.”
Focus and commitment are key to FenuHealth’s success: even as young, female entrepreneurs in a male-dominated industry, Kate and Annie quickly convey their seriousness and commitment to potential customers, investors, and business partners. (In true #givefirst spirit, Kate recently had the opportunity to share her entrepreneurial experiences and encourage the next generation of teenage girls at the IWish IE STEM Conference.) And determination and resilience are two more values foundational to their company: FenuHealth’s first product took 152 attempts to get the right formula for the results they sought.
According to Annie, she’s learned a lot from fellow student entrepreneurs about time management.
“Unlike most businesspeople, a lot of us have similar problems with trying to balance college work with business work and trying to prioritize one over the other at the right time,” said Annie. “Our mentor has also already taught us some important strategies on how to grow our business online. I think we will really benefit from this experience overall!”
Highlights of student-led ventures participating in LaunchPad Lift, a program of the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars entrepreneurship network.
During the summer of 2017, ElecTrip co-founder and CEO, Mandeep Patel recognized an opportunity to more efficiently and effectively serve the city-to-city travel needs of large corporate employers. Executives at BP, his employer at the time, explained the issue: flights were too expensive and time-consuming, buses and trains were inconsistent and didn’t take people from the point of origin to the final destination, and driving themselves massively cut into potentially billable executive productivity.
He decided that during the upcoming fall school semester, he would start a city-to-city transportation service using the most operationally efficient mode of transportation: electrically-powered Teslas.
Soon after starting the company, Mandeep brought on Eliott Lee (co-founder and current COO) and ElecTrip pivoted the business model from single-seat tickets to a full vehicle trip (more like Uber).
“The primary advantage ElecTrip has can be broken down to cost and service level,” said Mandeep. “Our ticketed price is on par in terms of cost ($250 for a one way from Houston to Austin), but we are the only service that is truly door to door – without loss of time and increased effort from additional modes of transportation.”
A Road Less Traveled
Scheduling flexibility and safety are additional differentiators and benefits of ElecTrip: Flying and bus travel require passengers to adjust their schedules to their rigid departure times and after a long day of work, driving long distances back to an office or home can be dangerous.
New competitive entrants to the market (which include rideshare platforms, autonomous vehicles, auto companies, etc.) lack the operational advantages of ElecTrip – building and maintaining the service level of the company’s risk-averse customers have come to expect is a huge barrier. That work includes making sure vehicles contain all necessary amenities (WiFi, laptop chargers, snacks/drinks, etc), have sufficient charge to reach its destination, and have an experienced driver and ground support team to make repairs. In the past few months, ElecTrip has worked with a number of major corporate clients including oil and gas, law, and consulting firms.
Long term, ElecTrip is developing the technology and infrastructure to support fully self-driving EV fleets in the regional travel space.
“Being a student entrepreneur is the best experience,” said Eliott. “Meeting mentors outside the classroom or student organizations is incredibly exciting and motivating. For the past two years we’ve attended conferences, pitch competitions (won the GSEA U.S. Nationals at Startup Grind), and met all kinds of entrepreneurs and investors.”
According to Mandeep and Eliott, the LaunchPad Lift program has been “incredibly valuable”. Before the cohort even began, the cofounders were introduced to industry leaders and mentors including both Techstars alumni and Techstars accelerator directors.
“We’ve received advice and insight on some of our most pressing needs, including scaling and logistics, negotiating corporate partnerships, and managing the sales cycle,” said Mandeep. “With generous connections to exceptional mentors, I think Lift is helpful to student entrepreneurs, no matter what their industry!”
Highlights of student-led ventures participating in LaunchPad Lift, a program of the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars entrepreneurship network.
When Mike Broughton, a student at USC, was $10,000 short on tuition his freshman year, he learned that getting a loan usually requires a credit score. Unfortunately, getting that first credit card requires the healthy credit history of either the primary or a secondary (guarantor) account holder – something many low-income and nontraditional college students lack. His solution when faced with this hurdle? Start Hatch Credit to help students like him.
“That catch-22 made me realize the difficulty of engaging in personal finance without the traditional pre-existing factors,” said Mike. “And this led to me learning that 71% of college students also have no viable way of building their credit score.”
