MISSOULA – The grand opening of the University of Montana’s Blackstone LaunchPad will take place from 10 to 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 13, on campus. The event is free and open to the public.
The grand opening will be held in the University Center North Atrium, one level below the location of the new Blackstone LaunchPad office space. The grand opening will kick off the day’s Celebrate Academics and Charter Day activities, a celebration of the University’s 121st birthday.
The event will feature a student-produced film and several speakers, including UM President Royce Engstrom; Pam Haxby-Cote, regional director of Montana Blackstone LaunchPad; Paul Gladen, director of UM’s Blackstone LaunchPad; and James Grunke, president and CEO of Missoula Economic Partnership.
The video will feature footage captured by Thomas Kurdy, an MBA student who interviewed UM alumni who have become Missoula entrepreneurs. They share their perspectives on starting a business in Montana and the potential impact of Blackstone LaunchPad at UM.
“The video will showcase the entrepreneurial spirit of Montana and UM alumni,” said Gladen. “It aims to inspire current and future students to explore entrepreneurship as a career path.”
An open house of the Blackstone LaunchPad office space will be held after the grand opening until 5 p.m., as well as from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 14.
“The Blackstone LaunchPad space has a collaborative, creative startup vibe to it,” said Joe Fanguy, director of UM’s Office of Technology Transfer and President of Missoula business incubator MonTEC. “Its home in the University Center offers a high-visibility location in the heart of campus and sends the message that entrepreneurship is a viable choice for all students, regardless of discipline.”
The Blackstone Charitable Foundation brought the Blackstone LaunchPad to UM, Montana State University and Headwaters RC&D. The program is intended to train the region’s next generation of entrepreneurs and is made possible by a three-year, $2 million grant from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation.
“The University of Montana and Montana State University recognize that their students have the ability to positively impact the economic future of Montana,” said Amy Stursberg, executive director of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation. “Blackstone LaunchPad provides the necessary resources for students at these institutions to bring their ideas to market and begin their careers as entrepreneurs, ultimately creating jobs in Montana and supporting the economy.”
UM recently hired Gladen, an entrepreneur and co-founder of the Hellgate Venture Network, to be the director of Blackstone LaunchPad, which will help UM students, and ultimately alumni, jumpstart their own businesses. Gladen will work to foster connections among campus, the business community and local entrepreneurs to create an environment that nurtures young entrepreneurs and provides them the skills and network necessary to succeed.
“The Blackstone LaunchPad at UM offers us another tool to promote and encourage economic development in Montana,” UM President Royce Engstrom said. “The high-visibility placement of the Blackstone LaunchPad in the University Center emphasizes the importance we place on entrepreneurial education at this University.”
Unlike traditional college curricular programs available to limited school populations, Blackstone LaunchPad is open to all UM students regardless of major. It will provide students with a network of venture coaches and entrepreneurial support to transform new ideas into sustainable companies.
With a physical presence at UM and MSU, Blackstone LaunchPad has the potential to generate 150 new ventures in Montana over the next five years.
The program is modeled after a successful program developed at the University of Miami in 2008, which has generated 1,413 business proposals, created 210 new jobs and drawn nearly 2,600 participants. Each new regional program will be linked together, drawing ideas and best practices from the existing programs, while giving student entrepreneurs at UM and MSU access to a national community of more than 200,000 of their peers across affiliated campuses, as well as expert advisers.
Montana is the fifth Blackstone LaunchPad region, following Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida.
For more information about the Blackstone Charitable Foundation program, visit http://www.blackstone.com/citizenship/the-blackstone-charitable-foundation/entrepreneurship-initiative/blackstone-launchpad.
NOTE TO THE MEDIA: Members of the media are invited to attend a tour of the Blackstone LaunchPad’s new space in advance of the grand opening. The private media tour will be held from 9 to 10 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 13, in University Center Room 250A. Engstrom, Fanguy, Gladen, Haxby-Cote and Grunke will be available to answer questions.