Incubator gives Temple, Phila. University student entrepreneurs a boost

Temple University has opened a new business incubator for students, staff and alumni.

School officials hope it will not just encourage student entrepreneurship, but will also attract venture capital to a region that needs it.

The incubator, sponsored by the Blackstone Foundation and officially known as the Blackstone LaunchPad, has been ramping up since last year, but it moved into its permanent new home in Temple’s Howard Gittis Student Center last week.

Among those on hand for the ribbon-cutting was Calvin Miller, 23, a Temple student who now runs a startup marketing firm for classic cars called MotorCar Studios. Miller always knew he had an entrepreneur’s heart, but he didn’t have the experience. He said the LaunchPad experts gave him the leg up he needed.

“One of the biggest things was: What is the first step? What do I need to do to begin the journey in a successful way?” Miller said. “A lot of people will start a company without doing the necessary steps beforehand, and it ends up a disaster.”

Also in attendance was Stephen Tang, head of the University City Science Center. He said the Delaware Valley is rich in ideas, but short on the investors that fuel innovation. He hopes Temple’s new incubator — part of a national network of Blackstone-funded incubators, another of which is in place at Philadelphia University — will attract more money to the region.

“As far as innovation capacity, Philadelphia is one of the leaders in the country, probably ranked fourth or fifth in the country,” Tang said. “But in terms of invested capital to support those ideas, we’re probably 12th to 15th. That’s the opportunity for us, to bridge that gap.”

Tang says there’s no shortage of entrepreneurial spirit among Temple students.

“I just talked to a young man who’s developing an app to schedule barber’s appointments,” he said with a laugh. “You don’t have to walk in and wait for an hour. For those of us who get haircuts frequently and don’t have a lot of time, I said, ‘I would definitely use that.'”

Temple officials say they’ve already worked with about 300 students, developed about 100 ideas, and launched 11 companies — seven of which are already making money. Tang called that “a pretty good batting average.”

Blackstone’s goal is to generate 100 new businesses in Pennsylvania in the next five years.

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