Montana State University

Blackstone LaunchPad scheduled for 2013 opening in MSU's SUB

August 20, 2013 -- MSU News Service

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Blackstone LaunchPad, a campus entrepreneurship program made possible by a generous gift from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, is tentatively scheduled for a late-semester 2013 opening at Montana State University in the campus’ Strand Union Building.

Last month, the Blackstone Charitable Foundation announced a three-year, $2 million grant to MSU and the University of Montana to establish its entrepreneurship programs – Blackstone LaunchPad – on both campuses. MSU will be renovating a room off of the Union Market in the SUB for the LaunchPad.

“It will be as centrally located in a campus hub as it can be,” said Carina Beck, director of Career, Internship & Student Employment Services. “The Blackstone LaunchPad is available to all students regardless of major, and the Union Market is an excellent place for all students to be exposed to the opportunities it offers.”

In the coming months, MSU will be using the Blackstone grant to hire a program director, manager and coordinator to run Blackstone LaunchPad and provide students access to a national network of consultants, venture coaches and issue experts, all focused on inspiring students to launch entrepreneurial ventures and keep their innovations, and eventually companies, in Montana.

“We can’t emphasize enough that this is a program for all students, regardless of major or interest,” said Beck, who will be overseeing the implementation of the Blackstone LaunchPad. “This program is aimed at students with entrepreneurial aspirations and those who may have never thought of themselves as entrepreneurs. It will be an incredible opportunity for our students to develop another viable career option – working for themselves.”

Blackstone LaunchPad is modeled after a successful program developed at the University of Miami in 2008, which has generated 1,413 business proposals, 210 new jobs and drawn nearly 2,600 participants. Montana is the fifth regional Blackstone LaunchPad and will provide students access to other entrepreneurs and students at nine other campuses across the United States that house the program.

“We anticipate the Blackstone LaunchPad will be a great complement and collaborator with other entrepreneurial programs we have on campus, in the Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship, with our Technology Transfer Office and its work to create companies in Montana, on the MSU Innovation Campus, and in the local community, such as StartupBozeman,” Beck said. “We also look forward to working with the regional partner, Headwaters RC&D, who will coordinate activities between MSU and the University of Montana.”

MSU President Waded Cruzado noted that U.S. Senator Jon Tester worked diligently over the past year to bring the LaunchPad opportunity to Montana. 

“Without him, this would not have happened,” Cruzado said. “He was committed to involving both universities, thus touching all corners of the state, and bringing in the Butte RC&D to manage the grant.”

Cruzado added the program also benefitted from the continuing support of U.S. Senator Max Baucus, U.S. Representative Steve Daines and Gov. Steve Bullock.

“Through their ongoing economic development and jobs creation efforts, Senator Baucus, Representative Daines and Governor Bullock helped make this possible by setting the stage for an ambitious and significant effort,” Cruzado said.

Funding for the program is made possible through The Blackstone Charitable Foundation’s $50 million, five-year Entrepreneurship Initiative, which seeks to target support services regionally for aspiring entrepreneurs, and in turn, the high-growth businesses and industries that are most known to spark economic growth. Due to the early success of the program, The Blackstone Charitable Foundation was recognized by President Obama’s “Startup America Initiative” in Jan. 2011 and pledged to expand LaunchPad to five regions over five years.

The Blackstone Charitable Foundation was founded at the time of Blackstone’s initial public offering in 2007 with substantial commitments from the firm’s employees. Influenced by the enterprising heritage of the firm and its founders, The Blackstone Charitable Foundation is directing its resources and applying the intellectual capital of the firm to foster entrepreneurship in areas hardest hit by the global economic crisis. Through its investment expertise 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. For more information, go to http://www.blackstone.com/citizenship/the-blackstone-charitable-foundation.

Contact: Carina Beck, (406) 994-4353 or cbeck@montana.edu