Pitch Night heralds latest LI LaunchPad

Mission control: The new LaunchPad Westbury is lifting off inside this high-profile Old Country Road complex.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

The newest member of the LaunchPad Long Island family will celebrate its grand opening with a showcase of regional innovation.

LaunchPad Westbury, an 8,000-square-foot co-working space carved out of the 180,000-square-foot office complex at 1025 Old Country Road, officially opens for business Monday. The sixth Long Island facility to wave the LaunchPad flag will mark its debut Monday evening with its first Pitch Night, a “Shark Tank”-like event placing four early-stage regional startups in front of some of Long Island’s top angel investors.

The collaborative workspace, which features 10 private offices and 16 independent work stations, will open with six full-time tenants, according to LaunchPad Westbury Community Manager Michael Watt, “running the gamut from a company that sells farm-fresh snacks to a company developing a mechanism for dealing with hospital-based infections.”

The tenant roster could expand after Monday night. One presenting company scheduled to move into a LaunchPad Westbury office, Watt noted, and at least one other is considering residency.

Andrew Hazen: Think big.

Andrew Hazen: Think big.

LaunchPad Long Island founder and CEO Andrew Hazen – a serial investor who’s scored with everything from bagels and bobbleheads to domain registrations and venture capitalization – said a pitch-a-thon spotlighting regional startups was the ideal opener for the new LaunchPad facility, since “growing big things is key to expanding Long Island’s economy.”

“Long Island has been known for its technology and entrepreneurial spirit for decades,” Hazen said. “Pitch Night provides an excellent forum for exploring ideas and opportunities that could very well evolve into the next big thing.”

That entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in the four Pitch Night presenters chosen to herald the new LaunchPad. Among those hoping to become the next big thing is Felicia Fleitman, founder and CEO of future LaunchPad Westbury resident SavvyHires, a niche corporate headhunter focused on recruiting millennials directly from college campuses.

Joining SavvyHires in the spotlight are the makers of scheduling/managing app Team Tracky and Junior Lubin, founder and CEO of Elmont-based skateboarding startup Supafly Skate Co. Lubin is also considering LaunchPad Westbury residency, according to Watt.

Also pitching at the Sept. 12 event: Laura Russo, a hairdresser-turned-entrepreneur and chief executive of Laura Alison Design, a circa-2010 Huntington startup producing elegant hooded scarves and unique workout paraphernalia.

The diversity of the Pitch Night presenters – and the range of industries and disciplines represented by LaunchPad Westbury’s inaugural tenants – bode well for Long Island’s economic future, according to Watt, who notes a regional history of entrepreneurship stretching from the Island’s earliest farmers to Huntington native Leroy Grumman’s 1929 co-founding of Grumman Aeronautical Engineering Corp., and beyond.

“What makes it all so exciting is my firm belief that entrepreneurism is key to Long Island’s future,” Watt told Innovate LI. “Long Island has a long history of entrepreneurially minded people. Anything we can do to encourage and facilitate people willing to take risks and do great things, we have to do.”

The Pitch Night, and the opening of the Westbury facility, are very promising developments for millennial-aged entrepreneurs looking to “make their own opportunities,” Watt added, noting plenty of elbow room inside the high-profile, 180,000-square-foot structure on Westbury’s main drag.

In addition to the new LaunchPad, the building is currently home to the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence and a number of small law firms, Watt said, and offers plenty of room for small companies in growth mode.

“This new LaunchPad is a cradle-to-grave endeavor,” he said. “As companies grow out of LaunchPad Huntington, for instance, they have to move out. But here, there’s plenty of opportunity for a company to grow in a building where they’re already located.”

Before the new LaunchPad begins signing and graduating additional tenants, however, there will be the Pitch Night, sponsored by Melville law firm Carter DeLuca Farrell & Schmidt, Uniondale law firm Ruskin Moscou Faltischek, cloud-based professional employer organization TriNet and the Westbury-based Nassau Financial Federal Credit Union. Tickets cost $10 apiece and food and drinks will be served.

Watt agreed with Hazen that a Pitch Night is the ideal opening act for the new co-working stage.

“Pitch Night provides a forum for people who are looking to create the kinds of opportunities that will enable them to establish themselves on Long Island,” Watt said. “This is all about millennials who are committed to doing everything they can to stay on Long Island, and to working hard to create value, instead of looking to draw a paycheck from somebody else.”


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