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The Launch Pad Celebrates Seven Years of Empowering Decision-Makers


The Launch Pad Celebrates Seven Years of Empowering Decision-Makers

By Maya Bell
UM News

Celebrating The Launch Pad’s anniversary are, from left, Adrian Alvarez, Sam Palmer Shields, Isabelle Martinez, Will Silverman, Elijah Kirkland-Andrews, Connor Masterson, and Robert Welbon.

Celebrating The Launch Pad’s anniversary are, from left, Adrian Alvarez, Sam Palmer-Shields, Isabelle Martinez, Will Silverman, Elijah Kirkland-Andrews, Connor Masterson, and Robert Welbon.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (August 26, 2015)—About one a day. That’s how many ideas walk into The Launch Pad at Toppel every year. Not by themselves, of course, but in the laptops, notebooks, sketchpads, hearts, and brains of University of Miami students and alumni yearning to start a new venture.

Over the past seven years, nearly 300 of those ideas have evolved into start-up companies and about 900 jobs, which by many measures would make the first-of-its kind resource center for budding entrepreneurs an unqualified success. But as The Launch Pad celebrated its seventh anniversary with an open house on Wednesday, co-founder William Scott Green, senior vice provost and dean of undergraduate education, and director Will Silverman said they measure success not by what The Launch Pad’s participants—or their businesses—make, but by what they learn.

And that’s incalculable.

“What we’re really doing is creating empowered decision-makers,’’ said Silverman, a former biomedical researcher who joined The Launch Pad as a Venture Coach at its inception in fall 2008 and became its director four years later. “We don’t tell people what to do. When they come in and say, ‘I want to sell cookies,’ we help them figure out what they mean by asking the right questions. Do they want to sell at farmer’s markets, or do they want to be the next Mrs. Fields?”’

And even though roughly 3,500 students and alumni have come to The Launch Pad hoping to start or strengthen their ventures, Green added, it is not a small business development corporation. “It is,” he said, “a fundamental exercise in experiential learning. The Launch Pad’s programs are co-curricular and voluntary, and each venture is unique. Students in The Launch Pad learn entrepreneurship individually, by trying it on, so to speak, to see if it fits them. That kind of learning tends to be durable, to stick with you.”

Lucy Calamari, who earned her business degree in 2013, knew she had to give it a try in 2011, when she heard about The Launch Pad, the first college center to promote entrepreneurship as a viable career option, at orientation.

“My first stop was here,” Calamari recalled, sitting inside The Launch Pad’s Whitten University Center office (it’s not really at the Toppel Career Center), while students lined up on the patio outside to learn about the guidance, encouragement, and networking opportunities Silverman and The Launch Pad staff and volunteers offer.

“I dropped in and said, ‘Hello, I’m Lucy, and you are going to see me a lot,’’ Calamari said. “I knew I wanted to make chocolates and I knew how to make my chocolates, but that’s all I knew. What my business was going to look like and how I was going to develop it, I had no clue.”

Three years later, Calamari’s Lucky Lucy Chocolates, with their distinctly South Florida flavors—including mango, key lime, mojito and café mocha—won the $10,000 grand prize in the alumni category of the University of Miami’s 2014 Business Plan Competition, hosted by the School of Business Administration.

That “seed money,” Calamari said, enabled her to learn another lesson and expand her line. “When you have more money to spend on raw materials, you spend less for it,” she said. “So I am doing well, making a living, and new products.”


The Launch Pad’s Sam Palmer-Shields hands out T-shirts to students at the open house celebrating the resource center’s seventh anniversary.

As Green enjoyed the sights and sounds of new students eager to learn more about The Launch Pad at the open house celebration, he noted there is no single recipe for entrepreneurial success, no set of skills, that once mastered, bestows a certificate in entrepreneurship. But on The Launch Pad’s seventh anniversary, he reflected on one key reason for its success:

“The Launch Pad is effective because all the businesses are authentic,” he said. “It’s not a theoretical exercise about a potential venture with a potential business plan. It’s for real.”