Getting the Credit He Deserved
After working for the USC Credit Union on a number of initiatives, including student engagement and outreach, and helping the financial institution launch a credit card line for international and low-income students, Mike was asked to join the company’s board.
The rapid success of the new credit line proved a demand for some kind of solution in this space: students needed a financial product that they could access based on typical (if nontraditional) financial data points. Further complicating the situation, current financial regulations prevent banks from even marketing a credit-based product like this that many college students need.
Hatch Credit helps students build a credit history on the kinds of regular and repeatable payments college students often make (rent, utilities, gym memberships, Hulu, Netflix, tuition, etc.) and helps build a pipeline of responsible, credit-worthy student customers for financial institutions.
Opportunities and Challenges of Student Startups
“Being a young entrepreneur provides the opportunity to think differently,” said Mike. “Being a student and bringing a new and fresh perspective to problems can result in outside-the-box thinking and ideas that may go against the status quo. We also have the energy to make the world a better place!”
Mike recognizes, however, that a lack of business knowledge and time spent as a professional can be held against young founders. College students often have the ‘grit and the grind’ to achieve success, but need experienced mentors and advisors – and their connections – to start and build businesses earlier and faster than might be possible on their own.
Additionally, through LaunchPad Lift, Mike has accessed and benefited from several other LaunchPad network opportunities. In 2019 he participated in the first LaunchPad Global Startup Weekend at UCLA and later in the year he won the LaunchPad Propel student pitch competition in New York city. He has also used many of the on-campus resources through the USC LaunchPad to learn and pivot his business – something claims to have done 13 times! Mike’s school has been so impressed with the idea, they’ve even decided to invest in it.
“The most impactful moment for our company so far was during a speed mentorship session at LaunchPad Propel,” said Mike. “I met with a Techstars founder there that discussed business metrics and the impact on our company’s value.”
According to Mike, after understanding the business and model, this mentor responded, “your driver, your metric, is helping change students’ lives. The KPI is how many lives you change!” This inspiring and motivating conversation pushed Mike to believe even more in social entrepreneurship and his ability to change lives with Hatch.
Joshua Pierce knows the impact one opportunity or one mentor can have on a young person’s trajectory. As a Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars alum, he is living the “give first” mantra by building a nonprofit organization to educate underserved students about how to acquire economic success. Learn more about his journey and where he hopes to take the Diversity Org in the future.
A 2018 graduate of the NYU Tisch School of the Arts, and former participant in NYU’s Entrepreneurial Institute (Leslie eLab) LaunchPad program, Joshua is the founder of The Diversity Org. The Diversity Org provides underserved high school students career education, college preparedness training, professional mentoring, and corporate internship opportunities. To achieve this, it partners with Fortune 500 companies, educational institutions, and other national nonprofit organizations.
Early Academic Struggles
“I actually really struggled during most of high school. My GPA was really low – like below 2.0.” said Joshua. “But then I got an opportunity that changed everything: an entry-level position with BET, turned into a job as a production assistant, and ultimately a media manager role. By the time I was 18, I was traveling around the country and making good money with the company.”
Prompted by his mother’s and grandmother’s recognition of the long term impact college-level education can make for African American men in this country, Joshua enrolled in his local community college. Leveraging the professional experience and relationship-building lessons he gained at BET, Joshua committed to his studies, improving his academic performance, ultimately achieving a 3.5 GPA.
Seeds of Future Success Cultivated by the NYU LaunchPad
While at community college, Joshua had the original idea for the Diversity Org. In its earliest iteration, the organization hosted high school student assembly events on race relations. (At this time the Diversity Org operated under a for-profit, LLC business model.) By 2015-2016 when Joshua started at NYU, he had already grown the organization to serving schools in multiple north-east states, including, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
“I met several key mentors at NYU, including John Sexton, the former university president, and professor and film director Spike Lee,” said Joshua. “These and other individuals gave me great insight into how to grow the business – particularly in the areas of performance measurement and impact. John also introduced me to the Leslie eLab and its director Frank Rimalovski, who told me about its 9-week summer LaunchPad program.”
