About Urban LaunchPad

The Urban LaunchPad is a course intended for entrepreneurs who wish to start or accelerate a sustainable, for-profit business that creates a significant positive impact in urban communities. This one-of-a-kind workshop series focuses individual entrepreneurs and teams on the skills needed  to make lasting improvements in urban quality-of-life through the creation of for-profit businesses. Urban communities can be vibrant, exciting, and highly productive places, but residents and visitors often face an array of vexing challenges. Community members often express the need for solutions in several broad problem areas, including the following:


jobs and economic development education and job training
youth recreation and enrichment public safety
 transportation food and nutrition options
 affordable housing health care access
public utilities and infrastructure affordable financial services
telecommunications access

environmental safety and sustainability

news, media, arts, and entertainment

retail goods and services availability

Participants in the Urban LaunchPad series focus on the creation of a sustainable, scalable, for-profit company that addresses an important community need. Participating individuals or teams may wish to develop an existing business idea or may start “from scratch” to identify a new opportunity. The Urban LaunchPad gives participants the tools to create a profitable, high-impact business, and challenges entrepreneurs to take advantage of rapidly accelerating technology to create powerful solutions to previously intractable problems. Participants will gain or enhance the ability to:

  • Effectively engage with community members and leaders
  • Identify important problems that can lead to business opportunity
  • Apply “design thinking” to create and prototype effective solutions
  • Design a scalable, for-profit business model
  • Apply “customer discovery” methods to test and refine abusiness model
  • Evaluate a business model in light of market forces
  • Effectively “pitch” a business venture to community stakeholders, co-founders, employees, and others
  • Form, finance, and begin execution of a business venture

The Urban LaunchPad course was created by W. David Tarver, successful tech entrepreneur, investor, author, educator and philanthropist.  Mr. Tarver currently serves as Senior Counselor to the Provost for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Wayne State University in Detroit. He is also a lecturer in the Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and is the founder and president of the Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative. The techniques employed in the Urban LaunchPad are adapted from Mr. Tarver’s University of Michigan course, “Urban Entrepreneurship.” The Urban LaunchPad course leverages what Mr. Tarver has learned from teaching the U-M course for the benefit of entrepreneurs who are living and working in an urban community.

The Urban LaunchPad begins with an introductory overview session that is open to public registration. At this initial session, Mr. Tarver walks participants through the complete process for developing an “urban-focused” business, and gives an overview of the Urban LaunchPad workshop sessions. Following this introduction, attendees are invited to apply for admission to the Urban LaunchPad workshop sessions. There are six such sessions. Workshop capacity is limited, so admission to the Urban LaunchPad favors those who have already identified a significant opportunity that addresses an important need.

The Urban LaunchPad sessions are conducted in a casual, relaxed setting. Participants are encouraged to provide constructive suggestions and critique to their colleagues. The sessions employ guests and experts from the local entrepreneurship ecosystem to provide additional information and advice on various topics.