By Andrew Wroblewski
With 8,500 square feet of space, LaunchPad Huntington might be able to make a name for itself not by launching rockets into the stratosphere, but instead launching tech startups into the world of small business.
“Currently, we have six companies active within LaunchPad Huntington, but our goal is to have 20 companies active by the fall,” said Philip Rugile, human capital strategist for eGifter – the company that founded and maintains the Huntington LaunchPad tech incubator, located on Main Street. “What we’re finding is that, with startups, they’re not here all the time since they’re actively out and about trying to promote and move along their business – so we can accommodate a lot more people than we thought.”
An offshoot of Mineola’s LaunchPad Long Island – co-founded by Andrew Hazen as a co-working space and incubator for tech startups – LaunchPad Huntington came to fruition in January when eGifter made the move from Hauppauge to Huntington.
“We thought it would be great to extend LaunchPad into Suffolk County, and it made sense to invest as entrepreneurs with Huntington as the ideal location,” Tyler Roye, CEO of eGifter, said. “Huntington is the most vibrant downtown on Long Island – it really has a pulse every night of the week and every day and, with that, the response we’ve gotten has been unbelievable.”
That response, along with a bevy of corporate sponsors and events – both big and small – aimed at raising awareness, have made LaunchPad Huntington, which typically works in conjunction with Melville-based Accelerate Long Island, a hit.
“Back in May our CEO, Burton Goldfield, came out to LaunchPad Huntington and gave a talk to a crowd of almost 200 people and it was really well received – their most attended event to date,” John Dnyprowsky, director of sales for TriNet – a strategic partner to small business that is also one of LaunchPad Huntington’s sponsors. “We still get phone calls and emails about the talk to this day so now we’re working on getting [Goldfield] to go back.”
Events like these have helped get people into LaunchPad and have helped eGifter to realize that the space can hold more than 200 people – opening the doors for bigger, more inventive events in the future.
But while the events LaunchPad Huntington hosts are usually aimed at educating startups and their respective entrepreneurs, they also open up opportunities for networking and expansion. As Rugile mentioned, to end the night of Goldfield’s appearance, the tenants were allowed to pitch a business idea to the CEO in hopes that he might bite.
“These are the types of things that generate awareness,” Rugile said. “We’re really trying to tie into the community better.”
But educating startups and entrepreneurs is a major focal point of LaunchPad Huntington, too.
“We put together programs on a regular basis to discuss legal and business topics with the tenants,” said Allan Cohen, the Long Island office managing partner for Nixon Peabody – a founding sponsor of LaunchPad Huntington. “In September, we’re hosting an event on how to properly finance a startup while still continuing to put together regular networking events so that startups are making connections with expertise they might need to get going.”
Also looking toward the future is LaunchPad Huntington itself, which has major plans – filled with both work and play – for Long Island Tech Day on Aug. 12.
“We’re going to bring in 20-30 startups along with investors, politicians and others to have one-on-one meetings with startups,” Rugile said. “Then, at night, it’s going to turn into a big barbecue with a band, food, drinks and everything.”