As a result of this experience, Joshua pivoted the Diversity Org’s business model to a more sustainable 501c3 entity, corporate partner and private foundation-driven revenue stream. With this new structure and strategy, Joshua secured partnerships with companies like Blackstone, Colgate, and Warner Media in less than one year.
“I learned so much in the NYU LaunchPad. It really was transformative and helped me both as an entrepreneur and as a professional,” said Joshua. “And because of that incredible experience, now I want to pay back what I got through its insights, and experiences, and values.”
Current Three-Step Strategy
With a refined strategy and track record of success, Joshua keeps the Diversity Org laser-focused on a three-step approach today. First, it serves mainly low-income student populations with the greatest need: only 16% of these students typically graduate college, and of those, the majority choose low income-earning potential majors.
Secondly, recognizing the vast need and his own limited capacity, Joshua has formed a strategic partnership with SEO: Seizing Every Opportunity. SEO has more than 50 years of experience helping underserved students gain admission to competitive colleges and universities. Though organizations like SEO have proven programs, Joshua understands that his young and diverse team at the Diversity Org is relatable and is able to influence more students to join programs like this.
Thirdly, after connecting with and educating students at an assembly and helping them get into a partner organization’s college pipeline program, the Diversity Org connects students to mentors, professional development workshops with employees from Fortune 500 companies and internships in its network of corporate partners.
Goals for 2020
Joshua is excited about the outlook for the Diversity Organization and its participants. He and his executive team – including Maisha Kabir, managing director, and Claire Laugeois, operations officer – have some big goals this next year. First and foremost, he says, is to maintain and improve the organization’s three KPI’s: class college enrollment, class attendance (which is the basis for corporate network workshop opportunities), and demographic diversity in program participation.
Another goal Joshua is focused on is deepening the organization’s impact by running 4-year corporation/school-based cohorts. This program would follow a student from their junior year of high school through their sophomore year of college. At that point, they would be guaranteed an internship opportunity at the sponsoring company. Broadly, Joshua is also (always) looking to grow his network of corporate partners, with a particular geographic focus in 2020 on the west coast.
Joshua’s Advice for Other Student Entrepreneurs
When asked what advice he might share with student entrepreneurs, Joshua offered an insightful response: “There are two types of student entrepreneurial experiences: minority and nonminority. And for each of these, I would offer different pieces of advice…”
- Minority student entrepreneurs have extra pressure on them, often feeling like representatives of their community and have no room for error. Joshua recommends that minority student entrepreneurs embrace their identity – but make a deliberate decision to shed this burden and instead simply focus on the opportunity. “Programs like LaunchPad,” said Joshua, “are too valuable to let pass by.”
- For all student entrepreneurs, Joshua’s advice is straightforward: It can be easy to shortcut and talk your way out of hard work, but don’t do it. If you do, you’re really only hurting yourself. Commit, give 120%, and focus on maximizing every opportunity you’re given to help grow your business.
What elements are necessary for successful college-based entrepreneurship education? The annual ranking by Entrepreneur Magazine and the Princeton Review is based on a survey that includes more than 60 metrics, including the number and reach of mentorship, scholarships and grants for entrepreneurial studies, and the level of support for school-sponsored business plan competitions.
To help universities expand beyond the traditional classroom-based curriculum, the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars network runs LaunchPad Lift, a 10-week, biannual, virtual mentoring program for student entrepreneurs.
Nominated by LaunchPad network campus directors, Lift participants are selected based on the stage of company, funding and revenue generated to date, need and interest for mentoring, and quality of the student teams. In addition to Q&A video calls with Techstars subject matter experts on a variety of topics critical to the success of startups, including key performance indicators and goal setting, fundraising, product development, and sales and marketing, each student team also receives a $10,000 grant from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation.
“After running LaunchPad Lift twice in 2019, we’ve learned important lessons on the value and impact of the program,” said Courtney Gras, LaunchPad Community Director at Techstars. “With these insights and continuous feedback from student entrepreneurs, mentors, and campus directors across the network, we’re confident this will be the best Lift program we’ve ever run in conjunction with the Blackstone Charitable Foundation.”
