Expansion across US encourages entrepreneurship

Susan Amat, the director of Launch Pad, listens as a student pitches an entrepreneurial idea for a music website during a Market Research Skills meeting. The event is one example of the various free programs hosted by The Launch Pad. Jessica Hodder//The Miami Hurricane

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

University of Miami officials learned last week that the Launch Pad entrepreneurial program will be a model as part of a new White House economic strategy to expand innovation and create jobs across the country.

“We are pleased that our work in Miami can help [others] develop entrepreneurial opportunities for their students and communities,” said William Green, dean of undergraduate education, in a university press release.

Launch Pad, part of the Toppel Career Center, was founded in 2008 to provide tools and guidance to students, faculty and alumni who want to start their own business ventures. Since its creation, Launch Pad has helped develop nearly 50 new companies and create more than 100 new jobs.

On Jan. 31, the White House laid out the Startup America Partnership in which the Obama administration will join forces with more than a dozen private organizations, including the Blackstone Charitable Foundation. Last year, Blackstone funding helped replicate the UM Launch Pad at two schools in the Detroit area.

“With the Blackstone Charitable Foundation grant, we were able to open two more Launch Pads at Wayne State University and Walsh College,” said Lexi Matiash, the public relations and event manager of the UM Launch Pad.

Now as part of the Startup America initiative, Blackstone is committing another $5 million to replicate Launch Pad at other schools in five economically distressed areas of the country.

The UM Launch Pad Web site will be the hub of the expansion effort, helping to link all the schools. UM officials believe that will benefit students involved in the program.

“The expansion will strengthen the ability to link entrepreneurs to resources and help alumni and students create a vast network across the nation, which is the key to entrepreneurial success,” said Susan Amat, executive director of the Launch Pad.

Elizabeth Nickerson may be contacted at enickerson@themiamihurricane.com.