An Entrepreneurial LaunchPad in the Empire State
Propelling our companies forward

Have you ever had an idea for a business and thought how amazing it would be if you could change the world?

Seven UC Davis students from four startup teams did just that when they took on the Big Apple, attending the third annual LaunchPad Propel to show 19 other attending universities #aggieinnovation in action to and how #aggieinnovators are creating solutions in sustainability and social impact.

Touchdown and LaunchPad into Learning

After touching down at JFK Airport at 6:30 a.m. on November 7—all fatigued with barely a couple hours of sleep—we hopped on the NYC subway and made our way into the city, determined to explore a little bit before the Blackstone LaunchPad Powered by Techstars entrepreneurship conference started that afternoon. After several cups of coffee over breakfast, we were ready to go. We squeezed in a quick trip to the NYC public library to study up on the mentors we were meeting later that day and see how they might be able to help us.

Wyatt Dike in The Office

I was attending the event representing my company, VertX Advertising, an outdoor advertising agency focused on bringing social impact to public transportation. VertX operates antimicrobial advertising displays in public transit systems to bring riders cleaner commutes—and advertisers interactive marketing campaigns with conversion tracking.

Our mentors had experience in brand consulting from being the fashion director for HEALTH magazine and then starting their own fashion magazine, fundraising from a partner at a visual data venture firm, and a sales leader and C-level advisor for Salesforce. They showed us how we could create a more seamless experience for our customers and partners by simplifying how we explain the multiple facets to VertX in order to have an easier time bringing on new customers and create a strong brand image. We also learned more on how brands interact with marketing agencies and ways to work around exclusive contracts so that we can partner with large healthcare brands.

By the time we finished all of our mentoring sessions and had closing remarks for the first day, the lack of sleep started to surface, but we made sure to try some NY pizza and cheesecake before passing out for the next day.

Students on stage at the Blackstone Conference in NYC 2019

Presentations, Pitches and Podcasts

The second day started off bright and early with a live podcast from Techstars co-founder David Cohen and Plated co-founder Josh Hix on his entrepreneurial journey and experience from getting a deal on Shark Tank. Throughout the day the 19 presenting teams each pitched their companies in a short three minutes, with RePurpose Energy making it to the final six for UC Davis. When pitches weren’t happening, we attended fireside chats with successful entrepreneurs, workshops on improving our business and, of course, trips to the lobby for refills on coffee.

These sessions were filled with inspiring stories from successful entrepreneurs and how they overcame the many obstacles that accompany starting a company.

Hearing their stories and how they got through roadblocks we’re currently facing was comforting. There is always a solution to make things happen.

Another great speaker was the co-founder of Warby Parker, who explained how they incorporated social impact into their company and how companies can have social impact as a main mission, while building a sustainable business at the same time.

Racing to the Airport Home

After a final goodbye to the conference members and exploring some New York iconic locations, it was time to head home. We hopped on the subway to make our way to the airport, crunched on time and hoping we were on the right train. Luckily for us, a NY native spoke up and helped us navigate our way just in time to make our flight.

This was an amazing experience, especially being surrounded by such great entrepreneurs the entire time and seeing the similarities between all of our journeys. I look forward to taking the lessons I learned from the LaunchPad Propel event back to UC Davis for VertX and other #AggieInnovators.


Learn more about Wyatt Dike and VertX Advertising

VertX Advertising won the $3,000 UC Davis Health Innovation Award in the 2019 Big Bang! Business Competition. Read more >

Video: StartupSac interview with Wyatt Dike >