UVC Team

Martin BabinecMartin Babinec
Founder and Chairman


Martin Babinec is both a noted Silicon Valley entrepreneur and a native/current resident of Upstate New York. He launched Upstate Venture Connect as an outgrowth of his vision and commitment to accelerate transformational change across the Upstate region. Babinec has provided UVC’s initial capitalization and he serves full time without compensation.

In 1988 Babinec founded TriNet HR Corporation, a provider of payroll, benefits and human resources outsourcing solutions that has grown to serve more than 8,000 small businesses customers throughout the U.S. and Canada. He served as CEO from the company’s inception until 2008, and Chairman through January 2010. He remains active in the company as a Director and industry advocate.

In building TriNet, Babinec’s activities concentrated on market positioning, growing sales, team leadership, strategic development and investor relations – including leading TriNet through five rounds of private equity financing and six acquisitions. He has been prominent in the growth of the HR outsourcing industry, serving multiple terms on the Board of Directors for the National Association of Professional Employer Organizations (NAPEO), and continues in an active public policy development role as founder and Chair of NAPEO’s Grassroots Leadership Network.

Mr. Babinec has published more than 30 articles and given an even greater number of public presentations on topics ranging from entrepreneur and company development, leadership, human resources management, outsourcing and regional economic development to name a few. He is an active Angel investor, a member of the international Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) network, and a recipient of the Silicon Valley Entrepreneur of the Year award. He served for five years on a Kauffman Foundation Advisory Board and also been a guest lecturer at the University of California-Berkeley, and the Stanford Graduate School of Business, which has profiled TriNet in a case study for academic research into high-growth, equity-financed companies.

Prior to founding TriNet, Mr. Babinec enjoyed a successful career in human resources management with the Navy Exchange, an international retailer. During that time he resided in Japan and Italy where he managed all facets of human resources with an emphasis on international labor relations.

Mr. Babinec received his Bachelor’s degree in business administration from Shippensburg University, and an Associates degree from SUNY’s Herkimer County Community College. He has previously held the accreditation of Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) through the Human Resources Certification Institute.


Nasir AliS. Nasir Ali
Co-Founder and CEO


Nasir Ali is a resident of Syracuse, NY and the founder and Executive Director of the Seed Capital Fund of CNY, a private LLC whose members are actively engaged in funding and supporting early stage tech companies. He is a Managing Director of the StartFast Venture Accelerator, a key UVC initiative.  Ali also serves on the boards of the Upstate Venture Association of New York and Chequed.

Prior to founding UVC, Ali was president of The Tech Garden, a not-for-profit organization with the mission of creating an entrepreneurial culture in Syracuse and the Central New York region. In addition to managing the Syracuse Technology Garden incubator, Ali managed a statewide network of experienced mentors. In 2008, Ali co-taught a course in technology entrepreneurship at Syracuse University, which has since grown into a year-long community-campus collaborative effort known as the Syracuse Student Startup Accelerator.  Ali also had responsibility for launching the NYSERDA-funded Center for Clean Tech Entrepreneurship and SATOP, a NASA supported small business technology assistance program.

Ali moved to Syracuse from Washington, DC, where he was an associate at Booz Allen Hamilton charged with helping IRS Commissioners manage over $1 billion in technology modernization and workforce restructuring initiatives. Prior to this, he co-founded New Think (a mobile commerce services firm) and WritersPoint (an offshore technical writing company). Before beginning his career as an entrepreneur, Ali turned around large-scale software, telecommunications, and systems integration projects for Fortune 100 companies. He received his MBA in finance and operations management from Yale University’s School of Management, where he helped initiate a joint master’s degree program in industrial environmental management. Ali graduated from Princeton University with a degree in physics and a concentration in economics.


Jonathan GrutkaJonathan Grutka
Director, Growth Initiatives


Jonathan Grutka was born and raised in the Syracuse, NY area. He possesses a large vision and passion surrounding the entrepreneurial landscape and scaling organizations.

Grutka is a 2012 Central New York “40 under Forty” nominee. He spent 2.5 years in a pure-play, Social Commerce startup – LivingSocial. As a Regional Sales Manager, Grutka played a crucial role in scaling the organization including launching the Syracuse, NY platform. He led a cross functional team of 18-24 in 6 markets, 4 of which were located in Upstate NY, realizing quarterly budgets over $1.8 million.  Grutka also launched Amazon Local for the cities of Pittsburgh, Pa., and Jacksonville Fla.

In January of 2013, Grutka co-founded a Syracuse based Social Media Management Company, Advenio, which scaled to 30 clients in 9 different states, and was recognized as a CNY 2013 “Economic Champion”. Grutka is a member of the Advisory Board for the Syracuse Chiefs AAA Baseball Team, and is Vice President and Co-Founder of Valued Industry Partners.


MLH picMary Lou Herringshaw
Program Associate


Mary Lou Herringshaw is a lifelong resident of Upstate New York.  Herringshaw’s exposure to people and issues in the realm of entrepreneurship and emerging technology began with her serving as Personal Assistant to TriNet HR Corporation’s founder Martin Babinec, a role that has now evolved with his founding of Upstate Venture Connect in 2010.  She is familiar with and interacts with representatives of capital providers, economic development organizations, universities, entrepreneurs and others in the Upstate tech ecosystem as part of her regular duties.

Herringshaw is also active in the local community, currently serving her 10th year as Town Clerk for Danube; she has served on the Little Falls Little League Board for 8 years (3 as president) and just finished 6 years on the Little Falls Youth Wrestling Board.

Mrs. Herringshaw received her Bachelor’s degree in business administration from Utica College of Syracuse University in 1989.