Student entrepreneurs learning in West Virginia University’s LaunchLab will receive actual startup money for their ventures thanks to a generous commitment from Huntington Bank.

Huntington is donating $150,000 to create a seed funding program within the LaunchLab, a comprehensive one-stop commercialization and proof-of-concept center that was opened on the WVU campus in August of last year to provide support for innovative entrepreneurs.

“Huntington has a deep commitment to small businesses; it makes sense for our bank to contribute to the unique success of the University’s LaunchLab,” said Chad Prather, Morgantown Community President and Commercial Region Manager for Huntington Bank.

“Huntington Bank is proud to be a part of the region served so well by West Virginia University. The next generation of entrepreneurs will benefit from the University’s specialized resources, gaining significant skills and real life business experience. The students are receiving the opportunity to create new jobs. The startup companies will be a catalyst for economic development throughout our state,” Prather said.

Under the new seed funding program, students will work with LaunchLab advisors and mentors to learn successful business strategies for their startup companies. An investment/advisory board will be created to evaluate the student businesses and determine startup funding amounts.

“West Virginia University has a strong commitment to uncovering and growing the entrepreneurial culture among its students, and the LaunchLab is evidence of that support,” said Fonda Holehouse, WVU LaunchLab director. “Huntington Banks’s partnership with the WVU LaunchLab will make a significant difference in the lives of these aspiring entrepreneurs because it addresses a significant challenge every venture faces – seed funding. The LaunchLab deeply appreciates Huntington Bank’s support of our young visionaries. These entrepreneurs represent a bright future for West Virginia.”

Ryan Gellner, a Wheeling native majoring in mechanical engineering at WVU, is the founder of Reactive Restraint Technologies and the first recipient of seed funding under the Huntington Bank gift. RRT is currently working with leading WVU neuroscience department researchers on groundbreaking concussion research and is performing initial product testing on his innovative “smart materials” devices. RRT’s sports devices will use smart materials to reduce harmful rotation, control the range of whiplash, and dampen high impacts for those participating in contact sports.

“Ryan is an exceptional, innovative thinker, has a phenomenal work ethic, and represents the very best in WVU students,” said David Ramsburg, LaunchLab assistant director. “The fact that he is an undergraduate and is collaborating with leading concussion researchers across various disciplines is evidence of how the LaunchLab effectively works to bring innovators together.”

The LaunchLab represents a concerted approach to providing startup support not only for entrepreneurial-minded students, but resident and businesses in the Morgantown community and across the entire state. It combines the talent and resources of a wide variety of partners within the University community. In addition, to extend its impact beyond the campus, the WVU LaunchLab partnered with West Virginia’s Small Business Development Centers, providing an entry point for any West Virginia-based entrepreneur to access the resources of the state’s flagship university.

In its first nine months, the LaunchLab served more than 400 entrepreneurs, working on more than 100 new business ideas. These entrepreneurial-minded students and members of the Morgantown community received strategic support, including legal, financial, marketing, intellectual property and product development assistance, resulting in the launch of over a dozen companies and student seed funding of nearly $100,000.

Building upon the success of its WVU LaunchLab, the University this fall is opening the doors of its second LaunchLab to be located on WVU’s new regional campus in Beckley. This location will operate in conjunction with the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority Hive and will enable WVU to serve entrepreneurs and students in the New River Gorge region. WVU also is collaborating with West Virginia Wesleyan College and the Upshur County Economic Development Authority to establish a LaunchLab in Buckhannon.

The donation from Huntington Bank was made in conjunction with A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University. The $1 billion comprehensive fundraising effort being conducted by the WVU Foundation on behalf of WVU runs through December 2017.



CONTACTS: Bill Eiler; Huntington Bank
Bill Nevin; WVU Foundation

Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.