The Blackstone Charitable Foundation and The Burton D. Morgan Foundation formed a three-year partnership in 2011 to support the next generation of entrepreneurs in Northeast Ohio by awarding $3.2 million in funding to area colleges and universities. The grants – to Baldwin Wallace University, Case Western Reserve University, Kent State University, and Lorain County Community College – helped to expand Blackstone LaunchPad (“BLP”), a program that provides aspiring entrepreneurs with the tools and supportive mentors they need to transform untested ideas into vital companies.
Founded by the University of Miami, BLP initially pairs students and alumni with venture coaches who help them develop their business ideas. As their ideas mature, students are then connected with entrepreneurs, lawyers, venture capitalists, and others with professional expertise to help them bring their ideas to market. Through Blackstone LaunchPad, Baldwin Wallace University, Case Western Reserve University, Kent State University, and Lorain County Community College have significantly expanded their entrepreneurship and support programming while also serving as a gateway to an extensive network of mentors, experts, and services. The Foundation continues to monitor and support the Blackstone LaunchPad programs on these campuses.
Read the Press Release
Training Ohio's Next Generation of Entrepreneurs: A Blackstone LaunchPad Fact Sheet
"Blackstone LaunchPad Opens Fourth Location on Case Western Campus", Karin Connelly, Hi Velocity, May 9, 2013
VIDEO - Kent State University
"Kent State's Blackstone LaunchPad Celebrates GEW in Ohio", Chelsea Grieco, The Kauffman Foundation, January 4, 2013
"BW's Blackstone LaunchPad is Firing Up Future Entrepreneurs", Baldwin Wallace University
"Grand Opening of Kent State's Blackstone LaunchPad Program", Kent State University, September 28, 2012
"Lorain County Community College Opens "Blackstone LaunchPad" for Student Entrepreneurs", Lorain County Community College
"Student Entrepreneurs Find Support at Blackstone LaunchPad", Karen Farkas, The Plain Dealer, August 31, 2012
"Major Decisions," Inside Business, January/February 2012
""Finding Our Future," by Rebecca O. Bagley, Forbes.com, December 1, 2011
Blackstone CEO Stephen A. Schwarzman on Nightly Business Report, November 18, 2011 (interview begins at 18:28)
"LCCC getting portion of $3.2M grant," The Chronicle-Telegram, November 19, 2011
"Two foundations to provide $3.2 million to support emerging entrepreneurs," Crain's Cleveland Business, November 18, 2011
"Four Northeast Ohio colleges to encourage entrepreneurs under new program," The Plain Dealer, November 18, 2011
"Blackstone Charitable Foundation and Burton D. Morgan Foundation Commit $3.2 Million to Train Ohio's Next Generation of Entrepreneurs," MarketWatch, November 18, 2011
"Northeast Ohio partnership to encourage startups," Columbus Morning Call, November 18, 2011
"Lessons in job creation," WTAM-1100, Cleveland, November 18, 2011
"Blackstone Charitable Foundation and Burton D. Morgan Foundation Commit $3.2 Million to Train Ohio's Next Generation of Entrepreneurs," CNBC, November 18, 2011
Blackstone LaunchPad History
The Blackstone Charitable Foundation, created in 2007, has committed $50 million to fostering entrepreneurship. The Blackstone Entrepreneurship Initiative develops and supports innovative projects with high potential to start high-growth businesses and industries that can spark economic growth. The Foundation is particularly interested in working in those communities hit hardest by the global economic crisis.
In 2010, the Blackstone Charitable Foundation committed $2 million to create Blackstone LaunchPad (“BLP”) on the campuses of Wayne State University and Walsh College in Detroit, Michigan. Founded by the University of Miami, BLP pairs students and alumni with venture coaches who help them develop their business ideas. As their ideas mature, Blackstone LaunchPad connects students with entrepreneurs, lawyers, accountants, venture capitalists, and others with professional expertise to help them bring their ideas to market.
Blackstone LaunchPad aims to create a national model for fostering entrepreneurship through higher education. It encourages entrepreneurial thinking and activity among undergraduate, graduate students, and alumni for the purpose of incubating a new generation of entrepreneurs who will contribute to the economic revitalization of a distressed regional economy. Northeast Ohio, having been deeply impacted by the economic crisis, losing jobs and population, and experiencing a high unemployment rate, is an ideal laboratory for Blackstone LaunchPad. The Burton D. Morgan Foundation – as Northeast Ohio’s primary funder of entrepreneurship programming – is partnering with the Blackstone Charitable Foundation to bring the program to the area.
Program and Process
Blackstone LaunchPad colleges sponsor regular programming – including workshops, seminars, and networking events – in addition to supporting students with their start-ups and maintaining a Web site that is a clearinghouse of events, resources, and a searchable database for finding team members, strategic partners, and service providers. The program is co-curricular and offers guidance, encouragement, and immediate access to a dedicated local commercial network. It brings entrepreneurs into the local business community as early as possible and demystifies entrepreneurship. It also fulfills a key educational obligation: to teach learners not just how to find a job, but also how to make a job.
