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You Don't Have to Be in Silicon Valley | Upstate Venture Connect

You don’t need to be in Silicon Valley

#StartUpstate : Thousands attend 2018 Upstate Unleashed Conference and 43North Finals to celebrate success of Upstate’s entrepreneurial ecosystem


Last night over 3,000 people from across Upstate New York gathered to celebrate the progress and success of our entrepreneurial ecosystem. I am of course referring to the 43North finals. As has now become tradition, it was a reflection of Buffalo’s heritage—a reflection of what we have accomplished and where we are heading. This comes on the heals of UVC’s 2018 Upstate Unleashed Conference and Venture Ecosystem Awards held Tuesday in Syracuse. UVC’s conference each year celebrates community leaders, businesses, investors and individuals critical to our collective success. The fact that these two events can be held back to back with thousands of people in attendance is a testament to how far we have come.

Of course, the political arena cares about jobs—and more specifically how many have been created. The short answer is that organizations like 43North, LaunchNY and UVC have catalyzed the creation of hundreds (if not thousands) of direct jobs, and likely countless more indirect jobs through service providers like attorneys and accountants. In that regard these organizations (and others) have been more successful endeavors than most economic development efforts.

But what is happening here is so much
bigger than just measuring how many
jobs have been created.

It is a long-term plan to create organic sustainable growth in our community—something that doesn’t fit well into a press conference, ribbon cutting, or the 6 o’clock local news. For too long Upstate placed bet after bet on silver-bullet economic development initiatives which time after time let us down (see e.g., Buffalo’s Bass Pro Shop). Doubling down on this strategy for decades gave us empty buildings, high unemployment rates, depressed housing values, decreased populations, and very little economic opportunity for anyone.

Change is often incremental and not necessarily noticeable from day to day. But over the last decade, there is little doubt regarding the positive impact programs like 43North and Upstate Venture Connect have had on Upstate. Communities like Buffalo have embraced a more nimble, innovative economy. We’ve seen increased employment, increased home values, stabilized growth, increased population of millennials, and the second youngest entrepreneur population in the country. Upstate may still have a long way to go, but the collective efforts of the Upstate entrepreneurial ecosystem are already showing results.

Which bring us to last night. Companies from all across the world competed in the 43North finals for a chance to win a million dollars. Two of the eight finalists were Upstate companies guaranteed to win $500,000. One from Syracuse–SparkCharge. The other from right here in Buffalo—LegWorks. While SparkCharge ultimately won the $1MM top prize and is deserving of acclaim, the story behind LegWorks is proof of the progress we are making in Upstate New York, and more particularly, in Buffalo. LegWorks started out as a Silicon Valley startup. After three years of operations the company decided to move to Buffalo—not because it won 43North, not because it was receiving a tax incentive, but because it saw opportunity in Buffalo that it did not see elsewhere.

This is exactly what we all have been working towards.

Marc Randolph & Matthew Pelkey | 2018 Upstate UnleashedThe goal has always been to create an ecosystem that shows the world that Upstate New York can be a tremendous place to start and grow your business. An environment that cultivates its own entrepreneurs to take risks and attracts those from around the world to start their business here.

Last night confirmed what Netflix cofounder Marc Randolph shared with us all on Tuesday at UVC’s Unleashed Conference, and what LegWorks already knew:

“You don’t need to be in Silicon Valley.”

You can be right here in Upstate New York. #StartUpstate

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