Organizers say the University of Montana's new Blackstone LaunchPad program may begin operation by Spring 2014. The entrepreneurial program’s roots began taking hold in July after the Blackstone Charitable Foundation pledged a 3-year $2 million grant to develop the program at the University of Montana and Montana State University.
Here’s how it works: A student with an idea completes an online profile and submits an idea to the program that outlines a concept and expected market. LaunchPad staff help the student flesh out the idea, and the student eventually receives mentorship from successful entrepreneurs in the business world.
“It’s one of those things where you get to pursue your passion,” said Joe Fanguy, director of the Office of Technology Transfer at the University of Montana.
Fanguy traveled to the University of Miami, the site of the first LaunchPad program, to get a feel for the network’s impact. He says he was struck by a story of a concert pianist who, despite a low amount of interaction with the business world prior, was able to eventually run a successful music academy with her husband.
Organizers are currently seeking a director for the University of Montana’s program, in a search that is expected to finish by the end of November. Eventually, a handful of full-time managerial jobs will be assigned at UM's branch, and teams will fill offices at the University Center.
The programs at UM and MSU will be open to the entire student base, regardless of major. Montana is the fifth state to join the network.