UT LaunchPad launches new grants for undergraduate student startups

Raiyan Shaik , General News Reporter

UT’s LaunchPad, a student entrepreneurship program, is accepting applications for new StartUP grants to provide funding to any undergraduate student for their entrepreneurial ventures. 

“We’re really not here to generate companies,” LaunchPad managing director Nina Ho said. “We’re here to generate great problem solvers and young people who are going to be ready for the workforce of tomorrow. We serve students along their entire student entrepreneur journey.”

The StartUP grants program is currently distributing its fourth round of grants since launching in summer 2021, Ho said. During the current cycle, LaunchPad will hand out $25,000 in funds ranging from $500 to $5,000 per student. Ten thousand dollars are specifically reserved for members of the Heman Sweatt Center for Black Males and FoundHER members of the Kendra Scott Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute. 

“When it comes to LaunchPad, they give everyone a fair shot,” said Alyssa Le, business honors and management information systems junior and founder and CEO of Locket. “They do a really good job of empowering people who are interested in entrepreneurship to take their ventures further. They (create) a space for everybody, regardless of your major, regardless of your gender, regardless of your racial background, whatever it may be.”

The application process requires students to submit a one-page overview of their proposed entrepreneurial opportunity, a budget spreadsheet, one recommendation and an optional resume, according to the LaunchPad website. If accepted, Ho said students are given two-thirds of the grant immediately, and given the rest at the end of three mandatory mentorship meetings. So far, the program has served 29 students and handed out $45,000 in grants.

“Entrepreneurship can actually be quite an exclusionary word,” Ho said. “There’s a lot of connotations around it, like white men (and) Silicon Valley. Part of our mission at LaunchPad is to help students understand that starting something is entrepreneurship. We want to support you and we are here to support you (with) getting started. That’s our main thing.”

The LaunchPad is under the umbrella of the Blackstone LaunchPad network, which serves 46 schools across the U.S., according to their website. Ho said the association and funding through Blackstone creates even more opportunities for UT students, especially on the national level. 

“Blackstone is one of the many building blocks right now that hold up this massive startup community,” said Siddharth Thakur, electrical engineering sophomore and founder of FireBot. “It’s important for entrepreneurs to connect with (LaunchPad) to figure out where they need to go because, oftentimes, it gets overwhelming with all the resources. Blackstone (helps) entrepreneurs navigate this massive ecosystem.”

The fall cycle application deadline for StartUP grants is Sept. 30, and students will be notified of their acceptance status on Oct. 7, according to the website. 

“Whether it’s interacting at the LaunchPad or interacting in different student (organizations), entrepreneurial skills aren’t just for starting new ventures and making a startup,” Le said. “They’re applicable in other ways of life, in how you think and how you address problems. Regardless of if I pursue Locket, if I pursue another social venture or if I decide to not continue my founder journey, there’s a lot that I’ve learned through the resources on this campus exploring entrepreneurship.”