Annenberg Innovation Lab’s program has drawn interdisciplinary students from across USC.
The Blackstone Charitable Foundation has chosen four USC student ventures to participate in the first annual Blackstone LaunchPad Demo Day in New York City from October 26 to October 28. The student ventures were evaluated and selected based on their product, business model and scalability.
The four distinguished USC student ventures and their leaders are: Walid Abdul-Wahad of Desert Farms, America’s first retail camel’s milk company; Jordan Banafsheha of Bread & Butter, which connects food retailers with a daily food surplus with underserved communities; Drew Park of Q-Cigarettes, a low-tech, low-cost tool to improve the delivery of nicotine polacrilex gum to quitting smokers; Joshua Ahdoot of Piggy, which helps users save money by depositing all change from purchases back into their bank accounts.
Each student venture invited to participate arose out of Blackstone LaunchPad, a co-curricular, experiential, campus program designed to introduce entrepreneurship as a viable career path and develop entrepreneurial skills and mindsets through individualized coaching, idea and venture creation support.
The Blackstone LaunchPad program at USC operates out of the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, and has quickly become a hub that has attracted interdisciplinary students from across the university. Modeled after a program at University of Miami and further developed and expanded by The Blackstone Charitable Foundation, the program is currently available to more than 350,000 students at 15 colleges and universities nationwide. Since its establishment at USC in Spring 2014, USC Blackstone LaunchPad has advised more than 70 ventures and 200 students.
The Blackstone LaunchPad Demo Day is being held as part of a wider convening of representatives from Blackstone LaunchPad programs around the country. During the conference, these representatives will share best practices, discuss strategies for program implementation and innovation, and — as part of the Demo Day segment — showcase the most promising student ventures from their respective schools.
Participants at the event are competing for first, second and third place prizes of $25,000, $15,000, and $10,000, respectively, to be used for further business development. Judges at the event include Stephen A. Schwarzman, Blackstone’s Chairman, CEO, and Co-Founder, and other Blackstone executives. Schwarzman will also deliver keynote remarks.
“Entrepreneurship is central to Blackstone’s culture, and is the single most effective way to spur economic growth and job creation,” Schwarzman said. “The new and innovative companies participating in the Blackstone LaunchPad Demo Day have the potential to impact their local economies, and we look forward to seeing them do so.”
“Through the partnership between The Blackstone Charitable Foundation and USC Annenberg Innovation Lab, we are able to provide all USC students with the resources, space, counsel and development they need to build their venture from an idea into a concrete, scalable business,” said Erin Reilly, Director of Blackstone LaunchPad USC. “In only two short months since our soft launch, we are proud to have four of our student teams nominated as part of the 20 finalists. This bodes well for the continued success of Blackstone LaunchPad USC in fostering the entrepreneurial spirit and empowering our students with resources and connections.”