Out of nearly 100 student entrepreneurial teams from schools across the U.S. and Ireland, Credit Starter, Cllctve, and Eat Makhana rose above the rest and won in the 2019 Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars Propel pitch competition. Judges from organizations including Blackstone, Techstars, and Shutterstock evaluated ventures on business model/viability, team strength, and presentation quality.

“Of course innovation, resilience, and drive are important characteristics of the student founders we want to support and cultivate,” said Blackstone Charitable Foundation executive director Amy Stursberg, “But what really impressed us this year, was the ingenious solutions these young entrepreneurs are developing to address problems their own fellow students struggle with!”

2019 LaunchPad Propel winning businesses included:

1st Place: Credit Starter, founded by Michael Broughton at USC is working to overcome the obstacle of developing a positive credit history as a young person. While predatory practices of credit card companies can present real risk to students long term, Michael has recognized that safer and commonly repeated payments (including student tuition, gym memberships, and streaming entertainment bills) can be utilized to help students build credit.

2nd Place: Cllctve. After struggling to balance her own successful creative content development work with the demands of school, Cllctve cofounder and Syracuse University student Kelsy Davis is developing an online marketplace to efficiently connect other young creators with companies needing talent. Cllctve re-positions brands for success, while simultaneously nurturing the freelance community on college campuses across the country.

3rd Place: Eat Makhana. Mallika Chawla, Amruta Gadgil, and Vineet Sinha, alumni of the University of California, Berkeley are on their own mission to help fellow students stay healthy by offering delicious, nutritious, allergy-friendly foods from popped water lily seeds. Based on a snack common in her childhood home in India, these young entrepreneurs have also taken an innovative approach to the widely recognized challenge of breaking into the grocery store aisle – successfully targeting corporate cafeteria and snack rooms.

“The GiveFirst philosophy is ingrained in everything we do at Techstars – from our mentorship driven Accelerators to our university-focused LaunchPad partnership with Blackstone,” said Techstars founder David Cohen. “It is incredibly exciting to see the college students involved in this network so naturally developing businesses that help their fellow students out.”

In addition to the annual Propel event in New York each fall, LaunchPad also offers Lift and Startup Weekend. Lift, offered in the spring and summer, is a 10-week, virtual, mentorship-driven cohort program that take student teams from any of the 20+ LaunchPad campuses to the next level. LaunchPad Startup Weekends are where ideas are sparked and new companies are formed and take place at many of the LaunchPad college campuses throughout the year.

For more information about the LaunchPad network and to get your campus involved, please visit www.blackstonelaunchpad.org.


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