By: Lindsay Ellis | Albany Timesunion
Area startup founders are preparing for a high-profile visitor: Later this month, entrepreneur and investor Paul Singh will drive his silver RV into Saratoga Springs.
Singh, who has founded or co-founded five companies, will come to the Spa City on Thursday, Aug. 18, as part of a North American tour of technology startups. During the tour, which has, to date, brought him to more than 20 cities, he has answered questions from founders and invested in businesses – on average, he said, one company per week.
Singh’s visit presents an unusual opportunity for local founders to expand their networks. As investors rarely venture beyond startup hubs like New York City and Silicon Valley, they said, the August visit will introduce a connected and influential voice to Capital Region businesses.
“We have outside money coming here, and that’s great,” said Peter Dean, CEO of RenderTribe, a digital marketing firm for young companies. The visit, Dean said, will get investors “to start thinking about us more – anything helps.”
Singh said in an interview that his visits so far have introduced him to “sharp, intelligent and hungry” founders who often “don’t know how good they are.”
His investments, he said, average around $100,000, “little bets” on companies. He declined to say how many companies he has invested in from the tour, citing companies’ desire for privacy, but he estimated that it is about one company per city.
Private investors have also accompanied him to several cities on the route, he said.
“Talent is now equally distributed around the country – there are smart and ambitious people everywhere,” Singh said. “But what is not is access to capital and access to functional expertise.”
Nationally, startups in cities that integrate with local universities and institutions and have reasonable costs of living have high potential to compete, incubator and seed fund 1776 said in a 2016 report, Innovation That Matters.
Saratoga Springs’ “pipeline for talent” through universities and a “great quality of life” make the city attractive for startups, said Clarke Foley, MadGlory director of operations, said.
“I think there’s a trade-off that companies in this area make,” he said. “The detriment is, it’s not totally typical to see a ton of startup tech companies hit it big here, compared to Silicon Valley.”
Singh’s stop in Saratoga Springs rounds out an upstate New York circuit with presentations in Utica and Syracuse.
He will discuss angel investing and the regional “ecosystem” for startups in Saratoga Springs on Aug. 18, and he will choose six web-based startups to meet with him on Aug. 19.
“Every entrepreneur I know is signing up,” said Chris Thompson, founder and CEO of Workorder.es, a ticketing software for tenants, landlords and property managers. “We’re all working to get one of those six slots, to be able to present.”
Kris Walker, president and co-founder of Odd Networks, said he hopes to talk to Singh about a new product through which customers can create their own content channel for devices like Roku or Apple TV.
Walker said the region has few venture capital funds or individual investors, a challenge because investors like to get to know their business teams.
“If you’re in San Francisco or New York City or Boston, you run into your investors on a weekly basis,” he said. “Here, you go down to New York and you meet with a few customers and investors. The rest of it is online communication.”
This, Singh said, drove him to make the trip. Businesses outside of traditional hubs “don’t have the visibility that some of their peers have,” he said.
“I’m not lowering the bar by any means,” he said. “That’s the thing that kills me. I’m finding the same stuff you would have been finding in the Valley.”
Singh’s visit will culminate in a mixer for founders and investors at Harvey’s Restaurant and Bar, which Foley said allows for more casual networking.
Development can stall, Foley said, when companies try to raise money beyond a few hundred thousand dollars.
“We can expose the ecosystem that already exists to more people,” he said.
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