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.
S. 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.
Advisor and Interim CTO
Greg Gibson is an entrepreneur / technologist that has founded and/or served on the founding management team of several internet companies, including Viximo, Helium.com, Cartera Commerce and others, which have collectively raised over $50 million in venture capital.
Viximo provides a virtual goods platform that connects social app and game developers with numerous social networks across the web. With Viximo’s platform, developers get access to over 60 million users across multiple social networks with a single easy implementation. Additionally, social networks are able to quickly set up a robust virtual currency, enable third parties to easily develop to their site, and instantly offer the highest quality social apps and games.
Helium is simultaneously an online community for writers and a directory for user-generated articles. Writers can submit articles to 24 different channels (business, entertainment, travel, etc.), write for the side of a heated debate, try to capture publisher writing assignments bounties or win user-voted Helium writing contests. Users rate submitted articles using a peer review engine, helping the best writing rise to the top. Greg developed the core crowd-ranking technology, for which he has five patents pending.
Cartera Commerce is a provider of multi-channel loyalty shopping solutions and merchant-funded that increase revenue, strengthen customer loyalty, and improve member engagement. Focused on a range of industries including financial services, card issuers, airline and hospitality, and loyalty programs, Cartera maintains an integrated network of more than 1,000 world-class online and bricks-and-mortar merchants. Today, Cartera’s multi-channel shopping solutions and flexible, on-demand platform power personalized online and in-store shopping programs for more than 150 million consumers and growing. Greg was the founding SVP of Products and Marketing, designing the initial platform framework and road map.
Greg is also an advisor to startups, helping them form management teams, raise capital and form business strategy. Greg is a cofounder of Web Innovators Group, a quarterly Boston technology meetup that draws over 1,000 people. Greg is also a cofounder of Betahouse, the first co-working space for web entrepreneurs in the Boston area. Greg and his wife, Samantha, live in Saratoga Springs.
Zachary Shulman is Managing Partner at Cayuga Venture Fund, a private equity investment firm specializing in leading edge, high tech start-up companies in Ithaca and Upstate New York.
Zach is also affiliated with Cornell's Johnson Graduate School of Management where he coordinates "Entrepreneurship at Johnson" and teaches law for high-growth businesses. . He serves on the Industrial Advisory Board of the NYS Center for Life Science Enterprise at Cornell and on the Advisory Board of Cornell's Life Sciences Incubator initiative.
From January 1999 through March 2002, Zach served as General Counsel and Chief Investor Relations Officer of Spike Broadband Systems, where he was responsible for general oversight of Spike's legal functions, including negotiating and closing strategic and business relationships, strategizing, negotiating and closing fund-raising efforts, and investor relations and various human resource matters. While at Spike, he was also responsible for operational tracking over Spike's functional business areas. Zach brought to Spike in-depth legal and negotiating experience representing public and private companies across a wide array of industries. While at Spike, Zach negotiated and closed over $80 million in venture capital financing.
Prior to joining Spike, Zach was an associate at the law firm of Harris Beach in Ithaca, New York. At Harris Beach, he focused his practice on representing private and public corporations in a wide range of capacities, including equity financing through private placements and venture capital, bank financing, mergers and acquisitions, and the establishment and implementation of corporate governance policies, including advising boards of directors and executive management with respect to such policies. Before Harris Beach, Zach was an associate at Ropes & Gray in Boston, Massachusetts, where he represented predominantly public companies in equity and debt offerings, commercial lending, Securities and Exchange Commission compliance, mergers and acquisitions and executive compensation matters.
He earned a Bachelor of Science from the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations and graduated from Cornell University Law School, magna cum laude.