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The Blackstone Charitable Foundation and a consortium of Triangle universities have launched the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network, a five-year initiative to help the Research Triangle become headquarters for the next high-growth companies with the greatest potential to create new jobs.

Besides UNC-Chapel Hill, partners include Duke, NC Central and NC State universities along with the Durham-based Council for Entrepreneurial Development.

The $3.63 million gift from the Blackstone foundation will support creating a dense network of entrepreneurial support, similar to existing networks in Silicon Valley and the Boston Corridor. The goal is to identify and mentor 30 startup teams annually for a total of 150 over five years. By linking talented entrepreneurs to local startups, the network has the potential over a decade to create more than 17,000 jobs, attract more than $800 million in seed, startup and expansion capital, and generate more than $4 billion in revenue.

The Blackstone foundation made the gift as part of its entrepreneurship initiative, a $50 million commitment to identify innovative projects and catalytic ideas that can meaningfully contribute to the nation’s economic recovery. In the Research Triangle, Blackstone saw an opportunity to build on an innovation hub with great growth potential.

The foundation “views support for entrepreneurship as a critically important element in meaningfully building jobs and improving the United States’ growth and competitiveness,” said Stephen 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 network will draw from the ranks of veteran master entrepreneurs to identify marketable innovations from Triangle universities and regional startups with the greatest potential to become high-growth companies. Ideal targets are teams and concepts with the highest-deemed capacity –specifically, startups with 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 then will mentor these local entrepreneurs in company-building and provide access to the broader entrepreneur network.

“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,” said Chancellor Holden Thorp. “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.”

Others participating in the April 25 announcement in Durham 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; Duke President Richard Brodhead; NC Central Chancellor Charlie Nelms; and NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson.

Like the other Triangle campuses, Carolina is currently placing special emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship. Through the Innovate@Carolina Roadmap, UNC aims to become a world leader in launching university-born ideas for the good of society.

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