Marc Cuban said business is the ultimate sport.
I like it. It’s relatable. Especially when we think off entrepreneurship as a sport. In this comparison, the Superbowl of the startup world perhaps would be an IPO — when a company becomes publicly traded on the NYS Exchange. Then maybe when the founder is inducted into the Hall of Fame, the experience is comparable to becoming a startup unicorn — when your company is valued at $1 billion or more.
So, while looking out at over 100 student teams who were anxiously awaiting the results of the 2018 NYS Business Competition finals, I told them that today, is Tryouts:
“You’ve all set a mission for yourselves. You trained, you’ve been coached and now you’re here to strut your stuff in front of a room full of talent scouts. Because the speakers, judges, proctors and event coordinators here today are really angel investors, VCs, corporate investors, and top corporate executives. They’re here to, not only access if the ideas you’re pitching may potentially advance our community, but also to evaluate the strength of our next generation entrepreneurs — you.”
But why? Why would these industry leaders take a Friday out of their crazy schedules to be here at a student competition? Because Upstate Venture Connect, along with our community and venture partners across the region, believe that we can rebuild Upstate NY through entrepreneurship.
This belief is anchored on data shared by Enrico Moretti in The Multiplier Effect of Innovation Jobs — that each new high-tech job in the U.S. creates five additional jobs in the service economy.
This means, if one high growth company takes flight in Upstate NY, then our economy benefits. Here’s a few examples:
- The company creates high-paying jobs for our community by hiring an executive team.
- Those executives plant roots in Upstate. They buy cars and homes, educate their children here, and go out to dinner. They live their lives.
- The company also needs office space, internet, an accountant, a lawyer, etc.
As a result of just one high growth company succeeding in our region, the economy awakens.
“We know it’s a difficult journey because many of the people here to support you today have already experienced the wins and losses of the Ultimate Game. That’s why we’ve joined forces to create Upstate NY’s Startup Ecosystem. We thought about all of the challenges of starting a business in another city — a bigger one — like NYC, Boston or Silicon Valley, and we set out to make improvements. Upstate Venture Connect can now connect all of you with the resources needed to create the next great companies here, in Upstate NY, after you graduate.”
Quality of life is an area in which Upstate NY is blessed
We all want to live happier lives. Upstate has beautiful natural treasures likes mountains and lakes, incredible farms, wineries and restaurants, and is still in close proximity to NYC, Boston and Canada. The cost of living in comparison to a major metro area like NYC is, however, not even in the same ballpark. And don’t get me started on the traffic!
[Read] Justin Call, CEO of Go Figure — 5 Reasons Upstate NY is the Best Place to Launch a Startup
When you’re building a company and you have less burden (financial or otherwise) at least some pressure will be off your shoulders.
The Bigger Game Ecosystem
UVC and our community partners have spent the last decade building a venture ecosystem in Upstate NY to guide and support entrepreneurs. Today, each region has co-working spaces and incubators for founders to save money and plug into the local creative culture. Many of these startup spaces also provide great programing, which give access to trusted business service providers and experienced mentors.
There’s at least one angel fund or vc firm in every major city in Upstate, and new funds are being launched each year with specific investment goals like focusing on social entrepreneurship, or funding women-led tech companies. (Shameless plug: Visit ChloeCapital.com 😉
In addition to the NYS Business Plan Competition for students, Upstate NY is also home to some major league startup competition activity — including four of the largest business plan competitions in the world, with each top prize winner receiving $1 MILLION!
Here’s a quick recap on how Upstate NY is rewarding innovation:
- 43North — applications are open — become a member of Buffalo’s community.
- 76West — clean energy — Southern Tier — demo day this summer.
- GENIUS NY—Syracuse — drones — FotoKyte from Switzerland just won $1M. Fotokyte will now partially allocate operations to central NY to take advantage of the new business partnerships made during the competition.
- Luminate Accelerator — Rochester — optics, photonics and imaging companies — Demo Day in June.
Importance of creative collisions
The more entrepreneurial events you go to, the more like-minded people you will meet who might be able to assist in the growth of your company. A cofounder, intern, maybe an even an investor. Get out there and rub elbows with champions. Go to UVC.org/events for an all-inclusive calendar of events in each region.
