Network to Promote High-Growth Start-Ups

The Blackstone Charitable Foundation and a consortium of major Triangle universities announced Monday the launch of the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network, a five-year initiative to help North Carolina’s Research Triangle become headquarters for high-growth companies with the greatest potential to create jobs.

UNC is partnering with Duke, N.C. Central and N.C. State universities in the effort, and the Council for Entrepreneurial Development, based in Durham, also will be part of the network.

Blackstone Charitable Foundation is making a $3.63 million gift to help create the network, which is envisioned as similar to networks that exist in Silicon Valley and the Boston Corridor. The goal of the program is to identify and mentor 30 start-up teams each year, for a total of 150 over the program’s five-year span. Officials say that by linking talented serial entrepreneurs to local start-ups, over 10 years the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network could create more than 17,000 jobs, attract more than $800 million in seed, start-up and expansion capital, and generate more than $4 billion in revenue.

Influenced by the current need for job growth in the U.S., Blackstone changed its foundation’s mission and made the grant as part of its Entrepreneurship Initiative, committing $50 million to fostering entrepreneurship in areas with high unemployment and where Blackstone has a presence.

“The Blackstone Charitable Foundation views support for entrepreneurship as a critically important element in meaningfully building jobs and improving the United States’ growth and competitiveness,” said Stephen A. Schwarzman, chairman, CEO and co-founder of The Blackstone Group. “We are pleased to join this partnership to develop what will be a dynamic regional network capable of applying the operational expertise and coordinated, laser-like focus on bringing ideas to market.”

The Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network is expected to draw from the ranks of veteran “master entrepreneurs” to identify marketable innovations out of area universities and regional start-ups with the greatest potential to become high-growth companies. Ideal targets are teams and concepts with the highest-deemed capacity – specifically, start-ups that have the potential to create $40 million in revenue and become profitable within 10 years and that are in the early stages of fundraising. Master Entrepreneurs will then mentor these local entrepreneurs in company-building and provide access to the broader Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network. This greater network will include sector experts, venture coaches, angel investors and administrative and marketing support.

“North Carolina’s 50-year history of investing in research and development has created a deep pool of talent that makes this region ripe for growth,” said UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp ’86. “Our universities are positioned to drive our economy forward and be engines of growth. We have people with great ideas. The Blackstone Master Entrepreneurs Network will connect those people with the expertise that will help them get their ideas off the ground and into the marketplace.” 

Duke University President Richard Brodhead agreed: “The four universities play a critical economic role in the Triangle region: We generate knowledge, produce new technology and educate future entrepreneurs to take the lead in creating jobs. Duke has recently launched a new initiative to support innovation and entrepreneurship, and we can accomplish even more by aligning our efforts with those on other local campuses. This new network will accelerate entrepreneurial activity for all four universities, which will benefit the Triangle region and the state of North Carolina.”

N.C. Central University Chancellor Charlie Nelms said: “We’re delighted to have access to the know-how of a Blackstone Master Entrepreneur on our campus. We look forward to expert assistance in realizing the potential for technology transfer at our biomanufacturing institute, and also with our research in nanoscale materials, biochemical sensors and mobile robotics.”

N.C. State University Chancellor Randy Woodson said:Nationally recognized programs at N.C. State provide unique opportunities for students to develop entrepreneurial knowledge, skills and networks. Through our engagement and research by our faculty and students, we helped launch more than 80 start-up companies like Biolex and Liposcience. Industry-leading companies like SAS and Cree trace their roots to technologies developed at NC State. We are pleased to join with Blackstone and our North Carolina partners to launch this new entrepreneurial venture and create much-needed jobs for the region and state.”

The Blackstone Charitable Foundation was founded when The Blackstone Group had an initial public offering in 2007. The foundation is known for fostering entrepreneurship in areas hardest hit by the global economic crisis.

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