Blackstone LaunchPad expands to Philadelphia, puts up $3M for student entrepreneurship

The charitable arm of one of the nation’s largest investment firms is bringing one of its programs to two Philadelphia universities. Officials will announce the local initiative later this morning.

Blackstone LaunchPad is a $50 million initiative from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation designed to help college students start businesses.

About $3 million will be devoted to the local program — which will be available to all 42,000 students of both Temple and Philadelphia universities.

“We think the right thing to do is to start something that’s available to more students, so that we can cast a wider net than just putting money into an accelerator,” said Blackstone co-founder and CEO Steve Schwarzman, referring to programs that directly invest in fledgling ventures.

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The LaunchPad program provides expertise, access and venture coaching to both undergrads and graduate students from across the academic spectrum.

The goal is to introduce students to entrepreneurship as a viable career path — while helping to launch at least 100 ventures over the next five years.

“This isn’t, like, a thought project,” said Schwarzman. “It’s an application for doing things in the real world.”

The program will be overseen by the University City Science Center. CEO Stephen Tang says it’s all about keeping young entrepreneurs in the region after they graduate.

“The more integrated that student entrepreneurs can get into the broader innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem, the better chance that they’ll stay and actually form ventures here in Philadelphia,” Tang said.

Temple and Philadelphia U now join campuses in Cleveland and Detroit as Blackstone LaunchPad sites. The cities are selected in part because of their “critical need for economic growth,” according to a Blackstone press release.

“The objective is to create jobs in Philadelphia,” said Schwarzman, who grew up in Philadelphia and Abington. “[The objective is] to train people for the new and evolving world that we’re all living in.”

Blackstone’s LaunchPad program is modeled on a University of Miami program. Last year, it won recognition [PDF] from the Obama administration’s Startup America initiative.

Newly staffed LaunchPad centers at both Temple and Philadelphia U should be operational about a year from now, according to a Blackstone official.

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