Blackstone LaunchPad to grow entrepreneurship at CWRU, around Northeast Ohio

Case Western Reserve University is one of four area higher education institutions to be named part of Blackstone LaunchPad, an initiative to give university students, faculty and alumni the skills, knowledge and guidance they need to start new companies. The Blackstone Charitable Foundation and The Burton D. Morgan Foundation announced the $3.2 million, three-year partnership during an event Friday at Kelvin Smith Library.

Watch a video of the announcement.

Blackstone LaunchPad aims to present entrepreneurship as a viable career path and offer students, faculty and alumni concrete tools and guidance to transform ideas into thriving businesses. Unlike traditional college programs available to a limited population, Blackstone LaunchPad is open to all students, regardless of major, and engages local entrepreneurs to mentor students. The programs will be up and running in Northeast Ohio—at Baldwin-Wallace College, Case Western Reserve, Kent State University and Lorain County Community College—in early 2012.

“Our economy needs the kind of immediate, fast-growth activity that only comes from entrepreneurs. Fostering a new generation of entrepreneurs is critical to America’s recovery, which is why we are investing in Blackstone LaunchPad to help young entrepreneurs harness their talents and transform creative ideas into viable companies,” said Blackstone’s chairman and CEO, Stephen A. Schwarzman.

Funding for this program is made possible through The Blackstone Charitable Foundation’s $50 million, five-year Entrepreneurship Initiative and The Burton D. Morgan Foundation’s commitment to invest in organizations and institutions that foster entrepreneurship in Northeast Ohio.

Front row, from left: Jim Petro, Ohio Chancellor of Higher Education; Mark Slaughter, University of Miami LaunchPad participant; Sen. Sherrod Brown; Stephen Schwarzman, Blackstone Charitable Foundation chairman and CEO; Deborah D. Hoover, president and CEO of The Burton Morgan Foundation; and John P. Holdren, assistant to President Obama for Science and Technology and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Back row, from left: Robert Frank, provost and senior vice president of Kent State University; Bud Baeslack, provost of Case Western Reserve University; Roy Church, president of Lorain County Community College; Bill Green, University of Miami senior vice provost and dean of undergraduate education; and Dick Durst, president of Baldwin-Wallace College.

Blackstone LaunchPad replicates and implements a program developed at the University of Miami in 2008, which has generated 65 start-up ventures, 120 new jobs and drawn nearly 2,000 student participants.

In 2010, The Blackstone Charitable Foundation brought the LaunchPad model to Walsh College and Wayne State University in Detroit—an area struggling from the collapse of its predominant industry. After nine months, 319 students are involved in the program with 110 having completed initial venture proposals. Based on the early success of the Miami and Detroit programs, President Barack Obama’s Startup America Initiative recently acknowledged LaunchPad, and The Blackstone Charitable Foundation committed to expanding it to five new regions over the next five years.

Northeast Ohio was chosen as the next region for a Blackstone LaunchPad because of its critical need for new jobs and its dedication to supporting entrepreneurship, particularly at the collegiate level.

“Out of frustration and necessity, the leadership of this region has banded together to stage an economic transformation of unparalleled scope,” Deborah D. Hoover, president & CEO of The Burton D. Morgan Foundation, said during the event. “This effort has resulted in building the kind of cooperative environment that has prompted other regions of the country to look to Northeast Ohio as a model for what can be accomplished when a beleaguered regional economy adopts a coordinated strategy and puts talent, resources and vast energy behind that strategy.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown, who spoke at the event, noted: “Small businesses create almost two-thirds of new jobs in the American economy. That’s why it’s so important to give start-up support to our best and brightest young minds.”

As partners in implementing Blackstone LaunchPad in Northeast Ohio, Baldwin-Wallace College, Case Western Reserve University, Kent State University and Lorain County Community College will expand existing entrepreneurship and support programming and offer students access to an extensive network of mentors, experts and services. The four institutions will be strategically linked to facilitate administrative oversight and venture coaching. Collectively, these four campuses reach more than 70,000 students. The Northeast Ohio LaunchPad could create 150 businesses over the next five years and generate more than 3,000 direct jobs.

“Over the next few years, Blackstone LaunchPad will produce tangible results that will write the latest chapter in the continuing saga of Northeast Ohio’s economic revival,” Hoover said.

“It is inspiring to see this latest expansion of LaunchPad in Ohio, and I look forward to seeing this program and others like it take root and grow around the country,” said John P. Holdren, assistant to President Obama for Science and Technology and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “Working together, we can leverage America’s centers of higher education to support entrepreneurship and create new engines of innovation and economic growth.”

For more information, watch a video of the announcement at