Once a year, both the spring and summer Lift participants attend a culminating showcase event. At this event these top collegiate entrepreneurs will compete in front of potential investors, Blackstone executives, and Techstars accelerator managing directors and program managers for up to $50,000 provided by the Blackstone Charitable Foundation.
According to Jamika Martin, founder of ROSEN Skincare and LaunchPad Lift Summer 2019 participant, “Learning from experts in the field and growing your network are definitely the best ways I’ve been able to grow my brand, and the LaunchPad Lift program did just that. There is always so much to learn, no matter what stage you are at. Each week in this program helped me move my brand and myself as a leader forward in a meaningful way.”
Meet the Spring 2020 LaunchPad Lift Ventures:
- Credit Starter (University of Southern California) – A fintech startup that helps students build their credit score through their tuition.
- Electrip (University of Texas, Austin) – Door to door transportation company scheduling rides at any time in your own Tesla.
- Fenu Health (University College Cork) – Feed additive manufacturer addressing equine stomach issues.
- Hashing Systems (University of Texas, Dallas) – Management and deployment of decentralized applications on various protocols (ex: currently focusing on Hedera Hashgraph).
- Bounce Insights (Trinity Dublin) – Consumer insights platform and feedback software.
- Craitor (University of California, San Diego) – Portable expeditionary 3D printer developer for manufacturing military-grade parts in the field.
- SkyPaws (Texas A&M) – Manufacturer of a wireless, real-time pet health vitals monitoring device post-surgical procedure.
- CLLCTVE (Syracuse) – Platform providing brands exclusive access to local Gen Z consumers, and Gen Z content creators.
- SuiteSocial (University of California, Berkeley) – SaaS startup empowering Gen Z content creators and influencers in the passion economy.
- Farmented Foods (Montana State University) – CPG company fermenting “ugly vegetables” to create four consumer-friendly condiments and snacks.
Multiple teams in this LaunchPad Lift cohort participated in the fall 2019 LaunchPad Propel event in New York city. In fact, Credit Starter took first place, and $25,000, and CLLCTVE took second place, and $10,000, in the Propel pitch competition. The spring 2020 LaunchPad Lift program will run for ten weeks from February 3rd until April 6th and will culminate with a final event at the Blackstone offices in New York.
Unique Gifts from Across the LaunchPad Network
Looking for a truly special gift this holiday season? We’ve got it. Want to support LaunchPad student entrepreneurs with your holiday spending? You can do that here, too.
Antithesis Foods (Cornell University)
Grabanzos are a crunchy chocolate snack with more protein, more fiber, and fewer calories than anyone else. Think Whoppers, but good for you.
Shop Now: www.grabanzos.com
bumble & butter (Cornell University)
Curiously delicious granolas, baked with grass-fed ghee butter: Vanilla Bean with Sour Cherries, Cheddar with Black Pepper, Rosemary with Currants, Sweet Potato with Cinnamon & Ginger, and Black Truffle.
Shop Now: www.bumbleandbutter.com
Head & Heal (Cornell University)
Full-spectrum hemp extracted CBD oil, organic MCT oil. 100% USDA Organic Certified. Grown and harvested with love and care on our farm in Cortland, NY. 600mg Full Spectrum CBD – 20mg CBD per full dropper.
Shop Now: www.headandheal.com
Kitty Obsession (UCLA)
The only cat carrier that includes everything your cat needs on the go or even at home. The carrier includes a built- litter box compartment, portable litter box, food/water containers, trashbags, and a scooper.
Shop Now: www.kittyobsession.com
ROSEN Skincare (UCLA)
A hydrating cream-based mask inspired by the Earth. The perfect solution for more sensitive or drier, acne-prone skin types.
Shop Now: www.rosenskincare.com
WƆ NƆ Ni Cosmetics (Cornell University)
Body serum containing baobab oil and carrot seed oil. This serum is an anti-aging serum that works wonders for acne, skin discoloration, and stretch marks. The Story Teller contains Vitamin E, Vitamin A, Vitamin K and Vitamin C and promotes rejuvenation of skin cells.