For more information about The Launch Pad, call 305-284-2789, visit The Launch Pad online, or drop by on the first floor of the Whitten University Center, room 1319.



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Business-Minded Youngsters Visit UM to Learn the Secrets to Entrepreneurial Success

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Business-Minded Youngsters Visit UM to Learn the Secrets to Entrepreneurial Success

By Robert C. Jones Jr. UM News

UM alumna Jacki Stanley gives advice to youngsters during the national launch of the Secret Millionaires Club ‘Grown Your Own Business Challenge.’

UM alumna Jacki Stanley gives advice to youngsters during the national launch of the Secret Millionaires Club ‘Grow Your Own Business Challenge.’

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (October 20, 2014) – Jacki Stanley, B.B.A. ’12, was only 12 years old when her father told her about the dream he had in which someone told him to start a new line of sneakers for girls. “We were vacationing in San Francisco,” Stanley recalled, “and one day at breakfast, Dad starts telling us about his dream and drawing these incredible pictures of shoes.” It wouldn’t be until Stanley’s junior year at the University of Miami that she would partner with her father in launching a brand of shoes that encourages girls to be creative. Today, colorful Bobbi-Toads sneakers are sold with toes embossed on their white toecaps, allowing the wearer to embellish them with nail polish, clean them off the next day, and start all over again with any design they choose. Read the full story

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UM Launch Pad Model Expands; Blackstone Charitable Foundation Bringing Campus Entrepreneurship Platform to Pennsylvania

Ever since The Launch Pad at the University of Miami opened, its model of presenting entrepreneurship as a viable career option for students has spread. Now, Philadelphia is the latest to benefit from the model.

The Blackstone Charitable Foundation recently announced that it is bringing Blackstone LaunchPad to Pennsylvania to train Philadelphia’s next generation of entrepreneurs. The Blackstone Charitable Foundation’s $3 million grant establishes a partnership between the University City Science Center, Temple University, and Philadelphia University to introduce entrepreneurship as a viable career option and provide university students and alumni with the skills, knowledge, and guidance to transform new ideas into viable companies. The Pennsylvania Blackstone LaunchPad programs are expected to generate some 100 ventures and hundreds of jobs over the next five years.

Blackstone LaunchPad replicates and implements the successful program developed at the University of Miami in 2008, which has generated 85 start-up ventures, 210 new jobs, and drawn nearly 2,000 participants. Since 2010, The Blackstone Charitable Foundation has opened Blackstone LaunchPads on six campuses in southeast Michigan and northeast Ohio.  Each regional initiative will be linked together, drawing ideas and best practices from more established programs, and giving the student entrepreneurs at Temple and Philadelphia Universities access to a stronger network of expert advisers for their ventures.

“Entrepreneurship is a job multiplier. Our economy cannot create jobs or improve income quickly enough without more successful entrepreneurs. Through Blackstone LaunchPad, we are proud to foster a new generation of entrepreneurs who will transform local economies by creating new and innovative companies,” said Blackstone Co-Founder, Chair, and CEO Stephen A. Schwarzman.

From new facilities at Temple University and Philadelphia University, Blackstone LaunchPad will multiply the connections between the campus, business communities, 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 41,000 students at Temple and Philadelphia University, regardless of major. Through the campus and Science Center partnership, students and alumni 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.

Philadelphia was chosen as the next region for a Blackstone LaunchPad because of its critical need for economic growth and job creation. This—coupled with its dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystem, where talent is abundant and a strong set of support services are already in place—made Philadelphia ripe for Blackstone LaunchPad. Temple and Philadelphia Universities are two schools that already possess a rich entrepreneurial spirit, and as the first, and largest, urban research park in the United States, the Science Center is a natural partner for this initiative. Graduate organizations and current residents of the Science Center’s Port business incubator have created more than 15,000 current direct jobs in the Greater Philadelphia region and contribute more than $9 billion to the regional economy annually. The Science Center’s established relationships, network and preexisting experience managing partnerships among various institutions make it well suited to manage the Blackstone LaunchPad program in Philadelphia.

