By now most people are aware of the demographic and economic trends that have policy makers and business leaders talking about the “problem” every chance they get. Many of our talented young people are choosing not to stick around, local businesses are constantly struggling to fill positions, and our economy isn’t growing to its potential. What’s talked about less are the solutions. We need to close the talent and opportunity gaps, improve affordability, and support the innovators and entrepreneurs who are shaping our economic future. Several organizations have been doing this work, and getting results, since before the problem was even acknowledged. With greater support, their proven methods of creating economic opportunity in our communities can be scaled to reverse the trends we hear so much about.
The Lake Champlain Chamber is one of the organizations that has been providing solutions to the problem for decades through their leadership training, professional development, and internship programs. Six years ago we created LaunchVT to directly invest in the innovators and entrepreneurs who themselves are creating solutions. LaunchVT has now accelerated 43 startups, who have created over 150 jobs, earned over $5M in annual revenue, and raised more than $9M in follow on funding. Each year over 500 innovators and entrepreneurs attend our events, and we receive over 60 applications to our acceleration program. These Vermonters are saying “we want to stay here and create something,” and LaunchVT is working with other organizations and over 75 mentors, advisors and partners to provide the services that they need to launch their ventures, create jobs, and invest in their communities.
By supporting entrepreneurs who are creating their own solutions, we’re able to scale the impact of our work. Each year LaunchVT invests over $100K of cash and in-kind services in its startups based on criteria that includes community impact. As a result, the community is seeing a return on that investment through solutions that directly address the problem. MajorWise, a LaunchVT 2017 alumni, has created a platform that helps High Schools across Vermont connect their students with internships and jobs at local businesses. Burlington Code Academy, a LaunchVT 2018 alumni, has created a developer boot camp that just graduated its first cohort of software engineers. Not only did their students develop software solutions for local businesses, but within hours of their final presentations, several of the recent grads had job offers or interviews with local employers. Connecting the impact full circle, Packetized Energy, a LaunchVT 2017 alumni, is growing so quickly they’re a hiring partner for BTV Code Academy students.
The LaunchVT model is powerful and scalable, and with continued support from the community we can help solve the problem by investing in the amazing Vermonters who are shaping the economic future for our state.