Blackstone LaunchPad USC celebrated the opening of its new location on Monday, transitioning over from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism to the Marshall School of Business.
The Blackstone LaunchPad is a campus-based entrepreneurship program that helps mentor and guide students, staff and alumni to develop ideas and move businesses in the right direction.
According to program director James Bottom, the Blackstone Charitable Foundation decided on the location transition, and Marshall was chosen as the new location "because of the additional synergy with the USC incubator and sharing of resources," he said. "It's an increase of size, scope and budget. We're trying to better align our program with what the university has and give a larger space for students to come in on their respective ideas."
Bottom says that since the Blackstone grant was given to USC three years ago, Blackstone LaunchPad has helped around 200 companies get up and running. "Our companies have made $7.25 million in revenue and raised over $8 million in start-up capital," he said.
Bottom also stresses that anyone has the potential to build a business during their time at USC. The best part? Their services are free.
"We have about 12 people that are here to help you get your business up and running," he said. "It doesn't matter if you have an idea that people are already working on…or if you just have an idea scribbled down on a napkin. We can come in, work with you on your respective idea and hopefully grow that into something interesting."
At the USC Blackstone LaunchPad celebration Monday, Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation CEO Bill Allen expressed how important it is for the Blackstone LaunchPad to be in Los Angeles, which he considers to be the "creative capital of the world." Allen explained that Blackstone tries to identify educational institutions in key economic regions as centers of innovation. He is confident that the Blackstone LaunchPad at USC will help "harness the power of brilliant people" at USC to increase standards of living and improve productivity in Los Angeles.
Sydney Liu, a USC student who is currently taking a leave of absence to invest in his company and pursue it full time had just finished his sophomore year of college when he decided to launch Commaful, an online medium where people can share articles, blog posts, stories and more on an easy-to-read format.
Liu co-founded his company with a fellow USC alumnus and credits the Blackstone LaunchPad for helping to form his vision.
"The mentors there have a wide range of experience, including digital media. They were able to help us improve our pitch, re-work the product strategy, and help us focus on important aspects of the business," Liu said.
Along with the shift in location, Bottom says one of the initiatives for the Blackstone LaunchPad at USC is to have more female co-founders and more involvement from students, faculty and alumni from schools other than the Marshall School of Business or the Viterbi School of Engineering.
"It's a very interesting mix of the 22 schools that comprise the University of Southern California, but we'd like to have additional female founders and have the ethnicity base of USC represented within the LaunchPad program," he said.
Camille Kanengiser, a panelist on Monday's Blackstone LaunchPad ceremony, discussed her company, Freeform Labs, which produces design software using virtual reality technology. She and her partner joined the Blackstone LaunchPad while studying at USC after creating an earlier prototype of their game.
Kanengiser expressed her gratitude for the program which she says provided her with the tools necessary for sparking her entrepreneurial career.
"What we learned from them immediately translated into the meetings that we had with our eventual publisher, so it was absolutely an essential resource for us," she said.
Caroline Burch contributed to this story. Reach her here.