2018 Unleashed - Winners & Speakers | Upstate Venture Connect

2018 Upstate Venture Ecosystem Award Winners

Upstate NY’s Top Honors for Community Leaders Presented Before Sold Out Crowd

Upstate Venture Connect (UVC) hosted over 450 entrepreneurs, investors and community leaders at the 2018 Upstate Unleashed Conference and Venture Ecosystem Awards. Guests traveled from Albany, Buffalo, Binghamton, Ithaca, Syracuse, Rochester and Utica to learn, celebrate and connect. This annual event aligns with Upstate Venture Connect’s mission to create a region-wide startup ecosystem by connecting entrepreneurs to the people and resources needed to build great companies in Upstate NY. We were honored to welcome Netflix Co-founder Marc Randolph back to Upstate NY as our 2018 keynote. Randolph is an alumnus of Hamilton College.

More than 100 nominees were honored throughout the day. View all 2018 nominees here: uvc.org/awards-nominations-2018

In collaboration with our 2018 Awards Sponsor, Ernst & Young LLP, here are the winners and finalists across our six award categories:

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 2018 award winner is:

Christine Whitman – Rochester, NY

– CEO and Chairman Complemar and Mosaic Microsystems

– Chairman of the Board of Trustees at RIT

– Founder, Greater Rochester Enterprise and Rochester Angel Network (RAN)

Community Catalyst finalists included Tony DiMarco of Poughkeepsie, NY (Global Center for Social Entrepreneurship Network, Hudson Valley Startup Fund, Adjunct and EIR, SUNY New Paltz) and Tom Nardacci of Albany, NY (Aurelius Coworks, Troy Innovation Garage, Gramercy Communications).


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 2018 award winner is:

Jim Joseph – Syracuse, NY

– Dean, Madden School of Business at Le Moyne College

– Member of the Board of Directors for Stratus Properties, Inc

– Member of the Board of Director, The Beijing Center

Campus Connector finalists included Judy Albers of Rochester, NY (VanArsdale Chair in Entrepreneurship, SUNY Geneseo) and Rick Notargiacomo of Rochester, NY ( Venture Creations Incubator / Adjunct Professor at Rochester Institute of Technology).


Magical Mentor – Individuals who have had a transformative impact on the trajectory of one or more startup companies. The 2018 award winner is:

John Max Miller – Troy, NY

– CEO and Founder, Child Care Center Software; SmartEarly Learning Center

– Mentor, SpinCar

– Mentor and investor, StartFast Venture Accelerator

Magical Mentor finalists included Robert Manasier of Albany, NY (EIR, Innovate 518, IgniteU NY and University at Albany) and Steve Nicosia of Rochester, NY (Zen Advisory Partners; EIR, Launch NY; 5D Innovations LLC).


Ecosystem Champion – Individuals who are catalyzing and supporting startup activity across multiple Upstate communities. The 2018 award winner is:

Rami Katz – Rochester, NY

– COO, Excell Partners

– Board Member, Upstate Capital Association of New York

– Mentor, NSF I-Corps

Ecosystem Champion finalists included Doug Buerkle of Rochester, NY (Executive Director, NEXUS-NY) and Elisa Miller-Out of Ithaca, NY (Founder, Chloe Capital; Board Member; Women 2.0 and BAX).


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 2018 award winner is:

iCardiac – Rochester, NY

Leading provider of centralized cardiac safety and respiratory solutions serving the clinical trial market with the original technology coming out of UofR

Sold to ERT 2017

– President & CEO, Alex Zapesochny co-founded iCardiac in 2016

iCardiac has grown to more than 200 employees. Both Upstate NY and NYC investors were involved in this growth. The founders have since started new ventures to create even more jobs for our region.

Other Deal of the Year finalists include CommerceHub (Albany, NY) and Datto (Rochester, NY).

Learn more about the 15 Companies Having an Impact on Upstate NY here:  uvc.org/2018-nominees-deal-of-the-year

Acknowledgement is a core value of Upstate Venture Connect. In 2017, UVC created 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 was J. Montieth “Monty” Estes of Rochester, NY for his decades of supporting Upstate entrepreneurs and capital providers via NextCorps, Excell Partners and Upstate Capital Association of New York. Estes also drove numerous tech transfer initiatives that united Upstate NY research universities with the goal of helping scientists commercialize their research. Estes passed away in 2017 soon after receiving this honor. Learn more about his contributions to our ecosystem here: uvc.org/remembering-monty-estes-1943-2018

The 2018  David M. Ahlers Master Ecosystem Builder award winner is:

Lynn Smith – Syracuse, NY

– Cofounder, Seed Capital Fund of CNY

– Special Counsel, Barclay Damon LLC

– Investor and Mentor, StartFast Venture Accelerator


Upstate Venture Connect would like to thank our sponsors, speakers, nominees and attendees for making the 2018 Upstate Unleashed Conference and Venture Ecosystem Awards a day to remember. An independent panel of judges reviewed each nomination and selected the finalists and winners.

Stay updated on next year’s event, scheduled for Fall 2019 by signing up for UVC newsletters here: uvc.org/connect

Learn more about the speakers who provided insight at the 2018 Unleashed Conference here: uvc.org/conference-awards-2018

And a photo gallery by Ana Gil-Taylor Photography is available here: uvc.org/conference-awards-2018-pictures


About UVC

Upstate Venture Connect (UVC) is a 501c3 public benefit non-profit creating an entrepreneur-led startup ecosystem for Upstate NY. Since 2010, UVC has helped launch six angel funds and three startup accelerators. UVC also hosts a region-wide events calendar, online startup map and a communications platform that reaches thousands. In 2014, UVC launched UNY50, an invitation only network of individuals who have experienced the startup world roller coaster and are committed to helping build the next great Upstate company. In 2015, UVC received the Global Innovation Ecosystem Award. For more information on how you can help support UNY’s startup ecosystem, go to UVC.org/Ecosystem-Growth.

Upstate Venture Connect
Kathryn Cartini
(315) 400-2611

No Comments

Post a Comment