“You know when I graduated college — being an entrepreneur was frowned upon. It gave the impression that the person didn’t have a job, or maybe even that the person was a swindler because they were trying to convince people to buy into an idea, without any guarantee they were going to make good on their word. The definition of an entrepreneur really hasn’t changed, but the perception has. And while supporting entrepreneurs, and investing resources into startups is risky business, I’m proud to see how you’re now all being recognized as next generation leaders and risk takers. Please don’t take it for granted.”
Upstate NY is committed to the success of young entrepreneurs and high-growth startup founders. We want them to reap all the benefits of living here and growing a business in Upstate, including the low cost of living, high quality of life, and thriving ecosystem of supporters and resources. We also aim to help our entrepreneurs attract the attention of those outside our region, state and country. Through storytelling and making connections, Upstate Venture Connect helps entrepreneurs form critical relationships, and close big partnerships and clients.
SparkCharge, one year after winning NYBPC
One year ago today, Josh Aviv, the CEO and cofounder of SparkCharge was pitching his idea at the NYS Business Plan Competition. SparkCharge creates ultrafast charging units for electric vehicles small enough to fir in the trunk.
Josh is a graduate of Syracuse University — where he became a member of SU”s Blackstone Launchpad, and connected with amazing mentors such as Linda Dickerson Hartsock. Josh was also seeking assistance from The Tech Garden, Syracuse Student Sandbox and the Syracuse Center of Excellence. So when he stepped on stage last year, Josh had already committed hundreds of hours to building his idea, working with industry experts and taking advantage of the our ecosystem’s resources. The result was impressive, and Josh won first place in the NYSERDA Clean Energy track, and the 2017 NYS Business Plan Competition overall.
That was in April. In November, I see Josh at the FuzeHub Commercialization Competition for manufacturing companies. Josh was on fire once again, and took home another $50,000 in prize money.
If that wasn’t exciting enough, Josh pulls me aside to share that he just drove in from Boston, where a corporate VC has expressed sincere interest in funding SparkCharge. AND, that he was in the final interview stage for Techstars Boston! (Side note — fewer than 1% of companies that apply to a Techstars program are accepted).
Now it’s April again, one year later, and I’m proud to report that Josh has closed his first investment round, and he just participated in Techstars Demo Night in Boston, where he gave a live demonstration of his charging unit!
Playing your Bigger Game closes with paying it forward
Remember in the beginning of this story when we discussed entrepreneurship being the Ultimate Sport, and the Super Bowl being the equivalent of a startup IPO? I really think the victory of playing your Bigger Game in the Ultimate Sport comes when you’ve reached a certain level of success and you’re able to help others around you, and give back to those who supported you along your journey.
“Using Josh as a rising star example — Regardless of the new connections he’s made in Boston, Josh Aviv still lives in Syracuse. He says he’s built a team of personal and professional supporters over the years who continue to huddled around him. Josh is one of the high-growth founders our community has been scouting for. He’s at the helm of a company that’s poised to create real jobs for our region, and help rebuild Upstate NY through entrepreneurship. Are you next? As we wait for the judges to deliberate and the winners to be announced, please know — we’re proud of each of you for joining The Ultimate Sport, and we’re here to support you. Best of luck!”
Join me on Friday, May 4 in Binghamton for the 2018 Southern Tier Start-Up Summit with this crazy guy, Dan Mori, Director of Business Incubation for the Koffman Southern Tier Incubator.
“The Southern Tier Start-Up Summit is a celebration of entrepreneurship and its impact on the greater community, “said Dan. “We’ll be coming together as founders, entrepreneurs, business professionals, investors, and economic catalysts to celebrate how far we have come, and share in the vision for our future. We’ll be showcasing companies in the Business Incubation and Clean Energy programs, and providing several events, speaker series, workshops, and networking opportunities,” he added.
The 2018 Summit will also welcome Washington DC venture capitalists Paul Singh and Dana Dunkin from Results Junkies back to Upstate NY. Paul will share insights on, “Do you have the traits to be an entrepreneur?”
See you there! View an all-inclusive calendar of startup events across Upstate NY at uvc.org/events.