Blackstone LaunchPad Is Hub for Whitman Students
An innovation hub that connects the University’s thriving ecosystem of innovators, creators and entrepreneurs from every school and college on campus, the Blackstone LaunchPad received seed money from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation and is part of a global network of 46 universities worldwide. Located just steps from the Whitman School in Bird Library, this space offers students the opportunity to participate in ideation workshops, coaching and training sessions, team and mentor meetings, networking events and product launches with the aim of providing eager entrepreneurs the hard and soft skills they need to take an idea from concept to commercialization and put their own stamp on the business world.
Professor of Entrepreneurial Practice and Deputy Department Chair of EEE John Torrens is an entrepreneur in residence at the Blackstone LaunchPad, acting as a valuable resource to those seeking guidance, particularly in the financial aspects of their businesses.
According to Linda Dickerson Hartsock, executive director of the Blackstone LaunchPad and an adjunct instructor teaching entrepreneurship at the Whitman School, the LaunchPad has helped students, alumni, faculty and staff throughout the University achieve great things in the entrepreneurial space. In the past five years, more than 5,000 participants have come through this hub with more than 1,000 venture ideas. In total, investments of more than $54 million have been raised, along with another $3.65 million received through various competitions, including Orange Tank and the Panasci Business Plan Competition sponsored by the Whitman School. Over 140 ventures have been incorporated in more than 128 countries. The demand for these resources has been so great, according to Hartsock, that the LaunchPad has doubled its size since it opened.
Students who go through the Blackstone LaunchPad are the ones who employers like PwC, Deloitte and Techstars are hiring today because they’ve acquired the academic skill set and had the opportunity to build on that through experiential opportunities.” - Linda Dickerson Hartsock, executive director of the Blackstone LaunchPad and an adjunct instructor at the Whitman School
Participation in the LaunchPad is truly embedded in the EEE program at Whitman. In fact, the Whitman School recently began offering The LaunchPad as a regular course for students who already have an operating business. In the past, the course was only offered as a special topics elective. EEE faculty members work collaboratively with the LaunchPad to align resources with other Syracuse University schools and colleges, alumni, and other entities.
“The interdisciplinary nature is what makes us unique and provides a springboard for students to try out their ideas, participate in competitions, earn seed money and more,” says Hartsock. “Students who go through the Blackstone LaunchPad are the ones who employers like PwC, Deloitte and Techstars are hiring today because they’ve acquired the academic skill set and had the opportunity to build on that through experiential opportunities.”
Whitman’s Couri Hatchery Is a Value-Add to LaunchPad Resources
While Whitman students with an idea for a new business venture are first referred to the Blackstone Launchpad, some are getting their best work done inside the Couri Hatchery.
Named for John Couri ’63 (A&S), H’08, co-founder of Duty Free International and president of Couri Foundation, the Couri Hatchery is a center of entrepreneurial activity inside the Whitman School, where students can explore their own ideas while also working off the energy of other like-minded people. Professors of Entrepreneurial Practice Ken Walsleben and Alexandra Kostakis have their offices there as a resource to students, as well.
Bruno Gonzalez Hauger ’21 (WHIT/NEW), ’22 M.S. uses the Couri Hatchery as his go-to place as he works on his master’s degree in entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises. “I’ve spent a lot of hours in there working on my business, Ambassadoor Technologies and making things happen. It’s a great part of the Whitman ecosystem, and it is helpful to have access to the professors of practice in the program,” he says. Gonzalez’s company, which he co-founded with his brother during his sophomore year at Whitman, is a platform connecting local brick and mortar businesses to nano-influencers. “It’s going well,” he says. “And we’re working on some exciting deals.”
The Couri Hatchery adds value to all the resources available at the Blackstone LaunchPad, particularly for those seeking help with the financial side of their businesses, like putting together a business plan, working on a budget or finding investors.
As the need continues to grow, plans are in the early stages to reimage the Couri Hatchery space and make it even more user-friendly for students looking for a place to bring the next great idea to fruition.
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