UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

Shaping Leaders, Driving Results

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

Launching the Venture

Jason McAlpin (MBA ’12) and Austin Song (MBA ’12) participate in Launch the Venture
Jason McAlpin (MBA '12) and Austin Song (MBA '12) pitch ENZI Footwear to a panel of industry professionals

Launching the Venture (Launch) is an exceptional program designed to equip and inspire entrepreneurial teams at UNC to launch new commercial and social ventures. Launch offers four half-semester courses that begin each fall and run through the academic year.

Each phase of Launch combines lectures, workshops, guest speakers and hands-on expert coaching as part of an intensive applied curriculum. Additionally, Launch boasts a distinguished group of faculty members, domain leaders, and proven entrepreneurs who work closely with teams to help them determine key deliverables and achieve relevant milestones.

Launch alumni often champion this aspect of the program as an invaluable opportunity to build relationships with accomplished mentors whom they otherwise would not have access to. Since its inception in 1999, Launch has aided in the creation of over sixty startups.

Eduardo Garza (MBA ’12) and Charlotte Garza of Prepped participate in Launching the Venture
Eduardo Garza (MBA '12) and Charlotte Garza of Prepped debrief with mentor Don Fick

Launch program details

Launch may be taken for credit in partial fulfillment of the MBA Entrepreneurship Concentration. MBA students entering their second year may enroll in Launch with their own startup idea or join a team as a venture consultant. In either capacity, Launch provides a dynamic platform for which to apply the foundational and strategic business principles learned in the first year of study. The interactive and collaborative nature of the Launch program also seamlessly integrates with the core values of the UNC Kenan-Flagler community: excellence, integrity, teamwork, leadership, and community. Launch teams may be comprised of any mixture of faculty, staff, post-doc, and/or graduate students from across campus, though non-MBA teams must apply for admission into the course. This cross-disciplinary approach lends itself to a natural 'diversity of innovation' within each Launch class.

Launch I— Opportunity (Mod IV- Late Spring)
An exploratory course taught in the spring semester, Launch Opportunity is designed to help 1st year MBA students assess their entrepreneurial fit, formulate new ideas, and nurture their ability to articulate those ideas to multiple constituencies such as potential co-founders, partners, investors, and customers. This course does not cover feasibility assessments of potential opportunities from a market or industry perspective. Those topics are the focus of Launch Feasibility in the upcoming fall semester.

Launch II— Feasibility (Mod I- Early Fall)
In Launch Feasibility, teams explore the feasibility of their opportunity from a market perspective. Each team engages with several expert coaches and a venture consultant (when applicable) to facilitate their progress. At the end of this phase, teams present the feasibility analysis of their idea to instructors, coaches and industry professionals who determine which teams should continue to the next phase of the course. Typically, about half of the Launch teams advance into Business Planning.

Michael Chasnow (MBA ’12) and coaches Carl Baumann and Bob Jolls participate in Launching the Venture
Michael Chasnow (MBA 12) of Directed Deposits chats with expert coaches Carl Baumann and Bob Jolls

Launch III— Business Planning
(Mod II- Late Fall)

In the Business Planning phase, teams work through the analytics to define a minimum viable product, build a business model for their venture, and develop implementation plans building on earlier work in the feasibility phase. Each venture team works with a panel of expert entrepreneurial coaches who provide feedback on a series of staged deliverables in lab sessions, during which teams work on various aspects of their business plans. At the end of this phase, a preliminary business plan and polished venture pitch is presented to a panel of instructors, coaches and industry professionals.

Launch IV— Financing (Mod III- Early Spring)
Only the select few entrepreneurial teams seriously pursuing financing to launch their venture in the near future are included in the final phase of Launching the Venture. Teams learn about sources of funding for new ventures, develop pro forma financial projections and explore exit options. This phase will start with reviews of the current business plan and venture pitch with recommended improvements and additions. During the last five weeks of this phase, teams have the opportunity to pitch their ventures to potential investors.

Visit the Launch website