Shea Gold Body Butter is a rich moisturizing butter full of essential oils for the skin. It contains Shea butter, coconut oil, olive oil and almond oil. Shea Gold softens and smoothes the skin and helps to fade scars, dark spots and reduce premature signs of aging.
Shop Now: www.wononi.com
WOAH! Brands (Cornell University)
WOAH! Brands is a flavored, CBD-infused, sparkling water to make people feel calm and balanced. We’re the opposite of an energy drink. Current flavors include Lemonade and Strawberry.
Shop Now: www.normaldrinks.com
Out of nearly 100 student entrepreneurial teams from schools across the U.S. and Ireland, Credit Starter, Cllctve, and Eat Makhana rose above the rest and won in the 2019 Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars Propel pitch competition. Judges from organizations including Blackstone, Techstars, and Shutterstock evaluated ventures on business model/viability, team strength, and presentation quality.
“Of course innovation, resilience, and drive are important characteristics of the student founders we want to support and cultivate,” said Blackstone Charitable Foundation executive director Amy Stursberg, “But what really impressed us this year, was the ingenious solutions these young entrepreneurs are developing to address problems their own fellow students struggle with!”
2019 LaunchPad Propel winning businesses included:
1st Place: Credit Starter, founded by Michael Broughton at USC is working to overcome the obstacle of developing a positive credit history as a young person. While predatory practices of credit card companies can present real risk to students long term, Michael has recognized that safer and commonly repeated payments (including student tuition, gym memberships, and streaming entertainment bills) can be utilized to help students build credit.
2nd Place: Cllctve. After struggling to balance her own successful creative content development work with the demands of school, Cllctve cofounder and Syracuse University student Kelsy Davis is developing an online marketplace to efficiently connect other young creators with companies needing talent. Cllctve re-positions brands for success, while simultaneously nurturing the freelance community on college campuses across the country.
3rd Place: Eat Makhana. Mallika Chawla, Amruta Gadgil, and Vineet Sinha, alumni of the University of California, Berkeley are on their own mission to help fellow students stay healthy by offering delicious, nutritious, allergy-friendly foods from popped water lily seeds. Based on a snack common in her childhood home in India, these young entrepreneurs have also taken an innovative approach to the widely recognized challenge of breaking into the grocery store aisle – successfully targeting corporate cafeteria and snack rooms.
“The GiveFirst philosophy is ingrained in everything we do at Techstars – from our mentorship driven Accelerators to our university-focused LaunchPad partnership with Blackstone,” said Techstars founder David Cohen. “It is incredibly exciting to see the college students involved in this network so naturally developing businesses that help their fellow students out.”
In addition to the annual Propel event in New York each fall, LaunchPad also offers Lift and Startup Weekend. Lift, offered in the spring and summer, is a 10-week, virtual, mentorship-driven cohort program that take student teams from any of the 20+ LaunchPad campuses to the next level. LaunchPad Startup Weekends are where ideas are sparked and new companies are formed and take place at many of the LaunchPad college campuses throughout the year.
For more information about the LaunchPad network and to get your campus involved, please visit www.blackstonelaunchpad.org.
In 2014 AJ Damiano was a freshman at Syracuse University and an avid gamer. He started PowerSpike with cofounder and fellow students Michael Paris and Eric Rice based on an opportunity he’d observed working for another startup focused on Twitch-hosted, esports competitions. The issue he identified was fluctuating (and insufficient) revenue generation for gaming users and content creators based on inconsistent donations, advertising, and sponsorships. Looking at more traditional brands and advertising models, AJ believed he could develop a technology solution to this problem.
Early Competition Winnings
With a team of developers experienced in gaming and esports, AJ and his team created PowerSpike, a media buying and analytics solution for esports communities and gaming influencers. While making some early progress, the business was initially totally funded off of winnings from business plan competitions. (Over four years, PowerSpike won nearly $50,000 in these competitions!)
“I couldn’t speak more highly of the LaunchPad network,” said AJ. “For us, it played a pivotal role in the early stages of PowerSpike, giving us mentorship and coaching advice, business plan competition funding – but also validation, which was desperately needed to motivate us when there were lots of reasons to give up.”
