California

$5 million grant will bring startup coaching program to University of California campuses

The University of California is expanding an entrepreneurial guidance program to almost all of its campuses through a $5 million corporate partnership.

The Blackstone Charitable Foundation’s LaunchPad program, which brings startup incubator Techstars’ global network of business mentors to students, will soon be available at all universities in the system except UC Santa Barbara.

Victoria Slivkoff, global head of innovation and entrepreneurship for the UC system, said UCLA has been enjoying the benefits of Blackstone’s LaunchPad program since 2014.

“We’ve seen great results,” Slivkoff said, including facilitating more than 800 startup ventures and hosting more than 3,000 consulting meetings at the Southern California university.

The $5 million grant from Blackstone will go toward funding full-time staff to run the program and expenses for events over a period of three years, Slivkoff said.

LaunchPad is free to any business-minded student, regardless of major or academic focus, to assist at any point in their entrepreneurial process, from early conceptualization to growing and scaling an established business.

“Having an entrepreneurial skillset is really important,” Slivkoff said, regardless of one’s chosen professional field. “All these resources serve to democratize innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Amy Stursberg, the Blackstone Charitable Foundation’s executive director, said the LaunchPad program is an entry point for students who want to develop their enterprise in a safe environment, acting as the metaphorical center of a wheel whose spokes are auxiliary campus entrepreneurship programs.

“This derisking of entrepreneurship while students are still in school,” Stursberg said, will help students to “take the risks when they know what it entails when they get out of college.”

Stursberg said the expansion of LaunchPad across most of the UC is Blackstone’s first system-wide expansion, and after a few years, leadership may start looking at other higher education systems to expand to.

Blackstone’s LaunchPad has reached almost 500,000 students at 18 campuses in the U.S. and Ireland, providing business connections and professional networks while coaching young entrepreneurs as they fundraise and recruit.

Close to 9,000 businesses have been incorporated by LaunchPad graduates, who have raised nearly $200 million in investments.

“As the home to entrepreneurs and researchers at the forefront of cutting-edge discoveries and technological advancements, UC is the powerful engine behind California’s global leadership on innovation,” UC President Janet Napolitano said in a prepared statement. “We take great pride, especially, in our efforts to break down barriers and increase opportunities for women and minority entrepreneurs. We are excited to bring LaunchPad — and its valuable resources, opportunities and network — to UC campuses to further embed the ‘startup culture’ into the fabric of our campus communities.”

Blackstone founded the LaunchPad program in 2010 and partnered with Techstars in 2018, opening up a network of 10,000 mentors and introducing events including Startup Week and Startup Weekend.

The UC system offers 43 different business incubator or accelerator programs, plus supplemental training academies and other resources, in addition to the LaunchPad program.

“With its unique network of colleges and universities, California has a rich history of fostering entrepreneurship and a bright future for the next generation of entrepreneurs,” Blackstone president and COO Jon Gray said in a prepared statement. “The LaunchPad program has been transformational for students who draw on its resources to grow new businesses and invest in their communities. We are proud to partner with the University of California system in expanding this important programming to more students.”

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Vincent Moleski covers business and breaking news for The Bee and is a graduate student in literature at Sacramento State. He was born and raised in Sacramento and previously wrote for the university’s student newspaper, the State Hornet.
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