The recently opened Blackstone LaunchPad at NUI Galway offers students, postgrads, alumni and staff the opportunity to feel out, test and nurture their fledgling startup ideas. They also have the opportunity to see if the life of an entrepreneur might be a possible or worthwhile career path to follow.
To help them with their questions and to provide support in determining the feasibility of ideas and creating a pathway of development is Executive Director, Mary Carty and Program Manager, Natalie Walsh.
LaunchPad is centrally located on the Concourse at the heart of the NUI Galway. No matter what background the students have or what degree they are pursuing, they can come to LaunchPad discuss their ideas.
Mary says that, “If they have an idea or they want to pitch something or present something, they want to build out some skills or they are just curious, they can just come in and talk to us and we’ll help them to figure out what’s next in their journey.”
Mary is herself an experienced entrepreneur having been CEO of Spoiltchild, an award winning design and development agency, and co-founder of Toddle, an email marketing system for small businesses. Prior to LaunchPad she co-founded Outbox, an incubator for young women with tech ideas.
“I pretty well understand how you start something, how you develop something, how you grow something.”
The number one question she hears is, “Is my idea a good idea?” To which the answer is, “We have to figure that out. This is the first stage of the conversation. Let’s figure out if this ideas has legs and what are you going to do next.
“We use the lean business model. That’s very good as it focuses very much on the problem that you want to solve. It focuses on the customer end – what the pain is and how you are going to help the customer solve that problem. It is a very interesting flip of the mind for a lot of people.”
Blackstone LaunchPad already works with over 500,000 students across the United States. In Galway, over six hundred students signed up for the program in the first month.
The space itself is mainly fitted out with benches and bare tables – no computers. “We wanted this space to be very collaborative and open so students could come in and talk about their ideas and work on their canvas. We have a well-used blackboard and people can become as hands on and as creative as they want.”
“We are signing up people from across the colleges. So that’s arts, humanities, social science, medicine; then, obviously, science and business as well.”
Mary says that LaunchPad is, “A one stop shop for ideas. Our aim is to help you to get you to the next point from where you are at with your idea.”
It is expected that some users will go on to other incubators and accelerators while others may go through the Technology Transfer Office (TTO) at NUI Galway.
“The pipeline is there and there are pathways that people can follow and we can help people to figure out where to go next.
“We have StartLab. PorterShed is going to come online. BioInnovate is here. The TTO office is here. No matter where you are at in your career or in your evolution as a startup there’s a place for you to go.”