Taking the road less traveled | Upstate Venture Connect

Taking the road less traveled

The 2017 Upstate Venture Ecosystem Award winners are helping to launch new companies, open new markets and fuel job growth in Upstate NY

The past three years of Upstate Venture Ecosystem Awards have been filled with memorable moments. From fiery CEO stories and emotional acceptance speeches, to a bit of light-hearted roasting (#lemmedoit).

The Awards are part of UVC’s annual Upstate Unleashed Conference, where founders, mentors and startup supporters from across Upstate NY unite for a day of inspiration and celebration.

One year later, let’s look back at the winners who literally stole the show for their achievements in rebuilding Upstate NY through entrepreneurship.

Time out! Have you taken five minutes to nominate your favorite ecosystem leader? Nominations for the 2018 Venture Ecosystem Awards close on July 27. Get crackin’ here

You’re more likely to succeed with a mentor

Mentors. Experienced entrepreneurs and business professionals who pay it forward. They’ve been there, and done that.

Since being honored with the 2017 Magical Mentor Award, Rich Honen says he’s taken the opportunity to work with young people in disruptive industries.

“I spoke at the Women of Color in Technology (#WOCWorkshop), and I’ve been donating time to both the IgniteU accelerator, and RPI’s Emerging Ventures incubator,” said Rich Honen. “The latest cohort is exclusively gamers – very cool.”

Rich is leader of the Venture Capital Practice Team, and is the Partner in Charge of Phillips Lytle in Albany, NY. He received the Magical Mentor award for having a transformative impact on the trajectory of one or more startup companies.

He recently sat down with E. Patrice Perkins of Startup Grind Albany for a discussion on why giving away legal services can make sense. Watch now

Providing student entrepreneurs with the ability to thrive

Mark my words, Generation Z will more be found selling items through Instagram this summer than flipping burgers or waiting tables. By using digital resources now to build small business, our next gen entrepreneurs are already thinking big about their potential careers. Fortunately for them, Upstate NY has exceptional curriculums and programs geared towards entrepreneurship.

Matt Cusack - Magical Mentor | Upstate Venture ConnectLast year, Matt Cusack was awarded the Campus Connector award for being at the helm of one such program. As the former Executive Director of the Stack Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Siena College, Matt helped leverage on and off-campus resources and connections to spin-out research startups, and create opportunities to retain entrepreneurial students.

Since winning his award, Matt has become a hands-on advisor and investor in several early-stage companies. He continues to mentor founders through IgniteU and the StartFast Venture Accelerator.

StartFast Demo Day is August 9 at the Madden School of Business at Le Moyne College. Five teams from around the world will pitch live for investments. Hall of Fame coach and angel investor Jim Boeheim will deliver a power speech. RSVP to this free event

Leaders who believe in the power of collective giving

Richard Glaser - Community Catalyst | Upstate Venture Connect

To generate positive change in our communities today, like-minded citizens, leaders and philanthropists are rising above to organize programs that bring together diverse startup ecosystem players.

Last year, Rochester-area business professional, startup activist and mentor Richard Glaser, was presented with the Community Catalyst award. He was honored for his contributions in shaping a healthy economy in the Finger Lakes region through collaboration and empowerment. Richard is credited with starting RocGrowth Coffee and RocGrowth Candids, two signature startup events in Rochester. He believes the success of these programs stem from being volunteer-driven. “With a volunteer network you focus on what you’re providing,” said Richard.

Since winning the award, Richard continues growing local initiatives and connecting with others. “I’m going to do everything I can to empower the new generation. It’s about relationships. It’s a legacy.”

Richard’s activity as a Community Catalyst has also spawned an increase in the amount of capital and number of active investors in the Rochester community.

Learn more in Richard Glaser: ‘New Generation’ doesn’t refer to age

Celebrating builders who break the mold

As an entrepreneur-led nonprofit, honoring the men and women whose boldness drives them to do great things differently to change our world is top of mind.

