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THE PITCH competition kicks off entrepreneurship week with a bang

Four days after winning $25,000 toward her West Side small business in 43North’s THE PITCH competition, Phylicia Dove still hadn’t quite soaked it all in.

Dove, owner of Black Monarchy on West Utica Street, was named the $15,000 first-place winner in the Main Street category of the event Thursday, Sept. 28, at the Buffalo Museum of Science. She took home an additional $10,000 when Black Monarchy was named the Five Star Bank People’s Choice Minority and Women Small Business Award winner, voted on via text message by attendees.

The second annual THE PITCH competition, sponsored by 43North in collaboration with the City of Buffalo and New York Business Development Corporation (NYBDC)/Excelsior Growth Fund, was the kickoff for the fourth annual 43North Finals Week, a series of events in Buffalo highlighting entrepreneurship and collaboration locally.

Thursday at the museum, hundreds turned out to listen to three finalists in two categories make their five-minute presentations. The runners-up were each awarded $5,000.

In the Growth Companies category, Zandra Cunningham, 17, of Zandra Beauty, took home the $15,000 top prize in her category.

For both entrepreneurs, the prize money offers an opportunity to make an investment neither thought they would have the chance to make.

“I’ve only dreamed of something like this,” Dove said. “There have been times when I was ready to give it up after so many no’s. I feel really privileged to be included in such a platform.”

Dove earned first place by telling the story of her journey to South Africa in 2007, which led her to establish a store that focuses on art, jewelry, fashion, and design, inspired by her “origin of one” motto. Dove creates much of the jewelry in the store herself. She says the earnings from THE PITCH competition will allow her the opportunity to expand selection and invest in difficult-to-find artwork and fabrics.

The winnings will also allow Dove to build further relationships with the West Side’s refugee community, she added.

Cunningham said that she expects to use the prize money to help grow her company as it heads toward the holiday shopping season. Right now, Zandra Beauty consists of four employees, including her parents James and Tamara, but she hopes to hire two more associates before the New Year.

That will be especially important as Cunningham continues to expand Zandra Beauty into stores like Rite Aid, Target, and Whole Foods. That involves traveling from Dallas to Atlanta, Cincinnati to New Jersey, in discussions with businesses she hopes will carry her product.

“Honestly, I wasn’t expecting it,” Cunningham said about her pitch, which she put together the night before, as she was a last-minute addition to the competition. “I’m just grateful for the opportunity. It was bananas.”

Cunningham adds that she hopes to grow her company so she can hire other young people who need part-time work, and a big part of her company’s growth right now is focused on building a brand that inspires girls and young women in the community.

From the opening violin solo by local composer and musician Henri L. Muhammad, the night promised to be an exciting one for six business owners, all of them women or minorities. New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul was in attendance, as was Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown.

The panel of judges for the competition included Bryan Doxxford of the NYBDC Excelsior Growth Fund, Su Sanni of Wedidit, Ann Segarra of BHS Foodservice Solutions, Jamel Perkins of Sodexo, Dr. Raul Vazquz of G Health Services, and Alexandra Wehr of Key Bank.

Contestants made their five-minute pitches, then had five minutes to answer questions from the judges.

In the High Growth category, Luanne DiBernardo presented her cooling vest company, Coolture, a product marketed toward both those with chronic conditions where regulating body temperature is difficult, and athletes. The other runner-up was Dr. Melissa Franckowiak, a local anesthesiologist who pitched her tracheal intubation device for her company, Pneumaglide.

The other Main Street runners-up were Abiyu Aynalem with his company, Empire Transportation Services, which provides transportation support to the low income and handicapped, and Annette Pinder of Buffalo Healthy Living magazine.

Each runner up received $5,000. NYBDC/Excelsior Growth Fund served as the Signature Sponsor of THE PITCH, with additional support from KeyBank, ECIDA, Kaleida Health, Foit-Albert Associates, Iroquois Construction Services, and Launch NY.

“Many have watched this journey and have watched us grow,” Dove said. “I can’t wait to show them what we’re going to do next.”

Medical Campus brings best in the world to Buffalo for coding event

Forget the NCAA basketball and World Junior hockey tournaments. Buffalo is hosting the best in the world in another competition this fall, and it has nothing to do with athletics.

