UTRGV receives grant to help students build companies

By LETTY FERNANDEZ, Special to the Star

UTRGV is one of several campuses in the University of Texas System to receive a substantial gift from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation to expand its signature Blackstone LaunchPad student entrepreneurship programming.

UTRGV recently was awarded more than $500,000 over three years to bring the program — designed to help students build companies and develop entrepreneurial skills that ensure career readiness — to the university.

Through the Blackstone LaunchPad, UTRGV students will have access to more tools to transform their ideas into a plan, and will be able to utilize Launchpad’s events, mentorships and professional network.

“This will give our students more resources to help develop their ideas, and take them to market,” said Laurie Simmons, director of Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Commercialization at the UTRGV Center for Innovation and Commercialization.

“Building scalable ventures, and keeping those ventures in the Rio Grande Valley, ultimately will create more jobs and strengthen the regional economy.”

The first official Blackstone Launchpad Event at UTRGV will be The Big Idea Competition, to be held virtually on March 10. It will bring together undergraduate and graduate students from all disciplines, as well as faculty, alumni and community members, to pitch their innovative startup ideas to a panel of judges.

Entrepreneur, author and speaker Courtney Gras will serve as the keynote speaker.

“The deadline to submit for the Big Idea Competition was Feb. 17, and we had 45 submissions,” Simmons said.

“A pool of judges is currently reviewing the submissions, narrowing it down to the top 10. Those participants will vie for multiple prizes, with the winner taking home $3,000.”

The public can participate in the event and vote on their favorite idea.

For more information or to register, visit The Big Idea Competition 2021 | University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (startuptree.co)