Funded by the New Economy Initiative (NEI) of Southeast Michigan and the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, the Blackstone LaunchPad opened in September 2010 offering career guidance, resources, and advice to entrepreneurs, innovators, and inventors at Wayne State University. Our primary mission is to show Wayne State University students that starting a new venture is a legitimate career path and attainable reality. The secondary mission is to encourage every Wayne State University student who wants to start a new venture - either for-profit or not for profit - to do so in Metro Detroit and thereby contribute to the economic and social growth of our region.
Through regular individual and group consultative sessions, workshops, and networking events the Blackstone LaunchPad is strengthening the entrepreneurial culture at Wayne State University and helping students and from every school, college, and campus transform innovative ideas into successful Southeast Michigan start-ups. Through partnerships with Automation Alley, the University of Miami (the original LaunchPad), and Walsh College (Blackstone LaunchPad@Walsh) we are committed to fostering the entrepreneurial community and revitalizing the economies of Midtown, Detroit and Michigan.
The Blackstone LaunchPad Team is comprised of entrepreneurs, inventors, business professionals, and students who are committed to helping you at every stage of your entrepreneurial journey. If you would like to join The Blackstone LaunchPad team, please contact us!
University Oversight and Administration
NED STAEBLER - Ned Staebler is Vice President for Economic Development at Wayne State University. His charge is to leverage Wayne State’s assets to be a catalyst for growth across the university and the community. Staebler’s responsibilities include coordinating the university’s activities around innovation and entrepreneurship, the commercialization of university intellectual property, and business development and attraction.
He also serves on various boards including: TechTown, NextEnergy, Midtown Detroit, Inc., the Detroit Historical Society, MichBio, the Ann Arbor Local Development Finance Authority, and the Ann Arbor Housing and Human Services Advisory Board.
Prior to joining Wayne State, Staebler served as the Vice President for Entrepreneurial and Capital Services at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. In this role, he was responsible for the oversight of the Michigan Strategic Fund Board and the 21st Century Jobs Fund, a $2 billion, ten-year initiative to transform Michigan's economy. As part of these efforts, Staebler led the investment and management of $600 million of state funds into entrepreneurial companies, venture capital and private equity funds, and strategic service providers.
Ned has a Masters of Science in Comparative Politics from the London School of Economics and a Bachelor of Arts (artium baccalaureus) in Government from Harvard University.
AHMAD EZZEDDINE, Ph.D. - Dr. Ahmad Ezzeddine is the Associate Vice President for Educational Outreach and International Programs at Wayne State University. In this capacity, he leads the university’s academic, global, and corporate educational outreach programs, including the university’s expansion in Macomb County. Ahmad was the executive leader who brought the Blackstone LaunchPad to Wayne State University.
Named one of Crain’s Detroit Business 40 Under 40 Class of 2007, Ezzeddine is committed to serving the community since his arrival to the Detroit area more than 20 years ago. He is the current Chairman of the International Visitors Council of Metropolitan Detroit. He also serves on the Boards of Directors of the American Arab Chamber of Commerce, the Metropolitan Detroit YMCA, the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, and the Generation of Promise. Ezzeddine has a Bachelor of Arts in Computer Information Systems, a Master of Business Administration and a Doctorate in Business and Industrial Engineering.
WILLIAM H. VOLZ, Executive Director of the Blackstone LaunchPad – William H. Volz, Professor of Business Law and Ethics, teaches and writes in the areas of business ethics, commercial law, and taxation. Born into a farming family in Michigan’s Thumb, Bill joined the Wayne State University faculty in 1978. He is currently the executive director of the Blackstone LaunchPad at Wayne State University developing student entrepreneurs and assisting them in starting and growing new ventures. He was interim dean and, then, dean of the School of Business Administration from 1985 to 1995. Professor Volz also served as director of the Center for Legal Studies in the Wayne State University Law School, chair of the Department of Accounting and Associate Vice President for Academic Personnel. Professor Volz earned a bachelor’s degree with High Honor from the Honors College at Michigan State University. Following service in the United States Army during the war in Vietnam, he continued his graduate studies. He holds master’s degrees from the University of Michigan and the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration and a law degree from Wayne State University. He is the author of a book on trial procedure and numerous articles on business ethics, international business, commercial law and taxation.
AUBREY C. AGEE II, Senior Program Administrator of the Blackstone LaunchPad – As the Senior Program Administrator of the Blackstone LaunchPad at Wayne State University he has reached over 4,000 participants in their exploration of entrepreneurship. Aubrey has guided 365 students to generate their own business models and helped over 115 businesses launch. Sixty one ventures are generating revenue within the first three years of Aubrey’s leadership over the Blackstone LaunchPad. He provides strategies to start-ups in various industries including software technology, bio manufacturing, engineering product development, brick and mortar establishments, fashion, film making, food production, and non-profit. He enjoys guiding individual’s ideas, coaching hidden talent and fostering inner confidence while teaching business acumen and discovering a person’s true value propositions. Listening and empathy are Aubrey’s strongest tools outside of his 13 years of experience in entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship and innovation.
He was the co-founder and CEO of start-up venture, V-Power, Inc. that specialized in vibration energy harvesting devices. The flagship product, the “AirSpacePZT” is a long life (indefinite) green energy device that will replace the Lithium Battery in Tire Pressure Monitor Sensors. Aubrey also spent two years as the General Electric Site Manager of Michigan Wind 1 - wind farm in the Thumb of Michigan. The Michigan Wind 1 wind farm is a 46 GE 1.5MW wind turbine power plant. He spent 10 years as a Global Engineer with General Motors, a design release engineer (owner) of side door components for new product and for service.
Aubrey received his Masters in Business Administration from Wayne State University in 2007 and his Bachelors of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Wayne State University in 2000.