University Officially Marks Launch of New Space for Entrepreneurs
Blackstone LaunchPad Celebrates Ribbon-Cutting for 5,000-Square-Foot Home
UT Dallas, a university founded by entrepreneurs, celebrated the new home of Blackstone LaunchPad, a campus-based entrepreneurship program designed to mentor and support students, faculty, staff and alumni looking to launch their own companies.
At a ribbon-cutting celebration last month, Rafael Martín, interim vice president for research, highlighted the connection between the vision of UT Dallas founders Cecil H. Green, J. Erik Jonsson and Eugene McDermott and the Blackstone LaunchPad initiative, funded in collaboration with the Blackstone Charitable Foundation.
“Our founders were entrepreneurs and our growth as an institution is a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit that they imprinted on our institutional DNA. I think it's fair to say that they would be as excited as we are to celebrate our partnership with the Blackstone Charitable Foundation that both figuratively and literally puts entrepreneurship at the core of our campus. ”
“Our founders were entrepreneurs and our growth as an institution is a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit that they imprinted on our institutional DNA,” Martín said. “I think it’s fair to say that they would be as excited as we are to celebrate our partnership with the Blackstone Charitable Foundation that both figuratively and literally puts entrepreneurship at the core of our campus.”
The program's new 5,000-square-foot-space is on the ground floor of Parking Structure 3, at the corner of Loop Road and Rutford Avenue.
Blackstone LaunchPad operates under the umbrella of the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE), the cross-disciplinary campus initiative that also oversees the Venture Development Center. The IIE is actively involved with the academic entrepreneurial programs at the Naveen Jindal School of Management, both undergraduate and graduate.
“We welcome students, faculty, staff and alumni — anyone who has an interest in learning about entrepreneurship,” said Bryan Chambers, program director for UT Dallas Blackstone LaunchPad. “From the student who might have an idea but doesn’t know where to begin, all the way to our most accomplished professors who are inventing new materials in their laboratories and still need entrepreneurial-level support — our programming will be able to accommodate the entire spectrum of needs.”
Blackstone, a New York-based investment firm, founded its philanthropic arm Blackstone Charitable Foundation in 2007, at the same time as the firm’s initial public offering. Since 2010, the foundation has funded LaunchPad programs at 20 universities in the United States and Ireland, which are accessible to more than 630,000 students.
Last year, the foundation donated $3 million to launch LaunchPad programs at three schools in Texas — UT Dallas, UT Austin and Texas A&M — aimed at helping an estimated 130,000 students explore entrepreneurship as a career path. Over the next three years, the three programs are projected to generate nearly 4,000 new ventures and 9,000 new jobs in the Lone Star State.
UT Dallas matched the foundation’s $1 million grant for the campus’ Blackstone LaunchPad, providing a combined $2 million in funding over three years.
Bill Stein, Blackstone’s senior managing director of real estate, urged students attending the ribbon-cutting to use their creativity to shape their careers and create jobs for themselves and others.
“We need a new generation of thinkers, inventors and risk takers — all creating new businesses, creating jobs and, most importantly, creating opportunities for society.”
“We need a new generation of thinkers, inventors and risk takers — all creating new businesses, creating jobs and, most importantly, creating opportunities for society,” Stein said. “As you think about the future of the career you hope to build, entrepreneurship can and should be an option for you. That’s what this program, Blackstone LaunchPad, was established to encourage.”
Campus leaders including Dr. Hasan Pirkul, dean of the Jindal School, and Dr. Mark Spong, dean of the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, also spoke at the event, praising the multidisciplinary campus initiative.
Presentations by campus entrepreneurs rounded out the grand opening festivities. Will White EMBA’16, MS’17 spoke about the path he and co-founder Kiran Devaprasad EMBA’16, MS’16 took to create TraceIT, an app that helps transportation companies get automated location updates of their freight and vehicles. Dr. Lucas Rodriguez MS’14, PhD’16 spoke about his journey to form Cersci Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company that develops non-opioid analgesics for the alleviation of acute and chronic pain.
The event also included the introduction of the IIE’s new executive director, Steve Guengerich, and presentations of $25,000 in startup funding from UT Dallas Seed Fund to recipients ShearShare and Cosmunity.
Attendees toured Blackstone LaunchPad's new space, which features a main open room, two conference rooms, five individual offices and a breakout area for staff. The bulk of the programming, breakout sessions, events, workshops, the accelerator program and classes will be conducted in the main room, which has been dubbed “the collaboration zone.”
“Since most entrepreneurship happens in twos and threes, you’ll see lots of breakout areas to accommodate small groups of individuals,” Chambers said. “We also have lots of white boards where they can ideate and map out strategies.”
Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].