Montana State University

MSU’s Blackstone LaunchPad wins $50,000 from U.S. Small Business Administration

August 4, 2015 -- Anne Cantrell, MSU News Service

The Blackstone LaunchPad at Montana State University has won a $50,000 grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration to help launch a new business accelerator program, 406 Labs. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham.

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Tel: (406) 994-4571

The Blackstone LaunchPad at Montana State University has won a $50,000 grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration to help launch a new business accelerator program, 406 Labs.

The Growth Accelerator Fund Competition grant is one of 80 that the SBA announced this afternoon at the White House Demo Day. The Blackstone LaunchPad at MSU is the only organization in Montana to win the grant.

406 Labs is a program that is designed to help launch new companies into the marketplace. According to Les Craig, director of the Blackstone LaunchPad at MSU, the program will assist companies with various items related to launching a business, including prototype creation, go-to-market strategy, business development pipeline creation, sales training, fundraising strategy and hiring. Each company will also be paired with a mentor.

“This is going to be a very concentrated, resource-intensive program,” Craig said. “The whole intent is to offer a custom, tailored program to help ventures get to market and become real companies.”

406 Labs will work with six companies during each 90-day session, with the first session set to begin in late spring of 2016. Any venture that is working with the Blackstone LaunchPad is eligible to participate. Companies that are interested in participating must submit an application and will be selected through a competitive application process. There will be no cost to the companies to participate in the program during its first two pilot sessions, Craig said. Craig anticipates that there will be a cost to participate in subsequent sessions.

Craig said there is a great need for such a program in Montana.

“Montana is the most entrepreneurial state per capita in the U.S., but the region has no infrastructure in place to incubate or accelerate startups,” he said.

“We’ve seen tremendous interest,” Craig added. “Last semester alone, we had 89 students or alumni come to the LaunchPad who wanted to start companies. They’re not all going to turn into real companies, but with that many at the top of the funnel, we know we have serious, high-potential, scalable companies coming out of this LaunchPad.”

An accelerator program will help support companies so that they may stay in the state, Craig said.

“If we don’t support these companies, they could decide to go elsewhere (to receive that support),” Craig said. “We already have the demand here, so we want to keep these companies here and support the ones that are here.”

The U.S. Small Business Administration selected the 80 grant winners from more than 400 applicants. A panel of experts with entrepreneurial investment, startup, economic development, capital formation and academic backgrounds from both the public and private sector judged the applications.

Recipients of the grants represent 39 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

The purpose of the Growth Accelerator Fund Competition is to draw attention and funding to parts of the country where there are gaps in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, according to Javier Saade, associate administrator for the SBA Office of Investment and Innovation.

"The entrepreneurial ecosystem in America is incredibly exciting and very powerful,” Saade said. “Administrator Contreras-Sweet and I welcome this year's Growth Accelerator Fund Competition winners and the important and inclusive work they do in support of innovative and high-growth small businesses."

The Blackstone LaunchPad is actively seeking partners who are interested in contributing matching funds for 406 Labs, Craig said. Interested partners are invited to contact Craig at (406) 994-4383 or

To learn more about the Growth Accelerator Fund Competition, visit More information about the Blackstone LaunchPad at MSU is available at To view the Blackstone LaunchPad at MSU’s video application for the grant, go to

Contact: Les Craig, (406) 994-4383 or