UCF has been the starting point for several student-success stories. And with the addition of the Blackstone LaunchPad, a few Knights are blasting off full speed ahead into the world of business.
Since its opening last September, the LaunchPad has seen more than 1,000 student ventures come to fruition, said UCF spokewoman Courtney Gilmartin in a release. And this year, more than 2,000 students participated in UCF's Starter Riot to learn how to tun their start-up ideas into careers.
Among many success stories stemming from UCF's Blackstone LaunchPad — a national model for fostering entrepreneurship through higher education, according to its website — is Joox, the first ever fan-based app to reward fans for supporting and promoting music, which plans to have a Beta launch in February 2015.
Joox's founder and CEO, Ketan Rahangdale, a 21-year-old finance major who sold his first start-up with the guidance of his mentor and fellow UCF alumnus Mike O'Donnell, emphasized the importance of connections in succeeding down an entrepreneurial path.
"I was once told, you are the five closest people to you and you know everything they know," Rahangdale said.
He also stressed a few key ideas to build a successful business: Create a network. Build a team. Execute an idea. Have a mentor. Of these, Rahangdale has found that building a team is the most important.
"It is my team that executes. I can't do anything on my own," Rahangdale said.
His team consists of three others, including Allan Adzima, Hugo Cardona and Jason Koenig, all of whom are either UCF students or alumni.
Rahangdale said he appreciates the guidance and support he has received, especially from the Blackstone LaunchPad, which he said played a vital role in Joox's growth. For some students, he added, getting past certain stages when establishing a start-up can seem nearly impossible, which is why he now offers his guidance at the LaunchPad.
"It's my way of giving back," he said.
Craig Bolz, co-founder of Klink, an alcohol delivery service formerly known as Drink Drivers, launched his business with the help of fellow alumnus Geoff Castillo in January of his junior year, and its respective app just a little more than a year ago.
"I was heavily involved in Blackstone LaunchPad — so many great resources there," Bolz said..
The idea around Klink, he said, is to create an experience and not just deliver alcohol. Klink now has venture capitalist offices in Orlando, Washington D.C, Ann Arbor and Miami, with plans to start in many other metropolitan areas.
And UCF students' business ventures haven't gone unnoticed.
Teeps, an app created to aid business professionals, has recently dedicated a section of the app solely to UCF.
"UCF in general has been extremely accommodating to Teeps. To give back to the UCF community we ended up building an app within Teeps for entrepreneurs to connect," said CEO Terrence Donnelly.