Unleashed 2019 Winners Revealed

Upstate Honors Community Leaders and Connectors


Upstate Venture Connect (UVC) hosted nearly 400 entrepreneurs, investors and community leaders at the 2019 Upstate Unleashed Conference & Venture Ecosystem Awards. Attendees gathered from all corners of Upstate NY to learn, collaborate, and build meaningful relationships.

Through collaboration with Ernst & Young LLP, and all our sponsors, it was UVC’s pleasure to honor community leaders through our three awards.


Community Catalyst – Individuals who organize programs to bring together diverse startup ecosystem players in a local community. The 2019 winners are:

Jean Kase  – Rochester, NY

– Executive Director of The Entrepreneurship Network

– Launched the first women’s business accelerator in Upstate NY.

– Board of Directors of Chloe Capital



Lindsey Stencel – Buffalo, NY

– COO of Launch NY

– Chief Legal Council at NCT Ventures

– Completed 19 deals this year, over 40 total




David M. Ahlers Master Ecosystem Builder – Someone who has invested a significant amount of time and energy into creating an impact across entrepreneurial communities. The 2019 winner is:

Elisa Miller-Out – Ithaca, NY

– Managing Partner, Chloe Capital

– Innovation Advisor, NYSERDA

– Board of Directors, Women 2.0




Deal Of The Year – For a company whose exit created wealth for investors and founders/employees, as well as making the company a stronger contributor to the local economy. The 2019 winner is:

SpinCar – Syracuse, NY

– Leading provider of digital automotive merchandising software

– Founded in 2011 by Devin Daly and Michael Quigley

– Raised $22 million in funding led by Wavecrest Growth Partners in 2018



We were also honored to welcome investor, author, and entrepreneur, Chris Yeh, as our keynote speaker for the Conference. Chris is a partner at Wasabi Ventures and author of Blitzscaling, a book about “how to build massively valuable companies at lightning speed.”

Chris is no stranger to entrepreneurship; he has been working with start-ups since 1995. Chris helps founders, venture capitalists, and industry leaders better understand how the internet has changed the way we work together to build amazing organizations. In his new book, Blitzscaling, Chris leverages his experience to how to build world-changing companies like Amazon, Alibaba, and Airbnb in record time.

Along with Chris Yeh, UVC also welcomed four other CEO Talks:

Buffalo’s First Unicorn? – CEO of ACV Auctions, George Chamoun, and CTO, Dan Magnazewski, kicked off the conference with a fireside chat moderated by Somak Chattopadhyay, from Armory Square Ventures. ACV Auctions is one of the fastest growing companies in Upstate New York, They’ve tripled their revenue, won the 43North Grand Prize, and sell over 100k cars/year. They shared with us what it takes to build from the start as a high growth company.


Building IoT, Advocate For Personal Freedom Melanie Shapiro, Founder/CEO of Token. The Rochester based company keeps all of your keys, cards, badges, and passwords stored on a biometrically-secured smart ring. Melanie walked us through her rollercoaster journey of trying to decentralize identity and free yourself from constantly proving who you are.


Cannabis, The Birth Of A New MarketJohn Torrens, President of Vertical. John taught us about the exploding market of cannabis in the US right now. Vertical is the industry leader in manufacturing, cultivation, and distribution of cannabis. As an entrepreneur who has been leading companies for over 25 years, John made sure to let us know that Upstate NY is in a great position to join the cannabusiness movement.


Founder’s Journey, There And Back AgainMark Oney, SVP, Product Operations at EmployeeChannel. Mark cut his teeth at Apple and went on to launch 6 ventures of his own. His first hand experience really showed as he walked us through the highs, the lows, and what it takes to properly lead and grow. His latest adventure, EmployeeChannel, provides a communication platform for leaders to inspire and align their employees.


Sponsorship for next year’s Unleashed 2020 conference is now open! Check out our sponsorship page for available packages.


Highlights from the event, including videos and pictures, will be released over the coming weeks on the UVC website and social media.


A huge thank you to all of the innovators that attended the 2019 Upstate Unleashed Conference; all of our featured speakers and experts: Chris Yeh, Melanie Shapiro, Mark Oney, John Torrens, Somak Chattopadhyay, George Chamoun, Dan Magnuszewski, Christine Tate, and Chuck Storman; and to all of the nominees and award winners.

About UVC

Upstate Venture Connect (UVC) is a 501c3 public nonprofit creating an entrepreneur-led startup ecosystem for Upstate NY. Our mission is to empower and connect Upstate NY entrepreneurs to the people and resources neeed for building high-growth companies. To these ends, UVC hosts a region-wide events calendar, and takes pride in an active communications platform that reaches over 16,000 founders and startup supporters. In 2014, UVC launched the UNY50 Leadership Network, an invitation-only network of individuals who have experienced the startup world roller coaster. These leaders are committed to helping build the next great Upstate companies. And the annual Upstate Unleashed Conference and Awards celebrates top CEOs and entrepreneurial leaders for their contributions to Rebuilding Upstate Through Entrepreneurship. UVC.org 

Upstate Venture Connect
Kathryn Cartini
(315) 400.2611

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