Business

Blackstone donates $3.5 million to spur entrepreneurship

CharityColleges and UniversitiesHuman InterestStephen SchwarzmanUniversity of MiamiUC IrvineBlackstone Group, L.P.

One of the nation's largest private equity firms is scheduled to announce Friday that it is giving $3.5 million to create a joint entrepreneurship program at USC, UCLA and UC Irvine.

The donation from the charitable arm of New York-based Blackstone Group will pay for hands-on entrepreneurial training for students interested in launching their own companies. The program is open to students majoring in any academic subject.

The goal is to spur job creation in today's slow-growth economy, said Stephen Schwarzman, Blackstone's chairman and chief executive.

"We're trying to touch as many people as we can to get them to create a business of their own," Schwarzman said.

Blackstone's Launchpad initiative is based on a successful program started six years ago at the University of Miami that has led to the formation of 206 companies and 559 jobs.

The program at the three Southern California schools is the sixth Launchpad project, following efforts at universities in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and Montana.

The donation to the local schools is part of a $50-million initiative that Blackstone announced in 2010 to spur entrepreneurship and job creation.

"It's about strengthening the ecosystems in these regions," said Amy Stursberg, executive director of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation. "Entrepreneurship is the great equalizer. It doesn't matter if you're at Harvard or the community college. You can start your business."

walter.hamilton@latimes.com

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