The fashionable talk around New York is how to turn the state into a new area of business innovation and development – you’ve probably seen the “New New York” ads with Robert DeNiro’s voiceover about making the upstate region the Silicon Valley of the East Coast. While that can all be well and good to lure existing firms to the Empire State, the task can be daunting if you’re looking to actually start a business in New York, much less grow one.
LaunchPad Long Island, which officially opened it’s doors on Feb. 11 in Mineola, aims to fill that void, moving entrepreneurs from basement or garage offices to a newly refurbished 12,000 sq. ft. space and providing those start-ups with professional space in which to work as well as seed money to help them grow.
The endeavor is the brainchild of Andrew Hazen and Richard Foster, who met in October 2012 after Hazen had been nurturing “this crazy idea” of an event space where start-up businesses could work and hold meetings in rentable space since 2007. The duo started looking at buildings in November/ December and began demolition work at a building just off the Mineola Boulevard bridge on Dec. 31, 2012.
“The good yin and the yang, when you find the perfect match, it’s been a great relationship thus far, we’re getting tons of things accomplished in a very short period of time,” Hazen said, noting that a few of the spaces in the building have already been sold.
Hazen, an attorney, had joined Ruskin Moscou Faltischek in 2012 “and when I told (them) what I was looking to do, they supported us 1,000 percent. They were behind us.”
The space has two floors of working space, conference rooms, private suites, storage lockers, wifi, an event space with seating for over 100, on-site parking and a recreation room. A speaker series is also held every other Tuesday night sponsored by the Zarb Business School of Hofstra University.
“Everyone that we went to just said ‘sign us up, we want to be involved’,” Hazen said. “We’re looking forward to making this a community for entrepreneurs and startups.”
The duo and their financial backers spent more than four years assembling the property which is located at 55 Mineola Blvd. next to the southern tip of the bridge spanning the Long Island Railroad tracks.
“We did it for one reason - because of our tremendous belief in Mineola and the long-term plans for the downtown,” said Ross Levine, whose family owns the property. “Our strong belief in such a plan has been matched by our belief in Andrew and Richard and LaunchPad and as such, we were determined to find a way to help make LaunchPad a reality while still move towards our vision of being a part of the downtown redevelopment. We think the future for LaunchPad, this location and Mineola couldn’t be any brighter.”
Hazen and Foster also have $250,000 in seed money to fund startup businesses that come out of LaunchPad, having already done so with E-Gifting and Group Gifting, companies which center on the social aspect of gift-giving.
“The paint was literally not even dry on the walls yet and we were cutting checks to investing companies here on Long Island,” said Foster, whose background is in construction.
“We’re trying to take people – smart people – with great ideas, fund them and let them come up with great ideas and time and time again I think our society has proven that if you do that, if you give people a good idea, if you get a group of smart people in a room, you give them the necessary resources, you give them the synergies they need, they can create awesome things,” said Eric Trump, who Hazen had worked with as a web marketer and who is also another backer of the project. “Innovation is absolutely everything.”
Hazen is also on Trump’s foundation’s executive board which benefits St. Jude’s Hospital. The two had met when Trump’s company was looking for someone to do search engine optimization and Hazen’s neighbor Alan Gardner made an introduction.
“I give him a call and we start going back and forth and he’s pitching his company... for this job,” Trump said. “I’m like ‘wow, this guy’s really smart, he really gets it,’ but unfortunately the next day, I had to call him up and say ‘listen, Andrew I’m really sorry but you didn’t get the job,’ you know, the proverbial ‘you’re fired.’ ‘You hopped in way too late, I’m sorry, it’s kind of a decided-on thing.’ He had the classic response of all time, I’ll never forget this, he goes ‘don’t worry, I’ll be back.’ It was almost he plagiarized that from The Terminator.”
“You guys put your heart and soul into this and probably a lot more,” Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss said, “but what’s going to come out of it is going to be even better and I’m looking forward to the success of you and I’m looking forward to the success of everyone who walks through this door.”