Release Date: September 20, 2023
BUFFALO, N.Y. – Blackstone LaunchPad, which came to UB seven years ago to foster an entrepreneurial culture among the student body, is changing its name, expanding its reach and growing into a larger space on the North Campus.
Blackstone LaunchPad now will be officially called the “Startup and Innovation Collaboratory Powered by Blackstone LaunchPad,” or The CoLab, for short. It’s part of a relaunch that includes a greater investment by the university and more staffing to accomplish its mission: helping students become entrepreneurs by turning their ideas into startups for the local economy.
A formal ceremony and ribbon-cutting was held Sept. 19.
“This is much more than just changing the name,” says Hadar Borden, director of the program. “It’s a celebration of what we’ve become.”
Blackstone LaunchPad is the signature program of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the world’s largest alternative asset manager. It seeks to close the opportunity gap by equipping college and university students with the entrepreneurial skills they need to build lasting careers.
UB, recognizing it needed to cultivate a more entrepreneurial environment on campus and play an even larger role in the region’s economy, received financial support from the foundation and the program made its humble debut in Room 220 of the Student Union in 2016.
The experiential program welcomes all UB students to walk through its doors armed with ideas and prepared to work with coaches or experts in residence who donate their time to offer feedback and entrepreneurial advice.
Since 2016, strong ties have been formed with local executives and alumni of the program, who have served as speakers, competition judges and coaches for the more than 900 workshops, team-building exercises and mentoring events that have been hosted.
Several successful startups have emerged and the program now boasts more than 38,000 engagements with enterprising UB students over the past seven years, including nearly 9,000 last year alone.
Last year, in fact, UB for the first time was ranked among the Top 50 undergraduate entrepreneurship programs by Entrepreneur Magazine, coming in at No. 48.
“Truthfully,” Borden says, “people didn’t know that we’d be as successful as we have been.”
“We’re now being looked upon as a resource to support what is happening in the community,” Borden says. “We’re a partner for these organizations trying to recruit and retain our talented students in the community.”
The relaunch allows UB to “scale up” the startup program and bring it under the umbrella of Student Life.
“We want our students to apply what they are learning in the classroom and be equipped with the skills they will need for life after graduation. The Startup and Innovation Collaboratory provides just that,” says Brian Hamluk, vice president for Student Life.
Hamluk noted that in June UB received the Deshpande Symposium Award for Excellence in Entrepreneurship, which is awarded each year to one institution that “encourages student leadership and engagement in developing innovative extra and co-curricular activities that support the development of entrepreneurial awareness, skills and practice.”
“We want to help students cultivate their innovative spirit within an organization and make them more competitive for life beyond college, regardless of career pursuit,” Hamluk says. “That’s why UB is happy to put further investment into a program that we already know is working.”
Thanks to the university’s additional investment, Borden – the program’s lone staffer since its inception – was able to expand the startup team with the recent hiring of four new full-time employees.
The program will move to a larger, renovated space on the third floor of the Student Union. UB will be seeking further philanthropic assistance for the program as part of this expansion.
Borden expects bigger things ahead.
She wants to solidify relationships with industry partners, engage more students and provide them with even more opportunities to hone their innovation and entrepreneurial skills that employers crave.
“I keep telling folks, this is just the beginning,” Borden says.