Upstate NY Rewards Innovation

Upstate NY Rewards Innovation: One Year Later

At the 2017 Upstate Unleashed Conference, Upstate Venture Connect featured the leaders of Upstate New York’s $1M+ innovation competitions – GENIUS NY, Luminate, 43North, and 76West – on the Upstate NY Rewards Innovation Panel. In case you missed it, you can view it here:

One year later, we caught up with the leaders of each competition to learn the latest on their programs and see the progress the winners have made over the last year.


Director of GENIUS NY, Jon Parry

GENIUS NY is the world’s largest business competition for unmanned systems and is based out of The Tech Garden, Central New York’s premier business incubator. Applications for GENIUS 3.0 opened on May 14. For the chance to join the GENIUS’s third cohort of teams, you can access the application here:

The current GENIUS 2.0 teams have entered into the second phase of the accelerator, which utilizes the remaining 9 months of the one year program to execute on the business planning efforts completed in Phase 1, and culminates in multiple demo days across the US, which are scheduled for this Fall, 2018.

Back in April, these GENIUS 2.0 teams collectively received almost $3 million in investment pitching to an audience of judges, business leaders, governmental representatives, and the community in Syracuse, NY.  Fotokite is an international team from Switzerland founded by Chris MeCall, who took the $1 million dollar top prize. Since then, the company has made multiple hires and is actively trying to recruit for their sales and business development office, which will be based in Syracuse. For job openings at Fotokite, check out TruWeather, the 3rd place prize winner, transitioned its headquarters from Virginia to Upstate New York in order to better leverage the growing, powerful UAS ecosystem.

The remaining teams (view all of them here: from the GENIUS 2.0 and inaugural GENIUS cohort continue to progress, making hires, sales, and traction in their identified markets and raising capital. Syracuse now has over 9 UAS companies operating as resident members out of The Tech Garden.

If you are an investor interested in finding out which GENIUS 1.0 and 2.0 teams are seeking follow-on investment, please contact Jon Parry at

76West | Southern Tier

Program Director, Brian Bauer

The 76West competition is a NYSERDA initiative focused on growing entrepreneurs and attracting resources from the U.S. and around the world to build clean energy businesses and jobs in New York State’s Southern Tier region. Each year for four years, 76West will award $2.5 million in prize money to six finalists with a $1 million top prize.

Applications for 76West’s 3rd round closed back in April, and finalists will be notified in June 2018. Throughout June and July, finalists work with mentors to develop their business models and pitches in preparation for a live pitch during competition week. These couple months also consist of business development trips around the Southern Tier. Competition week will take  place at Cornell University and feature company pitches at the PepsiCo Auditorium in Stocking Hall from July 31 – August 2, 2018. Prize winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in September.

The winners of 76West are seeing a lot of traction and making connection in New York State. For example:

– Micatu: the $1M winner from 2016
Micatu, which creates sensors for utility companies and other applications using optics rather than electronics, signed an agreement to supply its unique grid technology to Eaton Corp., a leading global power management company. The partnership will enable Micatu to expand and double its workforceMicatu is also hiring! For job openings, visit:

– Skyven: the $1M winner from 2017
Skyven has a technology which produces industrial heat without the need to burn fuel. Based in Texas, the company is contracting with a manufacturer in New York’s Southern Tier and will be pushing its first units off the manufacturing line in May2018.

– SolarKal: the $250K from 2017
Since launching an office in the Southern Tier immediately after SolarKal’s 76West award, the Company has secured three new clients for solar energy advisory and have several additional, strong leads in the pipeline. SolarKal has also partnered with three regional solar installers in the Southern Tier and is actively working with them to source solar project opportunities. To become a solar broker or partner, visit:

– Biological Energy: the $250k winner from 2017
Biological Energy completed sample tests of its technology at several NY State wastewater treatment facilities. Their innovation with biologics can help wastewater treatment plants treat three times the amount of water, with less energy. The next step is to run several full-scale tests within the next year.

Luminate | Rochester

Managing Director, Sujatha Ramanujan

Luminate is the only international startup accelerator focused solely on next-generation optics, photonics and imaging (OPI). Located in Rochester, the world capital of imaging, this competition is connecting entrepreneurs with OPI pioneers and qualified investors to speed innovation and time to market. Accepted companies receive $100,000 and a chance to win up to $1 million in follow-on funding.