While many students come to their campus LaunchPad independently, the early successes in school and local competitions, and obvious extraordinary potential of AJ and his team meant Syracuse LaunchPad Director, Linda Harstock proactively sought them out. Her approach from the beginning was to identify ways to help the students and add value. At different times that meant making introductions to advisors on and off campus, connecting the team to potential clients and customers, and mentoring them around specific obstacles and opportunities.
According to AJ, “The great thing about the Syracuse LaunchPad being based in Bird Library, which is in the heart of the university, is that you can access resources across campus – so with Linda’s help, we met critically important people from the business school, media school, I-school, and more all of whom have helped us succeed in one way or other.”
Techstars Atlanta Accelerator
By his graduation in May of 2019, AJ and his cofounders had closed his initial round of funding, raising around $500,000 from the Dorm Room Fund, The Sixers Innovation Lab Crafted by Kimball, and Techstars Atlanta in partnership with Cox Enterprises. AJ’s team completed the Atlanta Techstars Accelerator program in the summer of 2019.
“The funny thing is that I initially met Michael Cohn, the Managing Director of Techstars Atlanta, at a Blackstone-organized event in 2018!” AJ continued, “We kept in touch and built a relationship with each other over the next eight months, so when it came time to apply for that Accelerator, it was a very easy application process.”
Some of the most important elements of that Accelerator experience, according to AJ, were the sense of community that developed with other founders (who become lifelong friends), the network of mentors he gained, and the clearer understanding of the core problem PowerSpike was solving. Initially the team thought brands wanted tools to manage influencer marketing internally. What they realized, however, was that actually brands don’t want a tool! Instead they want to simply outsource that process and get the results, just like any other media channel.
Future for PowerSpike
With a team of eight full time employees today, and a pending injection of significant capital, PowerSpike is preparing for a major hiring push during the remainder of 2019 through 2020. AJ expects by the end of next year to have a team of 30 with key hires in product development, design, talent, and even operations. Together, their goal for the next 12-18 months will be to bring more sponsorship opportunities to more creators across different platforms, ultimately helping streamers make content creation their full time career. To stay up to date on the latest PowerSpike developments, AJ recommends people follow the company on Twitter and LinkedIn and watch for exciting job opportunities on their careers page.
AJ’s Advice for Student Entrepreneurs:
- Take care of yourself. Founder moods and outlook is often tied to the highs and lows of entrepreneurship. Find time to do whatever keeps you well – exercise, meditation, therapy, personal coaching, etc.
- Keeping pushing. When things aren’t going well, it is easy to give up, and that’s what most people do. But eventually, if you push hard enough, something is going to give and that is where you’ll get an opportunity most people will have missed out on.
- If your back is against the wall, play offense. (Based on AJ’s experience playing World of Warcraft, he’s found this lesson extends to business!) Making overly cautious decisions in the game’s “arena matches” when his team was in hard-pressed situations, extended the competition, but nearly always still ultimately led to a loss. Alternatively, when the team went unexpectedly offensive in these situations instead of just trying to draw out the match, he’d win about 40% of the time, “and that’s a hell of a lot better than 0 percent!”
On the heels of announcing headline speakers from Plated, The Muse, and Warby Parker, industry leading entrepreneurs from Shutterstock, Upsie, M.M.LaFleur and more have also committed to participating as mentors, presenters, and judges at the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars Propel this November.
In addition to a keynote session co-hosted by Blackstone President and COO Jon Gray and Techstars co-founder and Managing Partner David Cohen, students entrepreneurs will also participate in an accelerator-style ‘mentor madness’ session. Propel attendees will learn from enlightening breakout presentations and participate in a business plan pitch competition in which the winners will receive more than $20,000 in cash and prizes.
Student business competition winners will also receive an invitation to join LaunchPad Lift. Running its third cohort in the spring of 2019, Lift is a virtual, mentorship-driven program aimed at taking student-led ventures to the next level and preparing them for their next major milestone—be that launching products or services, landing sales contracts, or raising funding.
