The Blackstone Charitable Foundation today announced yet another expansion of its campus entrepreneurship program, Blackstone LaunchPad, to Central Florida. The Blackstone Charitable Foundation’s $1.4 million grant establishes a partnership between the University of Central Florida and the University of Miami to introduce entrepreneurship as a viable career option, and provide university students with a network of venture coaches and entrepreneurial support to transform new ideas into viable companies. With a physical presence at the University of Central Florida, Blackstone LaunchPad has the potential to generate some 300 new ventures in Central Florida over the next five years. Blackstone LaunchPad is modeled after a successful program developed at the University of Miami in 2008, which has generated more than 100 start-up ventures, 215 new jobs and drawn nearly 2,000 participants. Since 2010, The Blackstone Charitable Foundation has opened Blackstone LaunchPads on eight campuses in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Each regional initiative will be linked together, drawing ideas and best practices from more established programs, and giving student entrepreneurs at the University of Central Florida access to a stronger network of expert advisers for their ventures. “Entrepreneurship is the single most effective way to spur economic growth and job creation. We must all play a role in nurturing talent and through Blackstone LaunchPad, we can foster new generations of entrepreneurs who will transform local economies by creating new and innovative companies,” said Blackstone’s Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO, Stephen A. Schwarzman. Blackstone LaunchPad at the University of Central Florida will foster connections between the university campus, business community, and local entrepreneurs to create an environment that nurtures young entrepreneurs and provides them the skills and network necessary to succeed. Unlike traditional college curricular programs available to limited school populations, Blackstone LaunchPad is open to all 60,000 students at the University of Central Florida, regardless of major. Through this innovative campus program, students will have access to an expanded universe of resources and years of institutional knowledge, helping them launch ventures that can take root locally and strengthen the economy.
Central Florida is an ideal region for a Blackstone LaunchPad because of its burgeoning entrepreneurial ecosystem, where talent is abundant and a strong set of support services are already in place. Blackstone’s commitment in the region, in addition to the $1.4 million grant announced today, includes investments in several companies in its portfolio, which it manages on behalf of investors. The companies in Blackstone’s portfolio with operations in Central Florida, which includes Merlin, Hilton Worldwide, Performance Food Group, Michaels, and SeaWorld, have collectively invested close to $600 million in Central Florida in recent years.Funding for this program is made possible through The Blackstone Charitable Foundation’s $50 million, five-year Entrepreneurship Initiative, which seeks to target support services regionally for aspiring entrepreneurs, and in turn, the high-growth businesses and industries that are most known to spark economic growth. Due to the early success of the program, The Blackstone Charitable Foundation was recognized by President Obama’s “Startup America Initiative” and pledged to expand LaunchPad to five new regions over the next five years. What They Are Saying: A Quote Roundup Senator Marco Rubio "Small businesses and entrepreneurs are the engine of our economy, and now more than ever it is critical that we support innovation and investment in startups and new businesses. The Blackstone Charitable Foundation will help bring this kind of support and resources to our universities in Central Florida. Our students and young innovators should be empowered and given a chance to succeed so that they can then grow, create jobs, and continue to strengthen our economy.” John Hitt, President of the University of Central Florida “As America’s leading partnership university, UCF is proud to participate in an exciting new alliance to launch the next generation of Florida’s entrepreneurs. This effort will greatly benefit our students and enhance the economic prosperity of our community, which is good news for all of Central Florida.”
Donna Shalala, President of the University of Miami“The University of Miami created The Launch Pad to help students use their education to start new businesses, find viable careers in entrepreneurship, and create jobs. The Blackstone LaunchPad program enables us to share our model of entrepreneurship education with our sister institutions around the nation. It is a particular pleasure for us to join forces with the University of Central Florida to help strengthen the communities and economies of our state, and we are deeply grateful to the vision and support of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation for making this unique private-public university partnership possible.” Jim Atchison, President and Chief Executive Officer of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment and UCF Board Trustee “The major business leaders in Central Florida have a history of working together to foster entrepreneurial talents and ideas for the economic health of the region. We all know how businesses thrive when innovation and growth is supported. The Blackstone LaunchPad will encourage this on an individual level, developing and supporting our next generation of entrepreneurs with invaluable counsel and networking resources.” About The Blackstone Charitable Foundation: The Blackstone Charitable Foundation was founded at the time of The Blackstone Group’s Initial Public Offering in 2007 with substantial commitments from the Firm’s employees. Influenced by the enterprising heritage of the firm and its founders, The Blackstone Charitable Foundation is directing its resources and applying the intellectual capital of the firm to foster entrepreneurship in areas hardest hit by the global economic crisis. Through its investment expertise across several asset classes and geographies, Blackstone has a unique perspective on the global economy and a heightened understanding of how entrepreneurial activity is often the crucial catalyst in the growth of successful businesses, industries and communities. (For more information, see http://www.blackstone.com/citizenship/the-blackstone-charitable-foundation). About The University of Central Florida: The University of Central Florida, the nation’s second-largest university with nearly 60,000 students, is celebrating its 50 th anniversary in 2013. UCF has grown in size, quality, diversity and reputation, and today the university offers more than 200 degree programs at its main campus in Orlando and more than a dozen other locations. Known as America’s leading partnership university, UCF is an economic engine attracting and supporting industries vital to the region’s success now and into the future. For more information, visit http://today.ucf.edu.