Does your roommate insist you are crazy when you say you are interested in entrepreneurship? Do you hear about a different workshop, incubator, or event for entrepreneurship every day at Cornell and don’t know where to start? Joining Blackstone LaunchPad is a great first step.
Last month, Cornell welcomed Felix Litvinsky as its Managing Director for Blackstone LaunchPad, a multinational initiative to build entrepreneurship on college campuses through mentorship and access to a growing network of universities and resources. This free, confidential mentorship is available to all students, alumni, staff, and faculty at any stage of their projects.
Mr. Litvinsky is an experienced entrepreneur who is excited about spending time with all Cornellians interested in building companies. He shared his story and the scope of Blackstone LaunchPad with Entrepreneurship@Dyson
Tell me about your entrepreneurship experiences.
In 1999 I launched my first company addressing the information security market with a combination of hardware and software technology. We raised funding from a small venture fund and a set of angel investors. I hired a management team in the United States and built a team in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The people in Saint Petersburg were hand-picked by my co-founder and partner who was a professor of computer science at one of the universities there.
Multimedia, video, and audio were becoming big, and since our initial focus did not get market traction, we started developing certain sets of algorithms and working with companies like Sarnoff SRI, Panasonic, Yamaha, LG, and a number of semiconductor manufacturers. In 2007 we were acquired by ARC International, a company based in San Jose, California trading on the London Stock Exchange.
Several years later, I went back on my own and formed a company called Abakama. I started working on strategy advisory and business development in Eastern Europe, got involved in academia, angel investing, playing a role as a judge in a lot of startup competitions, and continued doing my strategy work. I also co-founded an accelerator in New York City for minorities and women and became an advisor and mentor at Princeton University. I then saw Blackstone LaunchPad starting programs in New York State and here I am.
What impact do you wish to make at Cornell?
Hopefully the impact I am going to make is Cornell’s startup ecosystem increases tenfold. We create yet another alternative for the students, to consider another approach to their careers. We want to increase the base of entrepreneurs and founders. The goal is to increase the number of companies and see economic growth within the region – here around Ithaca, New York City and overall New York State.
Why is college a good time to begin a startup?
Startups are risks. College is a safe environment to take risks, and even if you fail you’re not a failure. When you follow certain processes, build a great team, find a problem to solve, look for customers, have exciting technology, and work hard and then for some reason you don’t get market traction or you’re at the wrong place at the wrong time, the worst thing that happens is you learn.
If you want to try to develop an idea, get something out fast, talk to customers, launch, and if it doesn’t work, step back and try something again. At the end of the day, you want to create an enterprise where customers pay you for your services or products.
What can students expect from the new Blackstone LaunchPad space opening in Kennedy Hall?
It’s a community entrepreneurship space. You can come there any time of the day. It’s space for you as a student, alumni, or staff. There are a number of conference rooms so you can strategize, discuss problems, and get mentorship. We create an environment for you to create. Create in the day, create in the night, anytime.
Blackstone LaunchPad will relocate our offices to Kennedy. We want to be right next to the people we work with using our services. Our services are mentoring, advisory, coaching, and providing access to a Venture Board online resources through Blackstone LaunchPad. Blackstone LaunchPad has a variety of resources like access to software, networking, other schools, and other members in the USA and abroad.
What is the best way to get involved with Blackstone LaunchPad?
Definitely register, but take the initiative and stop by and talk to us. If you have an idea, great. If you don’t have an idea, fantastic. Let’s talk. If you’ve launched a company, even better. Let’s discuss the approach and see how we can help you. You can make an appointment or just stop by. I’m here from early in the morning to late at night to help everyone be successful.