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Blackstone LaunchPad Program Hosts University-Wide Business Plan Competition; $30,000 in Cash Prizes Awarded

Leaders in the Capital District business community (pictured above) served as judges for the University’s first Blackstone LaunchPad business competition. (Photo by Paul Miller)

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 27, 2016) – The University at Albany’s Blackstone LaunchPad program recently hosted its first business plan competition on campus, teaching student entrepreneurs how to pitch their ideas to potential investors.

The competition, which was held in the Massry Center for Business, invited angel investors and venture capitalists to judge presentations from 35 UAlbany student teams. Winners were awarded cash prizes totaling $30,000.

Each team was given the opportunity to present during the competition’s first round in early April. They were separated into different “Shark Tanks” based on the category/industry of their business. The idea was influenced by Daymond John, a celebrity investor, best known for his role on ABC’s reality show “Shark Tank.” John headlined UAlbany’s “World Within Reach” speaker series on March 28.

Seven teams moved onto the competition’s final round on Friday, April 15. Their businesses ranged widely, from charitable giving mobile apps, to technologies supporting cancer treatment. Three finalists were awarded cash prizes, including:

1.) Advanced Modular Instruments (total winnings $17,000): A modular multi-instrument centrifuge accessory (Tony Hoang, chemistry Ph.D., and Antoinette Fraser ’16, M.S. forensic biology)

2.) Youni (total winnings $5,500): A new social media platform driving real-time millennial analytics (Anthony Escamilla ’16, communications, and Jordan DiLapo ’16, business administration)

3.) MooPlans (total winnings $2,500): College meal plans for upperclassmen (Wesley Sherow ’16, physics, and Ami Le ’16, chemistry)

Blackstone Competition
Students Tony Hoang (above) and Antoinette Fraser were awarded the top cash prize at UAlbany's Blackstone LaunchPad business competition after presenting on their idea for a modular multi-instrument centrifuge accessory – Advanced Modular Instruments. (Photo by Paul Miller)

“These teams pitched hard-nosed investors successfully, many being approached by the judges/investors about support going forward,” said Jan Woodcock, executive director of UAlbany’s Blackstone LaunchPad program. “There were no losers in this competition. Students are developing the skills needed for career success, whether they end up self-employed, or working for another company.”

Woodcock said the winning teams are planning to use proceeds to help with start-up costs related to their businesses. Many of the students who participated will also be working with incubators, or expanding their business through other capacities this summer, including additional business competitions.

Recently, nine UAlbany student teams participated in Blackstone LaunchPad’s virtual Solve a Campus Challenge. Teams were asked to define a problem they were experiencing on their college campus and propose a solution in a 60 second pitch video. Each pitch was voted on by participants from 25 universities. Youni (from UAlbany) was the top public vote-getter, beating out hundreds of submissions with almost 3,000 “likes.” They were awarded with a $2,000 cash prize.

Blackstone Launchpad at UAlbany:

Last October, the Blackstone Charitable Foundation announced the expansion of its Blackstone LaunchPad entrepreneurship program to five New York State universities, including UAlbany.

Through the program, UAlbany’s 17,300 students are given access to individualized coaching as well as seminars and training sessions related to building their own business. Interested students can write business plans, complete financial analyses, and design marketing campaigns, while also being teamed up with external mentors and business incubators.

To learn more about the program, visit its official website. You can also contact executive director, Jan Woodcock, directly by email, or visit its location in the University’s Campus Center (adjacent to the Student Association offices).

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