Our Ecosystem Champion award applauds people who are catalyzing startup activity across multiple Upstate communities. Last year, instead of awarding an individual with this honor, the judges spotted a trend among the nominations:

Nick Querques, Program Manager, NYSERDA

Doug Buerkle, Executive Director, NEXUS-NY Clean Energy Accelerator funded by NYSERDA

Dick Frederick, Founding Partner, Eastern NY Angels and Board of Directors for NEXUS-NY

Jeff Peterson, Sr. Advisor for Entrepreneurship, NYSERDA

NSYERDA - Clean Energy Fund | Upstate Venture ConnectThe New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) serves as a catalyst – advancing energy innovation, technology and investment; transforming New York’s economy; and empowering people to choose clean and efficient energy as part of their everyday lives. These efforts are apparent in NYSERDA’s three clean energy proof-of-concept centers that catalyze university research into scalable businesses. Through its network of six Clean Energy Technology Business Incubators, NYSERDA is also empowering early-stage business formation. By taking the road less traveled to launch new companies, open new markets and fuel job growth, last year we honored NYSERDA for “breaking the mold.”

Since being awarded the 2017 Ecosystem Champion award, NYSERDA’s Tech to Market team has rolled out a number of new initiatives for New York State entrepreneurs that support Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s nation-leading clean energy goals by fast-tracking clean energy concepts to commercialization.

“NYSERDA has launched multiple programs and initiatives, including a $6 million sidecar co-investment fund for cleantech companies and new clean energy incubators in the Southern Tier and Western New York. We also created two Manufacturing Corp sites to help hardware companies accelerate product manufacturing and scaling,” said Nick Querques.

NYSERDA is currently looking to fund a $10 million Cleantech Accelerator that will make early-stage investments and provide commercialization support to promising ventures in the space.

“Through these and other programs, NYSERDA’s Tech to Market team is helping to make New York State an ideal location for entrepreneurs to launch and scale cleantech businesses,” Nick added.

Learn more about NYSERDA’s Clean Energy Fund.

The latest chapter in an evolving success story

CommerceHub on NASDAQ

After receiving the Deal of the Year award in 2017 for becoming a publicly traded company (NASDAQ : CHUBA), CommerceHub made headlines once again this year by announcing its $1.1 billion deal to take the company private again!

“This exit and new acquisition have created wealth, not only for investors and CommerceHub employees, but has made the company a strong contributor to Upstate’s economy,” said Martin Babinec, founder, Upstate Venture Connect.

What’s next? Frank says it’s CommerceHub 4.0. “I’ve got to take it to the next level!”

Currently CommerceHub is looking to expand internationally, expand with brands, and continue to do what they have been doing – GROWING. And that takes talent. CommerceHub has dozens of job opportunities available in Albany, NY, ranging from engineering internships to key executive positions.

Learn more in this video, 5 questions with CEO, Frank Poore

Remembering those who paved the way

In 2017, Upstate Venture Connect also announced the creation of the David M. Ahlers Master Ecosystem Builder award in recognition of his pivotal role in building the startup community in Upstate NY. Ahers, who passed away in 2016, mentored a generation of entrepreneurs at Cornell, and founded the Cayuga Venture Fund. The first recipient of the award was J. Montieth “Monty” Esters of Rochester, NY for his decades of supporting Upstate entrepreneurs and capital providers through NextCorps, Excell Partners and the Upstate Capital Association of New York. Monty has too recently passed. Nasir Ali shared some additional words in Remembering Monty Estes (1943-2018).

Now it’s time to continue in the footsteps of the great builders who came before us. We invite you all to join us on Tuesday, October 2 in Syracuse for the 2018 Upstate Unleashed Conference featuring Netflix Co-founder Marc Randolph. Early bird ticket sales end on July 27. This event has sold out for the last three years. (#justsayin)


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