Winners Announced for 2017 Upstate Venture Ecosystem Awards

2017 Award Winners | Upstate Venture Ecosystem Awards

Over 350 In Attendance to Honor Upstate’s Startup Leaders

Upstate Venture Connect (UVC) hosted 350 entrepreneurs, founders, mentors and investors at the 3rd Annual Upstate Unleashed Conference and 2017 Venture Ecosystem Awards.  Startup community members were in attendance from Albany, Buffalo, Binghamton, Syracuse, Rochester and the Hudson Valley. Award winners and finalists  in five categories were announced from more than 100 nominees:


Community Catalyst – Individuals who organize programs to bring together diverse startup ecosystem players in a local community and/or increase the amount of capital and number of active early stage investors in that community. The 2017 award winner is:

Richard Glaser | 2017 Community Catalyst WinnerRichard Glaser – Rochester, NY

• Sr. Financial Advisor, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management
• Co-creator, Rochester Growth; RocGrowth (Coffee / Candids)
• Member, UNY50 Leadership Network

Other Community Catalyst finalists included Elisa-Miller Out of Ithaca, NY (Chloe Capital, Singlebrook Technologies, PollQ, Women 2.0) and Johnny LeHane of Kingston, NY (Hudson Valley Startup Fund).


Campus Connector – Individuals affiliated with an educational institution (could be an administrator, student, alumnus or faculty member) who are leveraging on and off-campus resources and connections to spin-out research startups and/or create opportunities to retain entrepreneurial students. The 2017 award winner is:

Matthew Cusack | 2017 Campus Connector WinnerMatthew Cusack – Albany, NY

• Executive Director, Stack Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Siena College

• Mentor, StartFast Venture Accelerator; IgniteU NY

• Organizer, Accelerate 518

Other Campus Connector finalists included Laura Holmes of Binghamton, NY (Office of Entrepreneurship, Binghamton University) and Tom Schryver of Ithaca, NY (Center for Regional Economic Advancement, Cornell University).


Magical Mentor – Individuals who have had a transformative impact on the trajectory of one or more startup companies. The 2017 award winner is:

Richard Honen | 2017 Magical Mentor WinnerRichard Honen – Albany, NY

• Partner, Phillips Lytle LLP (Venture Capital Practice Team Leader)

• Mentor for companies including Our.News,  

• Adjunct, Union Graduate College

Other Magical Mentor finalists included Doug Buerkle of Rochester, NY (NEXUS, NY Clean Energy Accelerator; High Tech Rochester) and Mike Riedlinger of Rochester, NY (High Tech Rochester; Rochester Bioventure Center; Diffinity Genomics).


Ecosystem Champion – Individuals who are catalyzing and supporting startup activity across multiple Upstate communities. The 2017 award winner is:

NYSERDA | 2017 Ecosystem Champion WinnerNYS Energy & Research Authority (NYSERDA) – Albany, NY

• NYSERDA works with stakeholders throughout Upstate New York including business owners, community leaders, university researchers, investors and entrepreneurs. NYSERDA partners with them to advance energy solutions in ways that improve New York’s economy and environment.    

Other Ecosystem Champion finalists included Richard Frederick of Albany, NY (Eastern NY Angels; NEXUS-NY) and Theresa Mazzullo of Rochester, NY (Excell Partners; Impact Capital).


Deal of the Year – Companies whose exit created wealth for investors and founders/employees, as well as making the company a stronger contributor to the local economy. The 2017 award winner is:

CommerceHUb | 2017 Deal of the Year WinnerCommerceHub – Albany, NY

• Distributed Commerce Network

• IPO July 2016

President & CEO, Frank Poore

Other Deal of the Year finalists include Etransmedia (Troy, NY) and CFO for Hire (Albany, NY).


Upstate Venture Connect also announced the creation of the David M. Ahlers Master Ecosystem Builder award in recognition of his pivotal role in building the  startup community in Upstate NY. Ahlers, who passed away in 2016, mentored a generation of entrepreneurs at Cornell and founded Cayuga Venture Fund. He also advised on the creation of the Seed Capital Fund of CNY, a model that has since been leveraged to assist in the creation of multiple angel funds across Upstate NY. The first recipient of this award is J. Montieth “Monty” Estes of Rochester, NY for his decades long support of Upstate entrepreneurs and capital providers via High Tech Rochester, Excell Partners, UVANY. Estes also drove numerous tech transfer initiatives that united Upstate NY research universities with the goal of helping scientists commercialize their research.   

Upstate Venture Connect would like to thank our sponsors, speakers, nominees and attendees for making the 2017 Upstate Unleashed Conference and Venture Ecosystem Awards a day of connecting, learning and celebrating Upstate NY’s startup ecosystem. An independent panel of judges reviewed each nomination and selected the finalists and winners.

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