Feb 28, 2017

Blackstone Charitable Foundation at SXSW 2017

What’s driving student entrepreneurship?

This year at South by Southwest (SXSW), The Blackstone Charitable Foundation will be discussing the trends shaping entrepreneurship across college campuses today. You can learn more about our panel and our sponsorshnothinip of the Student Start-Up Madness pitch competition below. In preparation for our panel on creating networks of student entrepreneurs, we surveyed the Student Start Up Madness participants and Blackstone LaunchPad network on their experiences to uncover the key questions we want to tackle while we’re in Austin next month.


When you look at the main reasons why students start their venture, almost 75% of ventures came from a good idea or a personal experience. We were surprised to see so few students finding inspiration from their classroom or a campus resource, while program staff on college campuses noted the opposite and identified resources on college campuses and class projects as the main driver of student entrepreneurship on their campuses. Interestingly, college campuses are investing more than ever before in entrepreneurship courses, as well as building out majors and minors in entrepreneurship. Based on what we’ve seen, we see a huge opportunity for campuses to not only support existing ventures but also to help identify potential entrepreneurs earlier through a number of venues – both experiential opportunities as well as academic environments – to help foster entrepreneurship.


When looking at the biggest challenges student entrepreneurs face, knowing what to do was a bigger challenge than access to funding. We see this across our Blackstone LaunchPad network as student entrepreneurs come to our campus offices seeking advice or support. That being said, capital is still critical. Dorm Room Fund, who will join our panel at SXSW, is working to better connect students to funders. But is there an opportunity to better connect funding with mentorship?


While we’re excited to see the value of school accelerators like Blackstone LaunchPad, the importance of mentorship is clear. For many students, it’s invaluable to have a guiding voice to help navigate starting their venture. But the challenge we see across all these resources is that they’re often limited to a student’s existing network. For students in rural communities or cities with fewer start-ups, this limitation is especially challenging. As start-up culture continues to thrive, students everywhere need access to high-quality sources of support.


When asked why students don’t start businesses in college, the largest reason was again being unsure of the basic steps in building a business. The second most common concern, ‘lack of exposure to entrepreneurship,’ reinforces this trend – too many students don’t have the resources in place to help get good ideas off the ground. This creates an important call to action for leaders in both the academic and start-up communities – empower entrepreneurs as early as possible.


Curious to hear more about what Blackstone has planned at SXSW? You can come join us at…

Panel: Building a Global Networkof College Entrepreneurs
Monday, March 13 from 12:30 PM to 1:30 PM at the Hilton, Salon D
Panelists from Blackstone LaunchPad, Techstars, and Dorm Room Fund will discuss how to support student entrepreneurs globally. They’ll look at the challenges and opportunities in connecting campuses and weigh the broader impact of “thinking big.” Panel will be moderated by Bill Murphy, Blackstone’s CTO.
SXSW Badge required to attend.

Student Start-Up Madness Pitch Competition
Monday, March 13 from 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM at the Hilton
Student Startup Madness is a nationwide tournament-style competition for college student digital media startups, culminating with the national finals at SXSW. This year, nearly 50% of the final 64 teams were from Blackstone LaunchPad program.
SXSW Badge required to attend.