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Empowering Young Entrepreneurs
Founder & President
The Founding of LaunchX
Laurie Stach realized an opportunity to empower young entrepreneurs from her own experience. “When I was in high school, I had so much creativity, passion, drive, and wanted to take on the world! Adults would say, “You’ll do great things someday!” That last word stuck with me – ‘someday’. When I got out into the ‘real world’, things were very different from what school taught – there were no questions given to me with finite multiple-choice answers! I remember being asked to take initiative on projects, analyze the complex and changing real world environment, and make confident decisions without the perfect information of homework,” explains Laurie. “I realized entrepreneurship education could be the answer to both of these problems: building the real skills and mindset for our futures, while believing that high school students can do great things now. Our students see significant growth in their entrepreneurial mindset of problem solving, initiative, resourcefulness, and confidence, plus are starting real companies both at LaunchX and many more startups after.”
LaunchX Community and Startups
LaunchX is about two key things: 1) a like-minded community of entrepreneurial youth and 2) building and starting real startups. “Building this community has been an extraordinary achievement, since so many of these students are often the only ones they know prior to coming to our program who want to innovate, chart out the future of industries, really help customers, and change the world,” says Laurie. “As leaders and entrepreneurs, we all know how difficult it can be when we don’t have enough of a support system, so bringing these young entrepreneurs together for collaboration and inspiration is a huge piece of the puzzle. We’ve had >1,600 high school students go through the summer program, and a ripple effect out into the world as these students enthusiastically reach many more and inspire more action in their communities.”
LaunchX also has high standards for these high school students for them to start actual companies. This is a crucial differentiator to other programs that may focus more on the idea, business plan, or other research aspects of a startup. A startup’s learning and value come from real traction in the marketplace, so the program encourages students to start selling as early as possible to test whether customers care about the offering and see where there is value. This has allowed >350 startups to be created by the young entrepreneurs at LaunchX. Many students have continued those businesses or made several others since, having already overcome some of the mental hurdles of the startup journey during their LaunchX experience.
An example of a serial entrepreneur from LaunchX is Harshita Arora, who has sold a Crypto Price Tracker app and is in the process of another technology startup. Harshita shares of her LaunchX experience, “The program was excellent. I learnt a lot, met lots of smart people, and gained more insights into the startup world. And the important highlight: I published a mobile app, University, with my team! The LaunchX community is pretty supportive in your future startups as well, [such as] getting my upcoming app more exposure pre-launch! The LaunchX Alumni network can benefit you too.” Harshita’s crypto app was #2 in the finance category of the App Store before being acquired by Redwood City Ventures. She is currently the co-founder of AtoB, a technology startup in the Bay Area building Stripe for Trucking that has raised over $25 million in venture capital.
Laurie Stach – The Leadership Behind LaunchX
Laurie Stach, Founder and President of LaunchX, is the visionary who provides direction, strategically organizes the steps to get there, and is a role model of hard work to get things done efficiently. She brings a background in engineering from MIT and MBA from Harvard Business School, and stays focused on delivering top results. Mariya Utkina, the Operations Manager of LaunchX, has this to say about Laurie’s focus on results and standards that have helped her and the team deliver more: “Laurie doesn’t just try to achieve the achievable; she expects more from herself and from others. She is able to lead her team to achieve the impossible by showing us how to get there and she brings us along for what turns out to be an unbelievable ride.”
Laurie has been able to become an inspirational leader by having great mentors and role models who continually provide insightful lessons in business, entrepreneurship, and life. Some of these lessons have come from Marty Culpepper (MIT Maker Czar and Professor), Bill Aulet (Managing Director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship), and Lynda Applegate (head of the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at HBS). Insightful mentors help provide a balance of strategy and execution, build both skills and mindset, and provide perspective and focus when trying to take on too much. “I wouldn’t be where I am without their advice and support. It is invaluable to have people in your corner who you highly respect that can be a sounding board for the big moments in life.”
Empowering Young Entrepreneurs
Laurie is inspiring and empowering women entrepreneurs across industries into becoming great leaders of tomorrow. She does not differentiate between women entrepreneurs and male entrepreneurs – an entrepreneur is an entrepreneur regardless of gender. LaunchX allows speakers and mentors to inspire students without boxing them in based on their gender or other demographics. “We want to provide enough examples of success such that all of the young entrepreneurs of the program can find role models to see a path to where they want to be going forward, regardless of identifiers.”
Being cognizant of the LaunchX program representation, Laurie knows what proportion of the staff, speakers, volunteers, and even things like website quotes, social media photos, and more fall into different demographic categories. “We seek to ensure that entrepreneurial students who may be interested in the program, including women entrepreneurs, feel welcomed by the representation of these different channels.”
Being a welcoming and strong role model, Laurie cultivates her staff and students through high standards of herself and others. She is strong and assertive while showing a compassionate side when needed. She shares her story of the insecurities, challenges, and hurdles with her students.
“We are proud that the LaunchX program has ~40% females becoming the entrepreneurial leaders of tomorrow, though we hope to increase this number further,” adds the steadfast leader. “These young entrepreneurs are starting companies across a range of industries with a high degree of continuation. Many have gone on to do things like pitch on Shark Tank, gain significant investment, write books and do TEDx talks on entrepreneurship, and even sell their company.”
“We are excited to announce that for our 2022 summer program, there will be two options that students will be able to choose from: Campus Summer Program and Online Summer Program,” Laurie shares. “LaunchX runs an entrepreneurship summer program for high school students that operated campus locations before the most recent two years when we ran the program online. We encourage anyone who knows an ambitious aspiring young entrepreneur to learn more about LaunchX on the program page of our website. We will also be seeking speakers and mentors for each of the campus and online programs, so encourage those who may be interested in supporting these young entrepreneurs to learn more on the opportunities page of our website.”
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