On June 28, 2018, the inaugural cohort of Luminate will participate in an exciting Demo Day event in the Big Tent of the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival where all 10 finalist companies will be pitching their optics, photonics, and imaging startups. One team will be awarded $1 million in follow-on funding from the Empire State Development’s Finger Lakes Forward initiative, and an additional $1 million is also available to be awarded to other finalist companies. This event is free, but you are required to register in order to reserve a seat!

The competition received interest from more than 100 applicants from around the world during this first round, including teams from Canada, Switzerland, Ireland, Germany, Scotland, India, China, Russia, Qatar, Lebanon, Israel and the United States.

The 10 selected finalists who will be pitching on June 28 include:

In the fields of Photonic Devices, Lasers, Materials and Display:

– Arovia, Inc. – Houston, TX
Lumotune – Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
Molecular Glasses, Inc. – Rochester, NY

In the fields of Spectroscopy and Medical Devices:
LighTopTech Corp. – Rochester, NY
Intelon Optics, Inc. – Boston, MA

In Augmented and Virtual Reality, Sensors, Instrumentation, Image Recognition:
Bounce Imaging – Boston, MA
Double Helix LLC – Philadelphia, PA
Think Biosolution – Dublin, Ireland
Positive Science – Rochester, NY
Tarsier Optics, Inc. – Baltimore, MD

To join Luminate’s 2nd cohort, they will be accepting applications from June – September 2018 with 20 semi-finalists to be announced in October. An additional $2 million will be invested in the most promising semi-finalist companies that November at the Luminate Lightning Awards where the 10 finalists, who will be participating in the accelerator starting in January, will be announced. Finally, this next cohort will once again have a final demo day with additional follow-on investment opportunities in June 2019.  

43North | Buffalo

Director of Portfolio Recruitment and Selection, Brian Straka

The opportunity to join 43North’s fifth class of startups in Buffalo, NY is now open! You can find the application right on their website All companies are welcome to apply, but those who have raised ~ $500k+ and have 3 or more employees are preferred. The competition has seen many successful companies come referred from investors. If you know of a startup that would be the perfect fit for the competition, send your nomination to Brian at

The 2017 winning companies have been in Buffalo for four months and are seeing some significant traction. One has closed a $2 million seed round, while others are launching impressive partnerships across the region. Check out the full Q1 updates from these portfolio companies here:

Canadian based, 43North $1 million winner in 2017, SomaDetect, continues to progress and receive publicity around its in-line sensor that measures key indicators of dairy-quality from cows at every milking. Recognizing the importance of New York State’s large scale dairy farms to validate and scale their business operations, SomaDetect now has an office in Buffalo and recently hired three new executives. According to Entrevestor, SomaDetect is also planning to participate in the 2018 Sprint Accelerator and the NVIDIA Inception program. If you’d like a job with SomaDetect, please visit:

Continuing to make connections across Upstate New York, SomaDetect is teaming up with Cornell University on a series of research studies to further develop and validate their product.

Read more about a recent feature on this startups to watch list:

Below are the 43North portfolio companies that are currently raising capital:

– SomaDetect – SomaDetect is an agricultural technology company that provides dairy farmers with key milk quality indicators, enabling them to identify problems early, make informed decisions and produce the best possible milk.

– Voiceitt– developing the world’s first speech recognition technology designed to understand non-standard speech

– Qidni Labs – develops renal replacement therapies (artificial kidneys), for millions of patients with kidney failure, that fit in the palm of your hand.

– Plum – a turn-key Cloud software solution using modern behavioral science + predictive analytics to instantly identify high potential applicants for success & fit.

– UltraCell Insulation – makes high performance building insulation from recycled corrugated cardboard

– Medical Conservation Devices – has developed a low-cost anesthesia machine to expand the use of anesthesia globally, including in later approvals to sedate critically ill patients and provide anesthesia to up to 8 patients at one time.

– Bounce Imaging – makes 360-degree throwable cameras for first-responders.

– Asarasi – has pioneered a completely new source of water to help replace the consumption of traditional bottled water

– WeDidIt – helps nonprofits raise more money online and research/reach new donors online.

– Qoints – helps brands and agencies evaluate the performance of their digital campaigns by comparing against industry benchmarks.

These five competitions represent a small portion of the victories Upstate NY’s entrepreneurial ecosystem has seen in 2017-2018. Join us on Tuesday, October 2 for the 2018 Upstate Unleashed Conference to celebrate these achievements. You’ll also meet Nextflix Co-founder Marc Randolph (Hamilton College alumnus), and hear from our region’s top CEO’s on how they grew million dollar companies in Upstate NY. Early-bird tickets available here: 2018Unleashed.eventbrite

2018 Unleashed Conference

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