The Topcoder Open Finals 2017 will take place at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC) Oct. 21-24, bringing together 110 of the world’s top computer science experts and coding wizzes to compete in challenges like UI design, algorithm, and development.

“It's the Olympics of coding,” said Sean Heidinger, BNMC Curator of Events and manager of dig Buffalo co-working space at the Innovation Center on the Medical Campus.

Tech experts from 30 different countries will travel to Buffalo for the Topcoder Open Finals. Coding experts are ranked in a way that’s similar to chess, BNMC Chief Innovation Officer Sam Marrazzo said, and the ones competing in this event are the best in the world.

Buffalo, with the support of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and SUNY Buffalo, earned the bid over cities like Austin, Boston, Las Vegas, and San Francisco.

“When they asked why Buffalo, we said, ‘Why not Buffalo?’” Marrazzo said.

Eight cities around the world held qualifiers for the event, and Heidinger was able to travel to China to assess the infrastructure capabilities necessary to host the Topcoder finals smoothly. Many of the competitors are from China, India, and the U.S., but for the first time, there will be a Topcoder competitor from Ghana.

Winners, Heidinger said, can expect to walk off the floor of the competition and into a job offer from companies like Google and Facebook.

Topcoder is a workforce marketplace with 1.1 million developers, designers, and data scientists around the world. Its flagship event is the Topcoder Open Finals.

The four days of competition will be mixed with events at the Medical Campus, including an opening ceremony, visits by coders to an area high school, an innovation summit, and a video challenge, where area students send 60 second videos about how the tech sector will affect the future of Buffalo, with the finalists and winner announced during the competition. And in typical Buffalo fashion, competitors can participate in a wing-eating contest, as well.

The competition is not open to the public, but Erie and Niagara County residents interested in attending can participate Tuesday, Oct. 10, at 6 p.m. in an algorithm competition at BNMC.

The top 10 finishers will win all-access, VIP passes to the Topcoder Open Finals, and the top three finishers receive Amazon gift cards. Details for the event can be found here.

Marrazzo said the Topcoder Open Finals gives Buffalo instant credibility with major companies, and offers an opportunity to converge the tech industry with local companies in Western New York.

“We want educators, students, and entrepreneurs to know about the great opportunities for them that are here in Buffalo,” Marrazzo added.

A perfect match: the underemployed and startups

More than 132,000 people in the Buffalo area are considered to be underemployed, according to a recent study done by the economic development group Invest Buffalo Niagara.

The underemployed tag was given to anyone who is either working part time or feels unfulfilled with his or her current full-time job, accounting for nearly 12 percent of the Western New York population.

With this rather large number of underemployed or unsatisfied workers, many entrepreneurs in the Queen City see an opportunity. Whether it is a brand new startup or a company simply looking to expand, the number of available workers is beginning to be noticed by entrepreneurs and business owners across the area.

For example, Ernie Lynch. Lynch owns and operates Lynch Fluid Controls Inc., which specializes in creating hydraulic and motion control products used by organizations such as NASA, the International Olympic Committee, and the United States Military.

With its expanding headquarters located in Mississauga, Ontario, Lynch recently decided to open a distribution facility in North Tonawanda. The company exceeded its distribution goals at its Western New York branch by 210 percent in the month of June, according to the Invest Buffalo Niagara website, and will be looking to expand its employee base in the near future.

With more and more companies like Lynch’s sprouting up in the Buffalo area each month, there is no better time for an underemployed worker to make the leap and join a fledgling startup company, and for startups to consider workers who may be in the second stage of their careers.

Growing businesses in Western New York are continually searching for employees who are looking to work for a company they feel passionate about. Several websites, including Viaduct, which was created to help “small and emerging businesses post their open jobs and rely on an in-house team of recruiters to find the perfect match for your team,” according to its website, have made the process easier for them.

There are a variety of different job areas on the site including: creative and marketing, information technology and software and web development. The Viaduct job-seeking page is continually updated and can be used as an important resource to the underemployed.

