Several dozen start-ups in the Chapman University incubator, called Launch Labs, have collectively raised more than $4 million in equity in the past 18 months. Launch Labs is part of the Leatherby Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Ethics in the Argyros School of Business and Economics, and has been the incubator at Chapman for 3 years.

According to
Shan Steinmark
, PhD, director of the Leatherby Center, “It is an exciting time for Launch Labs. Our Chapman-based startups have been doing a tremendous job building early-stage companies and demonstrating the potential value of those ventures. As a result, in the last 18 months, our student and alumni co-founders have raised more than $4 million via investors ranging from family and friends to leading Angel groups.”

Dr. Steinmark came on as director of the Leatherby Center in December 2014, joining
Gene Alexander
, PhD, director of Launch Labs, who arrived at Launch Labs in January 2014. Both gentlemen bring years of experience in innovation, the start-up world and entrepreneurship.

“That level of fund-raising is unprecedented for student incubators outside of Silicon Valley, and is a testament to the academic rigor of the Argyros school, the engagement of the local startup investment community, and most of the all the professionalism and hard work of the student and alumni entrepreneurs,” said Dr. Alexander.

Student teams join the Launch Labs incubator at many stages of startup development, from a single entrepreneur with a basic idea to a well-developed team with a prototype and a plan. The goal of the Leatherby Center is to help those student teams go from an idea to a validated business model through customer development and on to a viable, revenue-generating company. Students are exposed to real investors at all stages of the process, from introductory courses in entrepreneurship and incubators to advanced signature events like the Keith A. Pham Business Model competition at Chapman, the Silicon Valley Travel Course every interterm, and finally at California Dreamin’, Chapman University’s flagship inter-collegiate entrepreneurship event.

While all of that preparation has led to many student teams achieving success with raising funds to fuel their growth, a few teams are on a more accelerated path. For example, emerging from the business plan competition track is a company called Beatshare, led by Chapman junior Eli Aizenstat. Beatshare is a mobile application that puts music at the heart of communication. After a successful seed round, with funding from Pasadena Angels, Tech Coast Angels, and the Harvard Business School Association, Beatshare is now proceeding aggressively towards an early 2016 market launch.

Beatshare logo

One of Chapman’s most promising teams is Vyrl, led by junior Jason Goldberg. As a concept, Vyrl was born in April of 2015 as a platform that allows social influencers to connect and collaborate with one another while being given opportunities to promote brands and companies.

Vyrl logo

A very scalable startup, Vyrl has doubled its’ staff in the last 60 days and has developed a social media “reach” of more than 70 million, with an additional 5,000 social influencers signed up in 100 different countries.  They have also received campaign interest from local companies, recognized brands, and Fortune 500 companies. Vyrl has been funded to date by a previous successful exit by Goldberg and will be seeking a seed funding round this fall, with a current angel investor list committing $250,000.

Finally, Launch Lab’s most developed venture to date is grandPad. A tremendous Chapman story, grandPad is led by father Scott Lien and his son, current Chapman undergraduate Isaac Lien. grandPad is an easy-to-use tablet-based solution created to help seniors re-connect and communicate with family and friends. With grandPad, the user can instantly see all the photos that their friends and family post on Facebook and Instagram, but in a simple way on a tablet designed specifically for seniors. grandPad currently employs nine Chapman students or recent graduates, with more hires on the near horizon.

Grand Pad logo

“grandPad closed $1.1 million in funding in January 2015 and is currently raising $1 million with Tech Coast Angels leading the syndicate” said Dr. Steinmark. “This is a great example of a family-based business doing well by doing good for other families. In the process they are leading the transition of our Launch Labs from an incubator to an accelerator by engaging multiple mentors, advisors & investors.”

About the Ralph W. Leatherby Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Ethics

Established in 1995, Chapman University’s Leatherby Center offers one of the nation’s most respected programs for entrepreneurial young men and women.  The center aims to prepare and inspire principled, dynamic entrepreneurs whose ideas improve lives and solve important problems.  Through innovative courses and real-world leadership, the center provides students with access to a range of resources, including professional mentoring, entrepreneurial internships, a multi-university network, community resources, events, speakers, research, professional groups, competitions and boot camps. The Leatherby Center is unique in its approach to connecting students with inventors, investors and real-world entrepreneurs. For more information, visit

About the
George L. Argyros School of Business and Economics

The George L. Argyros School of Business and Economics develops business leaders who create value for their organizations by blending sound economic reasoning and a global perspective with the qualities of individual initiative, analytical skill, accountability, effective communication, and integrity.

The Argyros School distinguishes itself by providing students and alumni with unmatched access to exceptional teachers and scholars, a network of top executives, and opportunities for practice-based business education in one of the nation’s most dynamic business communities.

For more information, visit

About Chapman University

Consistently ranked among the top universities in the West, Chapman University provides a uniquely personalized and interdisciplinary educational experience to highly qualified students. Our programs encourage innovation, creativity and collaboration, and focus on developing global citizen-leaders who are distinctively prepared to improve their community and their world. Visit

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