That’s the amount of venture capital 86 companies raised while receiving mentorship from Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network over the last three years. Those companies went on to raise an additional $66 million after working closely with a team of experienced entrepreneurs-in-residence.
When the program kicked off in 2012, it was the first of its kind for the prestigious New York investment firm and in many ways a test for how corporations can better support entrepreneurial communities around the nation. Blackstone set aside $50 million for entrepreneurship initiatives after its IPO, and UNC’s Judith Cone immediately applied for funds to start the network in North Carolina. After receiving $3.6 million, she formed a board, hired an executive director, found the initial dozen entrepreneurs-in-residence and formed a partnership with UNC, Duke University, North Carolina State University and North Carolina Central University to feed their most promising young companies into the mentorship program.
Her motivation was to make the Triangle a top five entrepreneurial hot spot—it’s the same mission she’s worked toward since she left a post with the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City in 2009 to become the special assistant to the chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship at UNC.
Any company can apply for mentorship from the EIRs—the universities agreed from the beginning that the EIRs should take the best ideas and companies they find. According to Cone, plenty of those have hailed from the local universities despite the lack of a mandate. Besides the 86 mentees, more than 200 companies have received support from Blackstone’s entrepreneurs-in-residence.
Mentees are expected to set milestones to work toward with their mentors. It could be setting a strategic plan, raising funds, hiring staff or setting up an advisory board. That won’t change even as the organization looks a little different over time, Cone says.
The biggest aha over the last year is the realization that enough people are committed to Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network to ensure it lives on.
“We’re getting close to realizing what they wanted for us and what we want for ourselves too,” Cone says.