The process starts with the student/entrepreneur filling out a profile accessible only to other members of the Blackstone LaunchPad community. After membership approval, the entrepreneur submits a Venture Assessment Form, detailing the new business concept and expected needs. The BLP staff reviews the form and the individualized consultation process begins. The Blackstone LaunchPad staff identifies and engages additional expertise as needed. After consultation, the most promising concepts are invited into the Venture Coaching Program, a volunteer network of local business leaders from diverse fields, who divide into teams to mentor new ventures.
Blackstone LaunchPad FAQs
What is Blackstone LaunchPad (BLP)?
Blackstone LaunchPad is a campus-based entrepreneurship program connected with career services that offers students, faculty, and alumni opportunities outside of the classroom to develop business ideas with the help of counseling and coaching. Students from all disciplines are able to gain experience with start-ups without academic consequences and do this in an environment offering learn-as-you-go information. BLP was developed at the University of Miami (UM) and later adapted to campuses in Detroit, Michigan. The program is now in Northeast Ohio – at Baldwin Wallace University, Case Western Reserve University, Kent State University, and Lorain County Community College – and will soon be launched in the Leigh Valley, Pennsylvania, with support from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation.
What is the role of The Burton D. Morgan Foundation?
The Burton D. Morgan Foundation is supplying half the funding for the initiative in Northeast Ohio...$1.6 million over three years. The Foundation will also be the on-the-ground partner for BLP in Northeast Ohio providing oversight, trouble shooting, coordination, and connectivity. We will help recruit venture coaches and host meetings for coaches and program leadership. We will work closely with the University of Miami to ensure the schools are receiving the technical and logistical consulting advice and support they need to develop effective programs. The Burton D. Morgan Foundation has significant experience in collaborative foundation relationships as a result of our partnership with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation for our Northeast Ohio Collegiate Entrepreneurship Program (NEOCEP).
What is unique about the program?
BLP is unique because of the web-based process that UM has developed to capture student profiles, ideas, and coaching progress. UM will be sharing this system with the Northeast Ohio schools and, in turn, this system will generate detailed data on start-ups and their employees. The program is also different because, through career services, it promotes entrepreneurship as a career choice. The venture coaches – mentors who work with the students to guide the ideation process – are carefully selected and trained to ensure that students are receiving the advice they need at the proper time. Another critical piece is the BLP location on campus. The program is often located in an area of heavy traffic – such as the student center – giving the program high visibility on campus and facilitating easy access.
Why did Blackstone Charitable Foundation choose Northeast Ohio as a BLP site?
The Blackstone Charitable Foundation sought to bring BLP to Northeast Ohio partially because of the experience The Burton D. Morgan Foundation brings to the table on project oversight, but also because of the robust entrepreneurial ecosystem we have developed in Northeast Ohio. The collegiate entrepreneurship ecosystem is a critical part of this picture and offers fertile ground to develop thriving BLP programs. The selected schools all have strong entrepreneurship programs in place and BLP will add another dimension offering a process that will increase the chances for entrepreneurial successes.
What are your goals and what do you hope to accomplish for Northeast Ohio through BLP?
The Burton D. Morgan Foundation hopes to assist students as they capture their ideas and help them translate those ideas into viable businesses, giving them every chance for success through readily accessible information. BLP is a student laboratory offering an experiential education component. The ultimate goal is to create jobs and contribute to economic vitality in the region.
Why is BLP the right project for The Burton D. Morgan Foundation?
The Foundation supports entrepreneurship education programs for youth, college students, and adults. We have gained in-depth knowledge working with NEOCEP liberal arts colleges spreading entrepreneurship across their campuses over the last four years. BLP builds on that experience by developing the experiential components of entrepreneurship education. At the same time, we are leveraging dollars and expertise from outside the region. We also believe that BLP will contribute to start-up and job creation. BLP is the right program for Northeast Ohio at the exact right time. We as a region will capitalize on this opportunity. The Foundation also believes in the importance of creating entrepreneurship pathways for students – we see BLP as a perfect way to help students transition from college to their careers.
How did you choose these particular schools?
We considered each school for potential fit of BLP into its existing entrepreneurship programs and adding the experiential component to achieve meaningful start-up results. Each of the four schools already has a number of entrepreneurship offerings, but BLP connects the dots and adds another dimension. There were many good candidates in the region, but these four rose to the top.
What happens at the end of three years?
We expect that the schools will have integrated their BLP programs into their overall entrepreneurship programs and have developed other sources of support they need to sustain the programs beyond the grant term.
How will venture coaches be recruited?
Each school will recruit from their alumni base and other supporters to assemble a team. The Foundation will also help to recruit coaches with specialized expertise to support all of the schools.