LaunchHouse shifts focus to educating student entrepreneurs

When Todd Goldstein and Dar Caldwell first created LaunchHouse in 2008, the organization was the first accelerator in the region to support early-stage startup companies. Since then, LaunchHouse has supported 62 companies and secured $23 million in follow-on funding. “We’re still going to work with our portfolio companies and help those companies be successful,” says Goldstein.

But earlier this month, LaunchHouse announced it was moving away from its adult accelerator model and instead will focus on fostering student entrepreneurs. The move comes with the success of the LaunchHouse Institute, a program started two years ago by LaunchHouse the and Shaker Heights Development Corporation as a way to educate, mentor and invest in student entrepreneurs.

“We’re going back to the roots of LaunchHouse, which are education, investing and bringing the entire community together, and create successful, vibrant entrepreneurs,” says Goldstein. “We’re reinforcing our position as a place in the community for entrepreneurial organizations to start and grow businesses. We’re really recognizing that education is the first step in growing any business.”

With the establishment of the LaunchHouse Institute came LEAP, one of the country’s first high school accelerators. Students go through a summer program to take business ideas to fruition. “I think what’s exciting about entrepreneurship is the opportunity to be creative while doing something to make money,” says Katie Connelly, LaunchHouse’s director of entrepreneurial programming. “You’re never too young to think about entrepreneurship and starting a business.”

The decision to focus on students came in part after noticing a skills gap in adult entrepreneurs. Goldstein saw the need to teach basic skills, like speaking to people and writing a professional emails, to young entrepreneurs in middle school, high school and college.

This summer LaunchHouse will also offer a Hack-a-Thing, one-day and five-day programs for middle and high school students centered on developing a physical product, says Connelly.

Additionally, through funding from the Arminius Foundation LaunchHouse will place two shipping containers in its garage for office space. The containers can house between two and 10 employees. “There’s no space for entrepreneurs who are growing and need space,” explains Goldstein. “This is an agile space to work out of. LaunchHouse is really a place for all entrepreneurs.”

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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