Other initiatives throughout Buffalo include Startup Grind, an organization that hosts monthly speaking engagements to help budding entrepreneurs connect and learn from successful entrepreneurs in the area, as well as, a website with many different areas that include the opportunity for like-minded entrepreneurs to chat online or get together to discuss ideas they are interested in pursuing.

If you are one of the 132,000 people who want a change in your work life, the opportunities in the greater Buffalo area are vast if you are willing to take a deeper look.

Two Buffalo startups vie for grand prize in 43North business plan competition

Buffalo startups made a great showing in the recent 43North business plan competition, with two area companies among the 16 finalists competing for eight cash prizes during a daylong pitch contest that will take place on Oct. 5. More than 500 businesses from around the world applied for entrance into the competition.

Burner Fitness is an online fitness, nutrition, and health program marketplace where personal trainers, nutritionists, doctors, and health or wellness experts can create, publish, and sell their programs, which are then accessible to users on the Burner Fitness application. Burner also provides users with free tools to track diet and exercise, determine optimal caloric intake and nutrients for the users’ goals, and gamify the experience to motivate users. Each program has a community of users, competing for and sharing results.

Cellular Preservation Technologies is a medical device company focused on applying their unique technology for the preservation of human cells across multiple cell and tissue types. Their initial focus is on the preservation of blood platelets, where there is a high degree of product waste due to their short shelf-life (4-5 days).

In addition to the $1 million grand prize, the runner-up will get $650,000 and the third-place finisher will receive $550,000. Five other companies will get $500,000 prizes. Winners also receive incubator space, expert mentorship, and 10 years of freedom from state taxes, as well as access to the resources and infrastructure of Buffalo, N.Y.

Local companies aid in startup diversity

Though not nationally considered an overly diverse community, Buffalo’s entrepreneurial scene has gone against many misconceived notions, with diverse local businesses thriving over the last few years.

The most recent U.S. Census from 2010 suggests an uphill battle for diversity among Buffalo entrepreneurs, with the largest portion of Buffalo’s population being Caucasian (50.4), while African Americans (38.6), Hispanics (10.5) and people of Asian descent make up the other half of the population. The struggle for diversity may seem even greater when, according to, men outnumber women 9 to 1 in the City of Buffalo.

Despite these numbers, there has been a surge in diverse businesses and workers across the area, due in large part to several recent initiatives.

43North announced in August that it will sponsor its second annual business plan competition for minorities and women called THE PITCH, which will give a total of $50,000 to local small businesses and growth (startup) companies throughout Buffalo, according to the 43North website. This year, four local entrepreneurs in two categories will present their business plans at the Buffalo Museum of Science on Sep. 28. In the category of Main Street Businesses, Buffalo Healthy Living and Empire Transportation will vie for the  grand prize of $15,000, while in the category of Growth Companies, Coolture, LLC, and PneumaGlide will compete. NYBDC/Excelsior Growth Fund is the Signature Sponsor of THE PITCH, with additional support from KeyBank, ECIDA, Kaleida Health, Foit-Albert Associates, and Iroquois Construction Services.

The University at Buffalo is working in a similar fashion. It has made it a prerogative to help local startups and small businesses by instituting a plan that 15 percent of the school’s spending must go to minority and women-owned business enterprise (MWBE) companies, according to the University at Buffalo website.

Since implementing the program, the school has seen the amount of money it has spent on MWBE businesses grow to 41 percent of the budget, as compared with only 7.5 percent in 2011.

In those same five years, the school’s business contracts with minority-owned businesses expanded from .33 percent of the budget to 25.5 percent, according the University at Buffalo website.

For those looking to become certified by the state as MWBE companies, SUNY Buffalo State offers free assistance to get certified, making now an ideal time for minorities with a business idea to get their plan into action.

The University at Buffalo website and 43North have several examples of startups that have succeeded with this initiative. With these opportunities, and countless others, there is no limit to what a diverse company can accomplish in Buffalo.

Buffalo entrepreneurs have options to combat loneliness

Blazing your own path as an entrepreneur is an honorable feat, but sometimes it can be a lonely occupation.