Newly announced LaunchPad Propel mentors, presenters, and judges include:
- Clarence Bethea, Founder and CEO of Upsie and Techstars Accelerator Alum (Presenter and Pitch Competition Judge)
- Narie Foster, Co-Founder of M.M.LaFleur, and Entrepreneur in Residence at the MIT NYC Startup Studio (Presenter)
- Dan Fradin, Founder of Impact Wrap and Operating Partner of Whitecap Enterprises (Presenter)
- Kelly Fryer, Program Director of the Barclays Accelerator, powered by Techstars in New York (Pitch Competition Judge)
- Ali Goldstein Norup, Founder and CEO at kpiReady, Co-Founder of GDPRsimple, and Techstars Accelerator Alum (Presenter)
- Jon Oringer, Founder and CEO, Shutterstock (Pitch Competition Judge)
- Laura Weidman Powers, Head of Impact, Echoing Green (Pitch Competition Judge)
In addition to entrepreneurs and executives, a number of Techstars Accelerator managing directors and program managers—the people who give intensive support to dozens of startups in accelerator programs each year—will be leading breakouts and mentoring students. These individuals include:
- Jenny Fielding, Managing Director of Techstars NYC
- Amos Schwartzfarb, Managing Director of Techstars Austin
Propel will take place November 7th and 8th in New York city. Students and schools interested in bringing the LaunchPad network to their campus can visit www.blackstonelaunchpad.org.
Leading Student Entrepreneurs to Pitch and Meet Founder Mentors at 3rd Annual Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars Convening
The Blackstone Charitable Foundation and Techstars have announced headline speakers for its annual convening called Propel, an innovative program that brings together more than 200 exceptional student entrepreneurs from across the LaunchPad network. Student participants at the event will hear from world-class speakers including Jon Gray, Blackstone president and chief operating officer, Josh Hix, Plated co-founder, Kathryn Minshew, co-founder of The Muse, and Neil Blumenthal, who co-founded Warby Parker while in school.
During the two-day event, student teams will have a chance to pitch their business before a panel of judges in order to win $20,000 in cash and prizes to accelerate their ventures’ growth. Attendees will also learn critical lessons, build technical skills and grow their networks as they hear from notable speakers, including a live Give First podcast recording with Techstars co-founder and Managing Partner David Cohen.
“Universities provide students with the foundational knowledge and skills necessary to start a business,” said Amy Stursberg, executive director of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation. “LaunchPad accelerates student entrepreneurs’ growth by expanding their networks and providing access to founders and other business leaders to help students think more creatively, take more calculated risks, and thrive.”
“These speakers were hand selected for their experience, insight, and expertise in early-stage startup strategy, as well as their commitment to helping the next generation of young entrepreneurs,” said David Cohen, founder and managing partner of Techstars. “We couldn’t be more proud of the determination and creativity of the students in our LaunchPad network, and we are deeply committed to providing them the resources and relationships necessary for them to succeed.”
Neil Blumenthal is a co-founder and co-CEO of Warby Parker, a lifestyle brand that offers designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially conscious businesses. Since day one, over five million pairs of glasses have been distributed through its Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program. Warby Parker was previously named the most innovative company in the world by Fast Company. Neil was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum and one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company.
Josh Hix co-founded meal delivery service Plated in 2012 at the age of 30. He and Nick Taranto took their company through the Techstars NYC Accelerator, appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank, and eventually became the hit show’s largest exit following a sale to Albertson’s in 2017.
Kathryn Minshew co-founded The Muse, an online career platform that matches people with jobs/companies based on the strength of their company culture and employee experience, in 2011. Today the Muse is used by 75 million people per year, it has been named to Fast Company’s “World’s Most Innovative Companies” list, and Kathryn has been included in Inc magazine’s “Female Founder 100”.
Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars is an entrepreneurial network that helps students succeed in entrepreneurship and in their careers. Available to more than 700,000 students at over 20 campuses globally, LaunchPad is open to all students and recent alumni, regardless of major or discipline. Since the program’s inception, the companies founded at LaunchPad schools have collectively raised $193 million in capital and generated more than $90 million in revenue.
Propel will take place November 7–8, 2019 in NYC. Students and schools interested in bringing the LaunchPad network to their campus can visit www.blackstonelaunchpad.org.