COVID-19 Can’t Stop Student Innovation: Syracuse University, Cornell and the University of Buffalo host virtual Blackstone LaunchPad Startup Weekend

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Students interested in learning about entrepreneurship and what it takes to start a business are invited to gather virtually for the annual LaunchPad & Techstars Startup Weekend. This October, three New York State Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars network universities are partnering to host a 54-hour entrepreneurial experience featuring workshops, mentor feedback, and a friendly pitch competition that challenges students to think creatively, communicate effectively, and work in a team. The free event, from October 23 to 25, is being coordinated by the LaunchPads at University of Buffalo, Syracuse University and Cornell University. Participation is limited to 25 per school, so sign up now here.

LaunchPad Startup Weekends are free for any students from LaunchPad network schools and led by trained Techstars Startup Weekend facilitators.

More info about the event is here: NEW YORK: 10/23-25/20.

Other regional events are also scheduled this fall for other parts of the country:  TEXAS: University of Texas, Dallas, 10/2-4/20; CALIFORNIA: University of California, San Francisco, 10/23-25/20; and PENNSYLVANIA: Temple University, 10/16-18/20.

“Startup Weekends aren’t just about founding an actual business,” said Amy Stursberg, Executive Director of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation. “We believe that building skills in presentation, problem solving, collaboration, and resilience, combined with the more traditional academic curriculum, provide students the skills needed to succeed in the 21st century workforce.”

“While the idea of entrepreneurship may intimidate some students, Startup Weekends provide an ideal introductory experience to starting a business,” said Amy Smith, Senior Vice President, Product for Techstars. “We believe good ideas can come from anyone, anywhere, and that it is critically important for colleges and universities to present entrepreneurship as one of many journeys, to all their students, which can have hugely positive outcomes for them and all their communities.”

“Last fall we ran an incredible sold-out Startup Weekend at Syracuse University,” said Syracuse LaunchPad executive director Linda Dickerson Hartsock. “The event not only launched ideas that turned into ventures that won campus, state and national competitions, but brought students together to make friendships that will last their college careers and beyond.  We are hoping to replicate that sense of enthusiasm and camaraderie at our first virtual even. This is the first time that Syracuse University, Cornell and Buffalo University have collaborated to bring students together from across the network, and we are certain it will be a top-notch event.  It’s a chance to meet top idea-generators from leading entrepreneurship programs across Upstate New York.”

Over the course of the weekend, each participant team will learn how to conduct market research, define a minimum viable product, perform customer validation, and complete a business model canvas. Following hours of pitch practice and refining, each team will then give their final presentation to a panel of expert judges on Sunday afternoon. 

Ilene Marcus is a Techstars Global Facilitator

The facilitator for the New York State Blackstone LaunchPad Startup Weekend is Ilene Marcus, a Techstars Global Facilitator.  She speaks, writes and mentors on business development and navigating team dynamics. With more than 30 years in executive positions at multi-million-dollar organizations, including running one of the largest social welfare agencies in the country, Ilene shares techniques and insights on how to glide through these interactions with grace, ease and humor. Ilene’s special brand of advice has been widely featured in Glamor, Readers Digest, Fast Company, Huff Post, MSN, and HR.Com, as well as podcasts and radio.

She holds a MSW and MPA from Columbia University and is Founder of Aligned Workplace, training people to get out of their own way and move to the next level. She is the author of MANAGING ANNOYING PEOPLE: 7 Proven Tactics to Maximize Team Performance, on

About Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars

The Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars entrepreneurship network helps students succeed in entrepreneurship and in their careers. Open to all students and recent alumni in all majors, the campus-based Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars network enables participants to access mentoring, grow their network, and access the resources to accelerate the success of their business. For more information, see

About Blackstone Charitable Foundation

The Blackstone Charitable Foundation was founded at the time of Blackstone’s IPO in 2007 with substantial commitments from the Firm’s employees. Influenced by the enterprising heritage of the firm and its founders, The Blackstone Charitable Foundation is directing its resources and applying the intellectual capital of the firm to foster entrepreneurship in areas nationwide and globally. Through its investment expertise across several asset classes and geographies, Blackstone has a unique perspective on the global economy and a heightened understanding of how entrepreneurial activity is often the crucial catalyst in the growth of successful businesses, industries, and communities. For more information, see

About Techstars

Techstars is the global platform for investment and innovation. Techstars founders connect with other entrepreneurs, experts, mentors, alumni, investors, community leaders, and corporations to grow their companies. Techstars operates three divisions: Techstars Mentorship-Driven Accelerator Programs, Techstars Corporate Innovation Partnerships, and Techstars Communities. Techstars accelerator portfolio includes more than 2,200 companies with a market cap of more than $27 billion.