Montana State University

Irizarry named director of Blackstone LaunchPad at MSU

November 21, 2013 -- MSU News Service

Rob Irizarry, an entrepreneur and founder of, has been selected to be the director of the Blackstone LaunchPad at Montana State University. Photo courtesy of Rob Irizarry.   High-Res Available

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Rob Irizarry, an entrepreneur and founder of, has been selected to be the director of the Blackstone LaunchPad at Montana State University. He will begin his duties immediately.

As director of MSU’s Blackstone LaunchPad, Irizarry and other staff will interact with MSU students and alumni and help guide them as they develop their ideas into entrepreneurial opportunities. Irizarry will also work closely with Pamela Haxby Cote, regional director of the Blackstone LaunchPad, as well as staff from the University of Miami, where a program developed in 2008 became the model for the Blackstone LaunchPad.

“We are at a unique point in history where entrepreneurship has become a more accessible and viable career path than ever before,” Irizarry said. “I’m thrilled to join the LaunchPad program. By leveraging existing processes and collaborating with the MSU Leadership team to make this program accessible to the entire student population, we have the opportunity to significantly grow the number of students who pursue entrepreneurship. Companies will be built and jobs will be created as a result.”

Irizarry has nearly three decades of experience working with hardware and software technology in the finance, garment and automotive industries. He moved to Montana in 1999 to join RightNow Technologies, where he served for 12 years, first as director of technical support and later as director of product management.

Irizarry has also been involved in a variety of roles in multiple startups, including CodeMontana, a statewide program that teaches computer programming to high school students, and, which works to promote Bozeman as a vibrant startup community. In addition, he has worked in the public and private sector around the world, including in North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Irizarry has also worked at MSU as an adjunct business instructor and has served as Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the MSU Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship. He has a bachelor's degree in electronic engineering technology.

“Rob is an excellent choice to direct the Blackstone LaunchPad at MSU,” said MSU Provost Martha Potvin. “He will bring tremendous energy and creativity to the role, and we’ve already seen through his work as an adjunct professor and Entrepreneur-in-Residence that he has great rapport with students. Under his leadership, we are confident that students and alumni will learn valuable skills and strategies to help them as they consider launching new business ventures.”

The Blackstone LaunchPad is a collaboration of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, MSU, the University of Montana and Headwaters RC&D. The program is made possible by a three-year, $2 million grant from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation.

With a physical presence at MSU and the University of Montana, Blackstone LaunchPad has the potential to generate some 380 new ventures in Montana over the next five years, according to the Blackstone Charitable Foundation. The program is open to all 30,000 students at MSU and the University of Montana, regardless of major.

Blackstone LaunchPad is modeled after a successful program developed at the University of Miami in 2008, which has generated 1,633 business proposals, 324 new jobs and drawn nearly 2,938 participants. Each new regional program is linked together, drawing ideas and best practices from the existing programs, and giving student entrepreneurs access to a national community of more than 200,000 of their peers across nine affiliated campuses and expert advisers for their ventures.

Montana is now the fifth Blackstone LaunchPad region, following Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida.

A grand opening for MSU’s Blackstone LaunchPad is set for noon-2 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22, in its new home next to the Union Market in the SUB. The event is free and open to the public. More information about the grand opening is available at

Contact: Carina Beck, (406) 994-4353 or