Funding for this program is made possible through The Blackstone Charitable Foundation’s $50 million, five-year Entrepreneurship Initiative.  Driven by the urgent need for job growth in the United States, The Blackstone Charitable Foundation seeks to support innovative projects and catalytic ideas that can accelerate start-ups, job growth and economic activity.  Due to the early success of these programs and The Blackstone Charitable Foundation’s commitment to expanding LaunchPad to five new regions over the next five years, LaunchPad has been recognized by President Obama’s “Startup America Initiative.”


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The Launch Pad to Open Tech Accelerator in Downtown Miami; Venture to Provide Incentives for Early-Stage Tech Companies

With downtown Miami fast emerging as a hotbed of international commerce, the community’s public and private sectors are joining forces to create a technology business accelerator program that will attract early-stage companies and the entrepreneurs who run them to the city’s urban core. The Launch Pad Tech Accelerator – a new endeavor by the Miami Downtown Development Authority (DDA), Miami-Dade County, and The Launch Pad at the University of Miami – will focus on recruiting and cultivating tech businesses in sectors closely aligned with Miami’s economic future, including health care, hospitality and tourism, and creative sectors such as design, music, art, fashion, and film.

The program will be fueled by $1 million in funds from Miami-Dade County over the next four years and another $460,000 in funding from the Miami DDA in 2013 and 2014. These dollars will support ongoing operations and provide incentives aimed at attracting 10 promising companies to downtown Miami from around the world during the initiative’s inaugural year, with 10 additional companies recruited in each of the following cycles. The program is projected to create 330 new direct and indirect jobs through 2017.

Beyond offering $25,000 grants – without an equity request – for the selected companies, the Launch Pad Tech Accelerator will provide services ranging from entrepreneurship training and intensive mentoring from industry leaders, to subsidized office space and access to Launch Pad workshops. The program will be based at downtown Miami’s Terremark NAP (Network Access Point) of the Americas, where optical, Ethernet, voice, and Internet traffic is linked between Latin America and the rest of the world.

“The Launch Pad Accelerator will spur a vibrant start-up culture that complements the residential, commercial, and hospitality growth under way in downtown Miami,” said City of Miami Commissioner and Miami DDA Chair Marc Sarnoff. “This will be a catalyst for attracting forward-thinking companies that bring new ideas, new ways of doing business, and new jobs to Miami. The Launch Pad Tech Accelerator is a real-world example of the public sector empowering private sector entrepreneurship and innovation.”

The new program was developed by The Launch Pad at the University of Miami, which was started in 2008 by a team that has helped students and alumni launch more than 80 businesses that have raised more than $10 million and created more than 150 South Florida jobs. The Launch Pad has been replicated to six other universities with the support of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, creating the only national network of collegiate entrepreneurs. In the July/August issue of Harvard Business Review, The Launch Pad was noted as one of the two concepts that work in entrepreneurship.

“Launch Pad Tech creates unparalleled opportunities for student engagement and education. We have scores of Launch Pad entrepreneurs in various stages of their tech startups that can become part of these teams, experiencing firsthand what it takes to grow a business from two to 50 employees in less than a year, becoming members of the ecosystem and contributing to its growth,” said Susan Amat, co-founder of The Launch Pad and framer of Launch Pad Tech. “The skills sets of students, whether in law, engineering, med, business, communication, or music, can all be utilized, honed, and enhanced through Launch Pad Tech in ways that could never be done in a classroom. While The Launch Pad brings the community in to support the students, Launch Pad Tech brings the students into the community for inimitable experiential learning.”

Amat adds that in addition to the ten selected companies, Launch Pad Tech will also “adopt” an additional 25 startups outside of the designated vertical sectors, which will then have the opportunity to attend structured program offerings, participate in mentoring, and have access to resources.

