Blackstone LaunchPad Adds to UTD’s Entrepreneurship Portfolio

Richardson, TX—The University of Texas at Dallas today formally kicks off its Blackstone LaunchPad program, one of three cross-disciplinary entrepreneurship centers opening at universities across the state.

The program, funded by a $1 million donation from the charitable arm of the New York-based private equity firm, also received a matching $1 million grant from UTD. The idea is to promote entrepreneurship among faculty, students, and alumni, regardless of discipline. As such, UTD’s facility is housed in a new building across campus from the university’s business school, the place where such programs are typically based. Blackstone has about 20 such programs at universities across the country. In addition to the Dallas outpost, Blackstone opened one at UT-Austin earlier this month and will soon launch a third at Texas A&M University in College Station, TX.

“We want this to be a resource for students of all backgrounds, even those that may not seem stereotypically entrepreneurship-focused,” Bryan Chambers, director of UTD’s Blackstone program, told me as we toured the nearly finished Blackstone facility there.

UTD was created in the 1960s as the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest with funding from the founders of Texas Instruments, which is located nearby. The vision was to create an “MIT of the Southwest.” In 1969, the university joined the University of Texas System and was, until the last decade or so, considered a commuter school of largely upperclassmen.

That legacy gives UTD particular strengths in engineering and related fields like material sciences, and Blackstone’s program, along with other entrepreneurship-focused activities on campus, could be attractive to budding innovators in those fields.

Another such program is a new hardware accelerator called makerSeed, which will focus on student startups in wearables, IoT, and robotics.

“We have a soup-to-nuts portfolio,” says Steve Guengerich, the newly installed CEO of UTD’s Innovation Institute. “There’s a strong academic program, an acceleration component for students and community members. We have a business idea competition.”

Guengerich also pointed to the North Texas tech community, which includes accelerators like Tech Wildcatters and RevTech, along with corporate skunkworks programs such as AT&T’s Foundry and The Garage, which is run by Capital One.

He says that portfolio drew him to Dallas from the Austin tech community, where he founded startups like Appconomy and served as a mentor at Capital Factory.

Even with Austin’s storied reputation as a tech hub, the city envies the sort of big company resources found in corporate centers like Dallas. “We wish we had more large corporate presence that new ventures could be connected to,” Guengerich says of Austin.

Angela Shah is the editor of Xconomy Texas. She can be reached at ashah@xconomy.com or (214) 793-5763. Follow @angelashah

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