- Steve Jobs

Matt Chepeleff

Matt is driven to create meaningful, powerful web-based tools that will make it easier for students to write a better business plan. He applies this drive to coding in-depth tools that range from LaunchPlan's financial modeling to course management capabilities. Matt is passionate about solving the pain-points inherent in the business planning process. Thanks to Matt, no longer does each student have to be a spreadsheet formula guru to represent the financials within a business opportunity! Matt is responsible for support and technology within LaunchPlan.

Ray Di Nizo

Ray is on a mission to simplify and clarify the often overwhelming and complex world of business planning. He believes that while planning efforts can sometimes appear as a puzzle - we ought to simplify this process and provide tools that make efforts as effective and straightforward as possible. Thanks to Ray, professors can now share their preferred plan format and course materials in a way that better guides students through each section of the plan! Ray is responsible for business development and sales within LaunchPlan.

LaunchPlan, Inc

LaunchPlan is the confluence of Matt and Ray’s individual perspectives: be powerful but simple, be clear but meaningful.  These perspectives continually guide and challenge us to create tools that truly solve problems for students and professors alike — while being simple enough to quickly provide value outside of a steep learning curve.

This dissonance challenges us in the same way today as it did in 2008 when we completed our Venture Creation capstone course at Northeastern University.  While writing our plan, we had to succinctly identify the problem and solution while also mapping out sales, marketing, operations and financial plans that were both cohesive and easy to read.

Our Story

It was January, 2008, and two friends, Matt and Ray were in their capstone entrepreneurial class and… things were not going well.  It felt like they were trying to start a business and the task of the class was to create a business plan. (They’d heard the statistics that 50% of the businesses started that year didn’t have a business plan.) They liked the idea of a business plan, they just didn’t like creating a business plan. At one point Ray said, “We’re trying to create a beautiful painting and we’re forced to work with pieces of canvas…none of this fits, none of it relates.” Matt echoed the feeling, “Yeah, we’re understanding each piece of this, but none of it comes together. We’re writing more and more papers about specifics without any cohesive structure that gets us closer to opening a business.”And even when they did feel like they were pulling all these pieces together, they’d get sidetracked trying to figure out how to get one financial entry to tie to another spreadsheet and working on the nuances of Excel. The time they were able to spend with their professors was focused on how to make the tools work, not on the work of taking an idea from the classroom and turning it into a business.

So they went and talked to their professor and to their surprise they found out that he was more frustrated than they were. The professor had a list of problems with teaching the class but at the heart of the matter was he had a responsibility to teach a curriculum with very specific outcomes. The only way they could ensure teaching was happening was to require students to write papers about the subject and demonstrate they understood the material. Their professor said, “Look guys, I know that I’m having you push paper around and that this is not a very fast way to move the ball forward. I’d really love to be helping you grow your business and help you grow but we have to teach you the platforms to work on, before we can worry about the content.”

That’s when it hit them. Entrepreneurs and professors needed a platform constructed to allow students and professors to grow and relate to the content of starting a business. To strip away the papers and coaching on how to create order in narrative and numbers…and to have that work already laid out and waiting for professors so they could teach and for students so they could focus on getting a real business into the real world.They set out to do just that. To create a platform that would enable professors to teach better and students to become entrepreneurs and launch their business.

This also happened to be one of the worst economic periods in history and it became even more apparent that entrepreneurship was the best hope for restoring growth and prosperity. The education process of entrepreneurship had to become better, it had to have better tools, it had to expect more of students and professors…it had to reach for excellence.

Matt and Ray were now out of college and decided to create a platform to provide the goals that they had struggled to overcome. Each had passed up job opportunities, and borrowed money from family and friends to work on this business and it was not easy. At one point, Ray asked Matt, “Tell me again, why we’re doing this?  Why are we creating a educational tool when we could be accepting job offers and going to work?”  Matt replied, “Because everything that we have learned while starting this business tells us that we could’ve been taught better in the classroom.  Because writing a paper for the sake of writing a paper sucks. Because the job market for people our age sucks and that’s a real shame because we’re a generation of incredibly innovative, passionate people. Because professors are frustrated with pushing papers around and they want to challenge, enrich and empower students to fulfill their dreams. Because it’s important. Because understanding how to plan effectively for a new business will also help you run that business. Because entrepreneurship is the only part of the business that demands you understand and tie together all the threads of business. Because trying to do this is the hardest thing to teach and because we want to make it easier. Because it’s important that we create a platform that makes it easier to step off into the world.”

And then luck and good fortune shone down on Ray and Matt. In the fall of 2009, MIT Sloan agreed to Beta test their platform. They had some of the best professors and brightest students in the world help develop, refine and test their platform. Their baby. Their new platform…LaunchPlan.

By the Spring of 2010 they had their first paying customers, 100 students from ASU.  By the Fall of 2010 LaunchPlan was taking hold and one University was recommending it to another. ASU, Bentley, Northeastern and Indiana University.

By Spring of 2011 LaunchPlan was being picked up by some of the top business schools in the country, including the #1 Ranked Entr. Program at the University of Houston, Baylor University (the current #1 Ranked Entr. Program). LaunchPlan was picking up momentum and the values of trying to help professors become better teachers and students to grow was resonating with both groups. Professors were signing up and recommending LaunchPlan to their peers inside and outside of their own university. Professors started allowing Ray and Matt to use them as references.

By the Fall of 2011 this idea, this collaborative platform had grown to over 20 subscribing universities. Students and professors were providing feedback and encouragement that continued to refine and propel LaunchPlan.

By the Spring of 2013 LaunchPlan has over 40 partnering universities. The passion and dreams of two students…to help teachers teach and to help students grow is spreading across entrepreneurship programs and taking root across America in creating learning and growth for professors, students and businesses.

LaunchPlan is the story of two struggling students and a dream to make it better for those that follow behind them. Ray and Matt are still working everyday and most nights and week-ends refining, growing and building their platform. They love what they’re doing, the lives their touching, the businesses they’re helping create. They’re still at it because…because it’s important.