“As a Miami entrepreneur, I have experience with the challenges of starting technology businesses,” said Juan Diego Calle, CEO of .CO Internet SAS, the company behind the fast-growing .CO domain. “The Launch Pad Accelerator will ease the process for a new wave of entrepreneurs by igniting a cross-pollination of ideas, capital, mentorship, and talent that is critical to a tech ecosystem.”

The Launch Pad Accelerator takes flight just as Miami’s urban core comes alive as a thriving residential district, with the area experiencing an 80 percent spike in population over the past decade and another 15,000 residents expected in the coming years. Along these lines, author and professor Richard Florida notes that urban areas such as downtown Miami are enjoying heightened demand among tech companies and entrepreneurs for reasons ranging from lifestyle decisions to business networking opportunities.

“Miami-Dade County is proud to support the Launch Pad and its mission of attracting forward-thinking entrepreneurs to our community and giving them the tools they need to succeed here,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez. “My top priority as mayor is job-creation – diverse job-creation – and the Launch Pad supports that goal by positioning Miami-Dade County as a hotbed for dynamic start-up businesses that support new jobs.”

Applications for entry to The Launch Pad Tech Accelerator program may be submitted now through November 5 at www.launchpadtech.co. For updated information about the program, please follow on Twitter @launchpadtech.


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The Launch Pad and One of Its Star Entrepreneurs Win Big at Technology Leader of the Year Awards

The Launch Pad and one of its entrepreneurs were among the winners at the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s annual Technology Leaders of the Year Awards.

Developed at the University of Miami as a novel entrepreneurship initiative that helps both students and alumni create new enterprises, The Launch Pad won in the “Technology Organization” category, while Tyler McIntyre, the CEO of a company that specializes in software development for the growing mobile application market, won the “Technology Student Entrepreneur” award.

The Technology Leaders of the Year Awards were created to honor individuals, teams, organizations, and companies that support and develop the future of the South Florida technology community. Winners were selected because of their effective use of technology to improve business performance or to develop new markets, products, or communities, as well as for their significant contributions to the South Florida technology community.

In the past year The Launch Pad has hosted and promoted more than 20 events in support of educating, connecting, and promoting both technology entrepreneurs and developers, including Refresh Miami, Startup Weekend, the Android Developer Group, WordCamp Miami, and Lean Startup Group Miami. The majority of Launch Pad Tech events were held at the offices at Terremark’s NAP of the Americas.

The Launch Pad’s next project is to actively engage the South Florida community in educating and connecting the tech community through the Launch Pad Tech initiative. Available to anyone in South Florida, the initiative has a goal to train and mentor skilled programmers in the latest technologies available in their field of interest (mobile or Web). These new highly trained developers can then be fed into the South Florida technology startup ecosystem or use their knowledge to start their own high-growth technology startup.

William Silverman, assistant director of The Launch Pad, accepted the award. In his acceptance remarks, Silverman thanked Manny Medina, founder of Terremark. “Manny believed in our vision, making it possible for us to set up Launch Pad Tech in the Terremark NAP, which allowed us to connect to hundreds of technology entrepreneurs over the past year.”

Silverman also mentioned Refresh Miami and IT Women as “great friends and collaborators, and we all work together to support the [local tech] community.” He also noted the two “Technology Student Entrepreneur” finalists—Ketan Rahangdale, CEO of EarTop Technologies, and Mark Slaughter, CEO of Cohealo—and the category winner, Tyler McIntyre. All three are currently University of Miami students and Launch Pad entrepreneurs. “We are very proud of our three student tech entrepreneurs,” Silverman said. “The Launch Pad is all about growing great entrepreneurs here in South Florida, and they are perfect examples.”

McIntyre is CEO of Lucid Technologies, LLC, which has launched several applications, including LuciDmessenger, which allows for cross-platform communication between BlackBerry Messenger and iPhone and Android phones; one of the top downloaded weather applications globally, rated by Apple as “New & Noteworthy”; and Chat for Facebook, which is currently the sixth top-selling social networking app for the Mac OS.

McIntyre is enrolled as a third-year student in UM’s School of Business Administration and actively participates in The Launch Pad entrepreneurship program.


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