“I’m going to do anything I can do to empower the new generation. It’s about relationships. It’s a legacy.” – Richard Glaser, 2017 Community Catalyst winner
Last year, Rochester-area business professional, startup activist, and UNY50 member Richard Glaser, was presented with the Community Catalyst Award at the Upstate Unleashed Conference and Venture Ecosystem Awards. Glaser was honored for his contributions in shaping a healthy economy in the Finger Lakes region through collaboration and empowerment. What has he been up to since winning the 2017 award? And what are his future plans?
Photo: Richard Glaser wins 2017 Community Catalyst Award
Glaser openly admitted, “Well, winning the award didn’t change my life exactly.” But it did provide additional motivation to continue growing local initiatives and connect with others. Richard is credited with starting RocGrowth Coffee, and RocGrowth Candids – two signature events in Rochester, NY that sprouted through what he saw happening in other communities. The events often hit full capacity, drawing an audience of 100+ people. He explains, “Coffee and Candids were modeled after national ideas. But I learned from other events and created the Rochester model instead of copying someone else.” The two events are wildly successful, and Richard credits this to the programs being volunteer driven. The purpose is to keep the events at the grassroots level. See what happens organically and what attendees are drawn to. Richard further explains, “With paid staff, an organization is forced to start focusing on that. With a volunteer network, you focus on what you’re providing instead.” Well said. Yet, without a large budget for these community events, what continues to drive him?
“The people.”, Richard quickly responds. “It’s fun to me and I’ve established great relationships with people. Being in downtown [Rochester] you are around the energy, people returning, people in their 20s and 30s, and you can just see the new Rochester emerging. I live within minutes of Eastman Theatre, within the midst of the leading music students. Eastman School of Music competes with Juilliard. It’s about the new generation. And ‘new generation’ doesn’t refer to age. It refers to a mindset.”
What does the future hold for Richard’s ideas and RocGrowth? Richard foremost believes in an entrepreneurial attitude. He explains, “Entrepreneurs are comfortable with ambiguity. They have a passion for something. For me, I remain open. If you’re not open to new ideas, you aren’t going to learn and won’t get accurate feedback. I’m going to do anything I can do to empower the new generation. It’s about relationships. It’s a legacy. In Rochester, I can run into people and they are friends of mine.” Enjoying open dialogue with people of all ages and backgrounds has made Richard more aware of inclusion and the need for adaptability. As a matter of fact, after realizing that parts of Rochester can feel or be racially segregated, Richard intentionally seeks a diverse atmosphere. He continues to make diversity and inclusion top priorities of his. “Diversity and inclusion are empowering and beneficial for the community.”, Richard explains. Focusing on Rochester’s diverse culture, he ensures that he and his children see, interact with, and are friends with people of all different backgrounds. All of this adds to the ‘new generation’, and it’s one that Richard is excited about.
Richard is passionate about Rochester, Upstate NY, and to see how RocGrowth continues to expand and attract a larger audience. After speaking with him, it’s easy to see why he won last year’s Community Catalyst Award. His energy is contagious. It’s safe to say that the footprint he is making in the community is life-changing for the region, and for others.
The 2018 Upstate Unleashed Conference is being held at the Oncenter in Syracuse, NY on October 2. The event has sold out three years, and attracts over 400 members of the startup community across Upstate NY. Reserve your spot and grab your early bird tickets here.