Tag Archives: Blackstone LaunchPad

Afrika’s Struggle and the Winning Team

I am excited about AeroBend’s triumph in the Blackstone LaunchPad Pitch Competition. They beat 14 other talented teams. I was equally delighted when the co-founders chose me to mentor them to final victory. As my former students and mentees during the competition, they never cease to demonstrate their Mozartesque genius.

Former Students Paying Forward in Honor of Black History Month and the Year of the Dragon!

Former students stopped by one (evening) of my classes to discuss their journey (i.e., including winning the Blackstone LaunchPad Idea Competition nationwide) from my class to their current jobs at Goldman Sachs and HQ Capital, respectively. The students took advantage of the Q&A session and were better for it. Happy New Year – Year of the Dragon and Black History Month!

Excerpt from Frankly Speaking – November 2023

Students and faculty from around the world enrich campus life and find success at Queens College. Case in point: Malaika Qaisar and Hannan Ahmed, the top-scoring team in the QC round of this year’s Blackstone LaunchPad Ideas Competition, came from Pakistan. Their business concept falls within the consumer products and services category. I had the fantastic opportunity last week to congratulate the winners and their mentors. I commend Malaika and Hannan on their win and wish them the best of luck on December 8, when they will represent QC in the CUNY-wide tier of the contest. They have also entered the TechImpact Startup Competition hosted by the QC Tech Incubator and Accompany Capital, which helps immigrant, refugee, and underserved entrepreneurs grow their businesses. I wish all the LaunchPad participants continued success, both academically and professionally.

– QC President Frank H. Wu

From left: Luc Marest, Hannan Ahmed, Malaika Qaisar, President Frank H. Wu, and Karl Mitchell

Luc Marest (Economics), campus director for Blackstone LaunchPad; President Frank H. Wu; Blackstone student participants Tashifa Farooq, Nicole Haller, Emily Haller, and Ming Lei; Karl Mitchell (Economics), mentor for contestants.

Alumni Entrepreneurs Build on College LaunchPad

Reginald D. Wills                                                                                            Sujen Wu Wu

Reginald Wills ’22 and Sujen Wu Wu ’22 have big plans for their small start-up business.

In December, Wills and Wu Wu finished first in the network round of the national Blackstone LaunchPad Business Ideas Competition, under the category of Social and Climate Impact. (They advanced to the national contest upon winning the same category in the Queens College tier of the competition.) Now, with their prize—a $10,000 grant from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation—they’re developing the company they pitched, Collabiversity. Envisioned as an intermediary between brands and colleges, Collabiversity will create a merchandise and digital assets marketplace for students and alumni and raise scholarship funds for students. Wills and Wu Wu came up with the concept after casual wear brand Kith released a limited QC collection (QView 134) and donated a portion of sales revenue to the college.

Unbeatable Undergraduates

“I have always wanted [Wills and Wu Wu] to be on the same team. They would be unbeatable on the national level,” says Karl Mitchell (Economics), who taught both students in his Introduction to Business Writing course, encouraged them to work together, and mentored them through the competition. “Mr. Wills and Ms. Wu Wu put CUNY and Queens College on the map. They beat 45 other universities/colleges, including but not limited to Cornell University, NYU, UCLA, University of Texas, Baruch College, and Syracuse, in only Queens College’s second year of competing. It’s a huge deal.”

Wills and Wu Wu came to QC with impressive back stories.

Born in Montgomery, Alabama, where his father ministered at Dexter Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama—Dr. Martin Luther King’s pastorage, now known as The Dexter King Memorial Baptist Church—Wills spent most of his childhood in Richmond, Virginia. He graduated from high school at 16. The next year, inspired by his grandfather, an Army veteran, and the church members he saw in uniform at Veterans Day services led by his father, Wills joined the Coast Guard Reserve. After four years, he served on active duty for another seven.

“The Coast Guard, and military in general, is great, because advancement is really based on your work ethic and what you bring to the table,” says Wills. “You also gain a lot of applicable skills that are relevant in the public sector, such as time management, attention to detail, collaborating with teams, and leadership traits.”

Stationed at Coast Guard Station New York on Staten Island at the beginning of his active duty, he enrolled at the College of Staten Island. His transfer to Coast Guard Station Kings Point in Great Neck prompted him to transfer to QC, where he majored in corporate finance and economics. Scrolling through LinkedIn led him to Goldman Sachs’ Veterans Integration Program (VIP), which helps veterans transition into the banking/finance industry. Last summer, his VIP background enabled him to land a summer analyst position in Goldman Sachs’ Asset and Wealth Management Division.

Coming to America

Wu Wu is bilingual and bicultural, born in Venezuela to immigrants from Guangdong, China. With her home country in political and economic turmoil, she moved to New York in 2016. “My mom’s friends, who live here, recommended Queens College as a nice place to pursue a degree in business administration,” she says. “The other reason I chose Queens College is because I liked how diverse the school is. I identify with both Venezuelan and Chinese cultures.”

A first-generation college student as well as the first female in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree, Wu Wu majored in finance and economics to expand her professional options. In particular, she wanted to make her resume stand out to employers in investment banking, finance, real estate, and private equity. Her resume includes an internship with Project Destined, which offers training, mentoring, and networking opportunities to students considering careers in real estate.

The success of team Collabiversity delights Mitchell, who gives credit to the winners and everyone who helped advise them. “My mentoring philosophy is that it entails a village to mentor winners,” he comments. “I encouraged them to reach out to key people and pick their brains as they embarked on their victorious journey.” Joan Nix (Economics), Ying Zhou (Tech Incubator), Nix and Zhou’s protégé Stephen Alexander, Luc Marest (Economics), Cristina Price (Economics), and her husband, Jeff Price, chief commercial officer of the Professional Golfers’ Association of America, are among the “villagers” Wills and Wu Wu consulted. In addition, Mitchell wants to thank Zavi Gunn (Center for Career Engagement and Internships), Dean of the Schools of Business and Social Science Kate Pechenkina, and Marest for their leadership of Blackstone LaunchPad at QC.

Like many entrepreneurs, Wills and Wu Wu find themselves building a business while holding down full-time jobs; they are employed, respectively, at Goldman Sachs and a private equity firm. Mitchell continues to work with them in an advisory capacity and hopes they’ll have opportunities to come back to campus and speak to students. He also looks forward to coaching participants in the next LaunchPad contest cycle.

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