Martin Babinec, Chairman of Upstate Venture Connect joins Liz Benjamin on Capital Tonight to discuss his commitment to supporting job creators in Upstate New York.
2016 Upstate Venture CEO Report Backs Babinec’s Assertions on Job Creation –
Through the support of his nonprofit, Upstate Venture Connect (UVC), Martin Babinec has unlocked a formula to support job creators in Upstate New York. UVC is an entrepreneur-led nonprofit focused on helping startup founders get connected to the people and resources needed to creating the next great companies in Upstate NY. Now with the first ever Upstate Venture CEO Report, high growth companies across our region reveal their plans for job creation.
“We have been successful in spreading the message that there are different ways to create jobs than maybe what we have done here in Upstate NY to date,” says Martin Babinec, Founder and Chairman of Upstate Venture Connect.
In an interview with journalist Liz Benjamin on Capital Tonight, Babinec discusses what has motivated his commitment to supporting our region’s high growth companies. The answer is simple – they are proven job creators.
The Upstate Venture CEO Report surveyed 115 high growth innovation companies throughout Upstate NY. Babinec says UVC’s mission to is help these young companies in the newer industries.
“We know these high growth companies are the biggest jobs creators. I’ve been saying this for the six years I’ve been working on and building Upstate Venture Connect. The data in this Report now backs up those assertions.”
Among other things, the Report reveals of these 115 companies, 90% of them are selling their products or services to either national or global audiences. Babinec explains selling to a non-local customer base using advanced technology helps scale the business up quickly.
Yet with much of the attention today focused on keeping large brick and mortar companies in operation with incentives such as tax breaks and funds to build facilities, the key focus of connected founders with resources like college educated talent and mentorship is flying under the radar and not being supported. Babinec says, this is one of our biggest disconnects.
“That’s been my contention all along. As a result of the 115 colleges and universities in Upstate NY, enrolling 500,000 college students, we have people that not only grow up and go to college here, but we have people who come into the area from all over the world,” says Babinec. “These are people who have great ideas in these newer industries and they want to start companies. And increasingly our ability to keep more of them here to start companies is what will create jobs. So this Report reflects, not only that we have a bunch of companies that are on this path, but 3/4 of these companies have 80% or more of their employees with college degrees. This is the very profile we’ve been talking about.”
Babinec believes a piece of the disconnect involves the lag in New York’s educational system, and how the system goes about preparing people with the right skills that these newer industries need. But there’s also a question of connectivity. “If you’re an entrepreneur starting a company you don’t necessarily have a lot of contacts and you don’t have much visibility needed resources. That’s the reason why they leave here and go to places like New York City, or Boston or the San Francisco Bay area, because it’s easier for them to get connected to the resources that they need – talent included,” he adds.
So what can the state be doing to try and improve the outlook for these existing companies and bring more job creators like those identified in the Report here to Upstate New York?
Babinec says the state needs to put some resources into building the right environment for entrepreneurs. And that environment has to include making it easier for the people who want to start companies to get connected to the best resources.
“There are probably 100 organizations in one fashion or another that are catering to these emerging technology startup companies, but right now those organizations, many of which receive state funding, are siloed and don’t interact with each other,” explains Babinec. There’s no platform, there’s no connectivity between them. That’s part of what UVC does as a small nonprofit. We now have partner organizations that take advantage of some of the platforms and capabilities UVC brings to the table.”
He continues to say that the Upstate Venture CEO Report is an illustration of these efforts of connectivity, and believes the state couldn’t have accomplished a similar survey.
“We had 115 CEOs respond. This is not an easy thing to do. And another important attribute of the survey sample is that its spread across 50 different industry segments. State data is not even set up to identify who these job creators and high growth companies are.”
And while many may not be focused on changes at the state level given our new President-elect, a businessman we’ve already seen have the ability to move markets and engage with large companies at a personal level, Babinec believes Trump’s business experience will certainly be an asset as to how our economy moves forward, but says it’s too early to tell exactly how it’s all going to happen.
“I’m not worried about what the federal government is going to do, I’m just trying to stay focused on our great opportunity in Upstate NY,” says Babinec. “We have a lot of underutilized assets and the private sector can help accelerate the growth of companies and new jobs, particularly in these newer industries.”
As a first step, Babinec plans on putting the Report into the hands of some our local policymakers with the intention helping elected officials understand there are options to help our best and brightest talent stay in Upstate New York and start companies. And while educating policymakers isn’t something Upstate Venture Connect has spent a lot of time on, Babinec does believe the Report will act as a good education tool.
“We think the better payoff for us is to help entrepreneurs get connected.”