New Illinois Launch Program – UI Student Entrepreneur Support System

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Posted on: February 18, 2010

What do the founders of Delta Airlines, You Tube, BET, and The Pampered Chef have in common? They all went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In an effort to continue in the long line of successful businesses coming out of the University of Illinois, the Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership (AEL) is starting a new program called Illinois Launch. In 2009, Al and Alex Goldstein donated money to the University of Illinois to get this program up and running. These young UI alumni founded CashNetUSA and sold it for $265,000,000 in 2006. They decided to not only give back to the university, but also to help fellow entrepreneurs realize the same success. Using their generous donation, the Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership has developed a new venture pipeline program to link existing campus efforts and initiatives and to create new opportunities for mentoring and funding.

Mentoring and Coaching: Students who apply to Illinois Launch are assigned a launch advisor who ushers them through the myriad of entrepreneurial opportunities available on and around the university. The advisor will recommend coursework, competitions, workshops and events for the students to attend. Additionally, student ventures will be assigned a mentor to help push their businesses to the next level. Participants may be at any stage in the venture process. These mentors can coach students in testing the feasibility of an idea and creating a business model, and provide industry specific advice and tips to make their company more appealing to investors.

Funding Opportunities: Through Illinois Launch, student ventures can apply for funding from various sources. The Academy offers funds to students with promising ideas or businesses. These dollars can be used to help budding companies test a product idea, secure legal representation, purchase equipment, or hire staff, for example. Further, Launch partners with IllinoisVENTURES, Illini Entrepreneurial Center Network (IECN), and Illinois Angels to make venture funding, state grants and angel funds available to Launch participants. Finally, Launch partners with the Technology Entrepreneur Center (TEC) to provide Winter and Summer Bootcamps with the culminating goal of pitching to investors at a Demo Day in Chicago. During the Summer Bootcamp, an up to $25,000 iV10 boost will be available to eligible participants (

Summer Workshop: The Summer Start-Up Development Program, a new program formed by the Launch partners to strengthen the pipeline, will begin Summer 2010. Students will have access to mentors, up to $10,000 from AEL, incubator space, iV10 boost and more. The Academy will collaborate with TEC to create a week long workshop in Chicago to meet some of the who’s who in Illinois innovation, entrepreneurship and venture capital. The week will consist of visits and tours to Illinois businesses, and lectures and roundtable discussions with successful entrepreneurs, corporate leaders and venture capitalists. Students will have many opportunities to network with these potential mentors. Upon returning to Champaign-Urbana, the teams will get back to work on bringing their ideas closer to launch. The Academy, in partnership with EnterpriseWorks, will provide incubator space for teams. The weeks will be packed with workshops and learning opportunities. Certain teams will be selected to participate in the iV10 boost. These teams will receive $25,000 and specific, hands-on coaching from the professionals at Illinois Ventures. At the end of summer, teams will present to an audience of coaches and mentors in Chicago. At this Demo Day, teams will receive constructive criticism and final words of advice before potentially presenting to investors. Promising ventures will be encouraged to apply for funding from the Illinois Angels. Application fees will be waived for Illinois Launch participants. The Illinois Angels pitch luncheon will take place in October, 2010.

Launch Partners: Technology Entrepreneur Center, iVENTURES10, The Illini Entrepreneurship Network, EnterpriseWorks. 

Application: , a kick-off event will be on 2/18 at 4:00 pm.