After seeing a need to develop support infrastructure and resources to assist new companies accelerate and succeed in the community, the College of Business at the University of Nevada, Reno created a new summer course, Launchpad.
Launchpad was designed to help startups with ties to the University accelerate their businesses, while simultaneously providing students with valuable entrepreneurial experience.
"This course is a prime example of students actually working on real companies in a practical, hands-on way," Mark Pingle, University professor of economics, said.
Launchpad was created and is taught by adjunct professor Richard Roland, a Harvard MBA and experienced entrepreneur. Pingle, who is also the faculty advisor to the Entrepreneurship Program, notes that all entrepreneurial courses at the University are taught by experienced entrepreneurs.
Entirely self-funded as part of the University's 365 Learning program, Launchpad was first offered last summer and conducted entirely through Zoom. Students who participated in the class assisted three startup companies on their path to entrepreneurial success.
One of the companies assisted by Launchpad was TruckHouse, which specializes in designing, manufacturing and distributing four-season all-terrain expedition vehicles. TruckHouse successfully launched its business on Jan. 11, 2021, with founders Nico Monforte, a University of Nevada, Reno MBA graduate, and Matt Linder, a University of California, Davis graduate, steering the company. Of note, in 2019, Monforte and Linder won the College of Business’ Sontag Entrepreneurship Competition, a cornerstone of the College’s entrepreneurship program.
"The Launchpad 2020 course provided support for TruckHouse through key projects in the fields of market research, strategy, marketing and advertising," Monforte said. “The class provided additional insight into how the COVID-19 pandemic directly affected our industry and presented ideas on how to navigate in this unknown territory.”
According to Pingle, Launchpad is a learning experience that offers a highly interactive and collaborative environment, where students are working directly with organization founders.
"One of the biggest benefits from working with Launchpad was the ability to discuss our business strategy at a very high level with a well-rounded and unbiased team," Monforte said. "The class provided an outside perspective and shed light on things we had overlooked."
Students reviews of the Launchpad 2020 course said it gave them a “fun, challenging and educational summer.” Others said they “loved the way the class was executed and thought it fell in line with the entrepreneurial spirit.”
The College of Business has created numerous opportunities for students to develop their entrepreneurial abilities. For instance, the College's Entrepreneurship Minor is open to all students at the University, designed with no pre-requisites so any student can complement their major with entrepreneurial training. Graduate students can also pursue an MBA emphasis in Entrepreneurship.
"Any student at the University can learn to build their entrepreneurial capacity," Pingle said. "The entrepreneurship minor is designed to complement any degree and offer students foundational business skills and knowledge that they can apply at any point in their careers.”
There are also plenty of ways students can experience entrepreneurship without completing the minor or MBA emphasis. For instance, students can take a single entrepreneurship course of interest, participate in the Sontag Competition or join the student Entrepreneurship Club. Students can also attend the International Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium, another flagship initiative within the College that supports the creation and growth of women-founded companies.
There are also opportunities available through the College's affiliations with the Nevada Small Business Development Center, Center for Regional Studies, the Entrepreneurs Assembly, the Nevada Innevation Center and Ozmen Center for Entrepreneurship.
Students interested in participating in the Launchpad 2021 summer course or want more information about the Entrepreneurship minor, should reach out to Mark Pingle at email@example.com.