EricSmith has known entrepreneurial life since childhood.
“My father has been an entrepreneur for 25, 30 years, and my family has seen the ups and downs of being at the top of the world and the downs,” he said Technically. “So since I was 15 or 16 I knew exactly what I wanted to do when I got older and that was support people like my dad, give them a little extra help, more capital, a better team, that helps make something happen.”
After serving as Vice President of carvertise for several years helping the former time University of Delaware Startup grown into the national brand it is today, he co-founded Launch Point Labs (LPL) in 2021. It is one of the first startup studios in Delaware and counts five managing partners: Smith, Kyra Gilmore, Travis King, Damien Martin and Brandon Mahoney.
A startup studio is not an accelerator or incubator, but a group of entrepreneurs and executives building small businesses and nonprofits, offering a pool of 100+ carefully selected designers, marketers, sales professionals, project managers and consultants to fill and give talent gaps Financing and Investment Assistance. According to Smith, LPL is expected to open 16 new businesses in Delaware this year.
At this point, LPL is connecting startups with investors across the country who might be a good match, but the team is also building a $5 million fund to invest directly in startups – a potential boon to Delaware’s startup ecosystem, which is small compared to VC investments in other markets (excluding all those inc-only companies).
Like Carvertise, LPL is national and serves startups across North America. But his team is investing heavily in the Greater Philadelphia region, specifically Delaware, where Smith and several other members live.
The goal of the local startups that LPL works with — who currently make up about 30% of its customer base — is to provide them with enough support to stay in Delaware and grow, and of course, remain customers.
“We really want to be able to make a significant impact in Delaware as a whole,” Smith said. “What we have noticed from speaking to many startups in the area is that Delaware lacks support for startups and entrepreneurs. Whether it’s capital, resources, or talent, there’s a huge gap and startups can’t get the help they need. What happens in the end is that you will probably move. They will move to Philadelphia, Washington, DC or Baltimore. All these other cities around us are sucking up business and good talent. We want to change that.”
Early-stage startups can get LPL services for free. The business model is designed to take such startups to the point where they make money. At this point, the startups become paying customers who continue to have access to LPL’s resources.
“We’re playing a really long game here, especially in Delaware.”
For example, if an LPL-launched fitness app startup is doing well but isn’t quite ready to hire an in-house designer, they can turn to LPL’s designers (or marketers, or whatever they need) for a monthly fee, be it a direct payment or equity.
“We’re playing a really long game here, especially in Delaware,” Smith said. “We’re helping startups totally free because we know that once we’re able to get them off the ground, start accelerating their growth, we can talk about, OK, that’s what a retainer is or a holding is going to look like.”
One of the challenges – and we heard about it other Delaware founders Also — is that a lot of the talent trained here doesn’t stay here, making it difficult for some Delaware startups to find local talent. LPL’s pool of contractors allows these startups to take root without relying on talent in other states, which can pull startups out of Delaware.
So how do you get these free resources?
“The number one thing we look for in a startup company is the founder,” Smith said. “[We look for] someone who has courage and resilience who wants to be able to make it happen. We’ve found that once we find someone like that, there’s no stopping us. Our businesses are diversified. We help some museums, even non-profits, which is great. We are starting to work with some companies that are packaged in the consumer goods space. But it really depends on the founder.”
You can see some of the startups that LPL works with both locally and across North America LinkedIn feed; Delaware-based customers include Newark Spray less, which also has founders who were formerly with Carvertise. You can also use LinkedIn to connect with the team, who are always on the lookout for young founders who need support.
Supporting early-stage startups, Smith said, is “engraved in our DNA.”