Launching into the future

Three years ago, on a tour of the Chapman campus, high school student Isaac Lien listened intently as the student guide mentioned the Launch Labs as visitors approached the Argyros School of Business and Economics. Lien, now a junior computer information systems major, knew then this was the place for him.

And once he got here, it didn’t take long for him to connect to the Launch Labs.

Recently, the company he founded while still going to classes, GrandPad, issued a press release announcing its partnership with Acer, one of the world’s top five branded PC vendors. For a startup as young as Lien’s, this was a significant opportunity. He credits the Launch Labs with helping him get there.

“The Launch Labs is an incredible resource for student entrepreneurs, and something that not all universities offer,” said Lien.

The Launch Labs at the Leatherby Center was created to help student entrepreneurs, and even alumni, with their business ventures through mentoring and providing resources.

“The world is becoming more and more entrepreneurial. If we want to stay competitive we have to create entrepreneur and intrapreneur,” said Shan Steinmark, Director of the Leatherby Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Ethics.

Lien said the Launch Labs helping mainly by providing mentors. Noted Lien:

Dr. Deb Ferber, and Dr. Shan Steinmark were hands-on mentors who helped lead our seed round of investment with Tech Coast Angels. They were instrumental in helping us reach our fundraising goals, which have allowed us to scale the business.”

GrandPad worked from the Launch Labs for a year before Lien realized that the team was growing rapidly.  To accommodate staff, Launch Labs helped him found a larger space near Chapman allowing Lien to continue his education while running his company.

Every day is different at the Launch Labs. Each startup is in a different stage of its life cycle. Alumni Bobby Springston spends most of his days at the Launch Lab working on or perfecting his product before he can present it to investors.

Photo by: Patrick Schmied. Quipley Interface for display.
Photo by: Patrick Schmied.
Quipley Interface for display.

Being a father of two, Springston quickly realized that schools all over the United States were losing funding for sports and music programs. He recognized that the process of fundraising for these programs was complicated.

So two years ago he founded Quipley, a card that can be downloaded and placed in your iPhone wallet. Each week the card will display a selected merchant around your location where a small percentage of the sale will go to team fundraising.

How did Launch Labs fit into this equation? Steinmark’s collaborations with Angel investors prompted the creation of a questionnaire about finance, product, market gross, and business models.

“Teams are more likely to receive funding through these questions so mentors and students tend to focus on them,” said Steinmark.

The Launch Labs is currently focusing on an E-Cube strategy (entertainment, education and entrepreneurship.) A third of the 30 teams in its incubator are entertainment related.

“Chapman has one of the top ten films school, we view this as a strategic differential advantage,” Steinmark of the Launch Labs said. “We can do things that other school will find hard-pressed to do. It’s not like they can’t do it, we just have an advantage,” said Steinmark.

23Fifteen is just one example of this advantage.

Karam Gill, business administration and finance major, is one of the three founders of the company.

23FIFTN is a full-serviced content agency that specializes in photography, film production and design.

The Launch Labs have helped 23Fifteen acquire interns and create a brand image for the company along with providing feedback on their business model. The company has already appeared on numerous social media outlets and major publications such as GQ, Billboard and Adweek.
“Our goal is to help them develop their teams and get them investor ready, we don’t give them any money, we just get them ready to go out there and ask for it,” said Steinmark.

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