Skip to main content

Foundation Initiative Boosts Entrepreneurs Network Based at Triangle Universities

Blackstone Charitable Foundation Commits $3.6 Million to Create Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network in N.C.'s Research Triangle

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

Partner universities include Duke University, North Carolina Central University, North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Durham-based Council for Entrepreneurial Development also will be part of the effort.

A $3.63 million gift from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation will support the formation of a dense network of entrepreneurial support in the region, 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. By linking talented serial entrepreneurs to local start-ups, the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network has the potential over 10 years to 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.

The Blackstone Charitable Foundation made the grant as part of its Entrepreneurship Initiative. Influenced by the urgent need for job growth in the United States in the wake of the economic collapse, Blackstone changed its foundation's mission and committed $50 million to fostering entrepreneurship in places with high unemployment and where Blackstone works and lives. The foundation looks for innovative projects and catalytic ideas that can meaningfully contribute to the economic rebuilding of the nation. In North Carolina's Research Triangle, Blackstone saw an opportunity to build on an innovation hub with great growth potential.

"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 partnership was announced at an event in Durham. In addition to Schwarzman, attendees included Gov. Bev Perdue; U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan; U.S. Rep. Brad Miller; Ginger Lew, Senior Adviser to the National Economic Council at the White House and the Small Business Administration Administrator; Duke President Richard Brodhead; NC Central Chancellor Charlie Nelms; NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson; UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp; and Joan Siefert Rose, President of the Council for Entrepreneurial Development.How it works:

The Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network will 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.What They Are Saying: A Quote RoundupN.C. Governor Bev Perdue:"The Blackstone Foundation's generous investment in the future of North Carolina is going to play a vital role in our state as we continue to out-build, out-innovate and out-educate the competition. Since day one, jobs and education have been my top priorities, and I know that this program will unlock the incredible potential of North Carolina, creating new opportunities for our brightest minds and most aggressive entrepreneurs."U.S. Senator Richard Burr:"I applaud Blackstone's investment in North Carolina. This initiative will foster creative innovation and entrepreneurship between businesses and some of the best universities in the country."U.S. Senator Kay Hagan:"I am thrilled that the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network is partnering with our North Carolina universities to attract 21st Century companies and jobs to the Research Triangle. Business leaders in Washington and North Carolina tell me all the time how much they appreciate and respect the work ethic of North Carolinians, and I greatly look forward to seeing the ideas, businesses and jobs that our local entrepreneurs will generate through this project."U.S. Representative Brad Miller:"In the Triangle, we are fortunate to have renowned universities that foster research, innovation and outstanding academics. With its generous gift from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, an incubator that will marry ideas to action and bring products to the marketplace is being created right here in our backyard. The project plans to have 30 start-up entrepreneurial ventures this year alone. I'm proud of the talent that we have here and anticipate this intelligent collaboration to be very successful."U.S. Representative David Price:"By helping innovators make the Research Triangle home, the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network will help create more good, high-paying jobs in our community. Winning the future is about investing in entrepreneurs with big ideas that have big potential, and this initiative answers that call."Richard Brodhead, Duke University President: "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."Charlie Nelms, NC Central University Chancellor: "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." Randy Woodson, NC State University Chancellor: "Nationally recognized programs at NC 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."

Holden Thorp, UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor: "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. 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." Joan Siefert Rose, Council for Entrepreneurial Development President: "This partnership between the Blackstone Foundation, the area's universities and the leading entrepreneurial support organization makes the statement that Research Triangle Park not only welcomes, but embraces people with bright ideas and big ambitions.  Entrepreneurs seeking a place to start or grow their companies will see this initiative as a reason to put RTP at the top of the list."            -    -    -    -About The Blackstone Charitable Foundation: The Blackstone Charitable Foundation was founded at the time of The Blackstone Group's Initial Public Offering 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 hardest hit by the global economic crisis. 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 Duke University: From its main campus in Durham and growing programs around the globe, Duke University is among the world's top universities. Its graduate and professional schools -- in business, divinity, engineering, the environment, law, medicine, nursing and public policy -- are among the leaders in their fields. In October 2010, Duke launched a major initiative to promote entrepreneurship and innovation across the university. The effort seeks to produce new jobs and industries and also to address social problems by speeding the transfer of Duke innovations into the marketplace and helping faculty and students transform creative ideas into real-world applications. (For information, see About North Carolina Central University:Founded in 1910, North Carolina Central University was the first publicly supported liberal arts college for African-Americans and is located close to what was once known as "The Black Wall Street." Today, this dynamic campus has a diverse student body enrolled in academic programs including law, biotechnology, library science, business, nursing, education and the arts. NCCU's Biomanufacturing Research Institute and Technology Enterprise was developed in collaboration with the pharmaceutical industry in Research Triangle Park to establish a pipeline for drug discovery and manufacturing process improvements that have the potential for patents and marketing in entrepreneurial ventures. (For information, see  About North Carolina State University:Throughout its history, NC State has been an engine for North Carolina’s economic development. Unique partnerships and collaborations across the state have helped to create more than 13,000 jobs, including technologies that led to the creation of industry-leading companies such as SAS and Cree. Springboard connects external partners and NC State innovators, while nationally recognized programs -- including the Technology Entrepreneurship and Commercialization program and the Entrepreneurship Initiative -- provide unique opportunities for students to develop entrepreneurial knowledge, skills and networks. (For information, see About the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the nation's first public university, is a leader in American higher education and known around the world for innovative teaching, research and public service. Carolina offers bachelor's, master's, doctorate and professional degree programs through 14 schools and the College of Arts and Sciences. Every day, faculty, staff and students shape their teaching, research and public service priorities to meet North Carolina's most pressing needs. UNC-Chapel Hill is implementing Innovate@Carolina, a plan to help Carolina become a world leader in launching university-born ideas for the good of society. (For information, refer to About the Council for Entrepreneurial Development: The Council for Entrepreneurial Development (CED), the Southeast's largest entrepreneurial support organization, connects emerging growth companies with the necessary tools and resources to start something new. A private, non-profit organization, CED harnesses its broad network to support companies that want to take their business to the next level. As the oldest entrepreneurial network in the country, CED has enabled entrepreneurs to raise more than $1 billion in capital, launched more than 700 companies and currently serves more than 5,500 active members representing nearly 1,100 companies in North Carolina. (For information, see