1Q. How did the Blackstone Charitable Foundation choose entrepreneurship for its first major initiative?

1A. We began preparing for our first major initiative in 2008 as the global economic collapse began to take a major toll on American jobs and wages.  At that time we decided to prioritize our work on solutions that would spark job creation and economic activity. 

We chose to work in entrepreneurship in large part because of the research showing that young companies create more jobs than established ones.  We also wanted to tap into the enterprising experience of the firm and its founders.  Through its investments across several asset classes and geographies, Blackstone has a unique perspective on the global economy and a heightened understanding of how entrepreneurial activity is often the crucial catalyst in the growth of successful businesses, industries and communities.  By focusing our Foundation’s resources on entrepreneurship, we hope to meaningfully contribute to the nation’s economic recovery.

 

 

2Q. Why was Blackstone LaunchPad your first investment in the entrepreneurship space?

2A. Too few young people are introduced to entrepreneurship as a viable career path, or have the opportunity to test and receive feedback on their business ideas, at an early stage in their careers.  For example, young people between the ages of 18 to 24, who face the highest unemployment levels, are the least likely to see entrepreneurship as a potential career path.

With Blackstone LaunchPad, we saw a unique opportunity to engage the talent and resources of the campus and business communities to introduce entrepreneurship to a wider audience of young people as they think about their career options. We were impressed by the program created at the University of Miami and saw that Blackstone LaunchPad could become a national model for communities all over the country.

 

 

3Q. What kind of results are you getting from Blackstone LaunchPad in your existing regions?

3A. Blackstone LaunchPad opened for business in the Detroit, Michigan region in the fall of 2010 at Walsh College and in the spring of 2011 at Wayne State University.  Since then, 505 ventures have been advised by Blackstone LaunchPad coaches and consultants.  In total, 173 businesses and 278 jobs have been created or supported through the program.  This success tracks similar results from the University of Miami, where undergraduate and graduate students have drawn over 2,938 participants and generated 1,633 business proposals and 324 jobs, since the program’s inception in 2008. Including our additional expansions to Northeast Ohio, the Philadelphia metropolitan area, Central Florida, and now Montana, Blackstone LaunchPad will be available to 220,000 students across eleven campuses. 

 

 

4Q. Why are you expanding your investment in Blackstone LaunchPad?

4A. First, the demand across the country and globally has been overwhelming.  Colleges want to provide their students with a full range of career options, and they know that entrepreneurial students are traditionally underserved. Colleges need help establishing entrepreneurship programs that tap the experience and resources of the business community and are not only classroom based but deliver real-world experience. Second, the program works.  By connecting campus leadership with local serial entrepreneurs we have focused and strengthened the local entrepreneurship ecosystem, expanded the horizons of future entrepreneurial work, and improved the quality of contacts and business opportunities for everyone involved.  Blackstone LaunchPad brings new economic vitality to its partners and participants. 

This success has been recognized by others as well.  In January 2011, the Blackstone Charitable Foundation accepted an invitation to participate in The White House’s ‘Startup America’ initiative.  As part of this initiative, we committed to expand Blackstone LaunchPad to five additional regions. The first of these five regions was an expansion to four schools in Northeast Ohio in November 2011. In conjunction with the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, we brought the program to Baldwin Wallace University, Case Western Reserve University, Lorain County Community College, and Kent State University. In December 2012, the second of these five regions was the expansion to Pennsylvania, where we brought the program to Philadelphia University and Temple University with the help of our regional partner, the University City Science Center. Most recently, in March 2013 we marked a historic partnership between the nation’s second largest public university and Florida’s largest private university via the LaunchPad program at the University of Central Florida.

 

 

5Q. Why has the Foundation chosen to bring Blackstone LaunchPad to Montana?

5A. The Blackstone Charitable Foundation is focused on areas where there is a critical need for coordination of entrepreneurial activity to spur economic recovery and growth, and where our programs would fit in with the existing entrepreneurial ecosystem. Montana has the spirit of entrepreneurship embedded in its communities, where talent is abundant and a strong set of support services are already in place, including at the University of Montana and Montana State University. Montana’s economic ecosystem is characterized by a strong partnership ethos that connects academic, government and business interests. These factors make the area fertile ground for Blackstone LaunchPad.

 

 

6Q. Why did you choose to start Blackstone LaunchPad at the University of Montana and Montana State University?

6A. Campuses around the country offered us a variety of institutions of higher education to choose from. After a great deal of outreach, research, and deliberation, we chose these two universities as centers of rich entrepreneurial cultures that we believed was most prepared to integrate and make best use of a Blackstone LaunchPad. LaunchPad will fill a specific niche at these institutions that will allow them to reach the entire student body and build a more connected entrepreneurial community for Montana.

 

 

7Q. How can Blackstone LaunchPad impact Montana’s economy?

7A. Blackstone LaunchPad can have a long-term impact on the regional economy by successfully training, mobilizing and inspiring a new generation of entrepreneurs. Each year, entrepreneurial resources will be made available to the approximately 30,000 students studying at the University of Montana and Montana State University. The Blackstone LaunchPad program in Montana is expected to generate some 380 ventures over the next five years with the potential to create hundreds of jobs. In addition, it is anticipated that Blackstone LaunchPad will increase the likelihood of students staying in Montana to build their futures in the region.