But for Buffalo entrepreneurs, there are numerous resources to connect with others. For example, entrepreneurs can learn from others, make things, and play with technology, art, science, food, and more at a community workshop called Buffalo Lab. Buffalo Open Coffee Club is a Google group where members discuss local initiatives, national news in tech, and local events. Entrepreneurs who want to assess the viability of their startup concepts can attend the Pre-Seed Workshop sponsored by the University at Buffalo, and female entrepreneurs can tap into the resources Syracuse-based WISE Women's Business Center provides. Startup Grind, a community that is “actively educating, inspiring, and connecting 1,000,000 entrepreneurs in over 200 cities," has a local group. These programs, and many others, provide opportunities for like-minded people of varying experience to come together and share their experiences.

Local collaborative working spaces, accelerators and incubators also provide opportunities for networking and sharing, and there are several in the Western New York area, including DIG Buffalo, a cross-sector coworking community that offers affordable work space, access to mentors, and opportunity for collaboration within a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem; Z80 Labs, Buffalo’s first Internet-focused technology incubator that gives entrepreneurs the ability to build new and innovative tech companies; Cowork Buffalo, a mix of social, open tables, and heads-down desks in the center of the City of Buffalo; and Harrison Place, a multiuse building that is ideal for industrial, office, or retail companies.

Working alone is not always a negative experience--in fact, many entrepreneurs have found success by making decisions on their own -- but when alone time feels more isolating than creative, remember that there is an entire entrepreneurial ecosystem in Buffalo that offers opportunities to connect.

Blue-collar demeanor leads to entrepreneurial success

Buffalo, a city defined by its hard-working and resilient citizens, has seen an uptick in successful startup companies in recent years. This success can undoubtedly be credited to the blue-collar qualities that the individuals of the Queen City possess.

These traits, handed down from generation to generation, are the backbone of the city and a definitive reason why Buffalo is in the middle of an economic revival.

Below are a few attributes that encapsulate the spirit of Buffalo.

Sense of Community: Buffalo is nicknamed “The City of Good Neighbors” for a reason. The city of Buffalo has long been known as one that cares for its fellow man. Whether it’s helping someone shovel a car out of a driveway on a blustery January morning, or simply supporting a local business, the people of Buffalo are there for one another when it really counts.

From an entrepreneurial standpoint, that holds true as well. A local project called 43North is a perfect example. Since its founding in 2014, the competition, made possible by the Buffalo Billion initiative, has donated $5 million each year to local startup companies in need of capital. Where else can you find a community that is willing to help to that extent?

Resiliency: There was a time when the Buffalo economy was spearheaded by steel mills and manufacturing plants, but those days have come and gone. When those factories closed, the abandoned buildings created major eyesores in the downtown area.

Over the course of the last several years, tremendous strides have been made by the local government to revitalize areas of downtown Buffalo, such as Canalside and the Outer Harbor, and entrepreneurs have refurbished vacant factories for office space and restaurants. Although the city has been through some difficult times, it clearly has the ability to come back better than ever.

The Underdog Factor:  Nationally, the city is known for its cold weather and unsuccessful sports franchises, but savvy entrepreneurs see beyond the perception of a downtrodden community. While some may not think of Buffalo as a premier location to start a business, these smart startups recognize that residents of the city comprise a workforce with the resolve and determination to help them achieve tremendous success.

While Western New York may not be foremost on the minds of entrepreneurs or investors, these and other desirable factors should convince the startup community to give the Queen City a second look.  

Buffalo named a hotbed for startups

The idea that Buffalo is one of the fastest growing entrepreneurial communities in the country may surprise many, but a recent list compiled by of the eight cities whose entrepreneurship communities are booming ranks Buffalo in the number two spot, and for good reason.

The former industrial town has been given much attention by New York Gov. Andrews Cuomo, who initiated the Buffalo Billion fund “to create thousands of jobs and spur billions in new investment and economic activity over the next several years,” according to the initiative’s website. Focusing on the area’s strengths—advanced manufacturing, life sciences, and tourism, among others—the fund has launched the establishment of organizations that offer support to startups, including START-UP NY and 43North.

START-UP NY was created in 2014 to enable new and expanding businesses the opportunity to partner with colleges or universities across the state, giving them access to research laboratories, development resources, and experts in key industries, while operating tax-free for 10 years. The program has created more than 4,000 jobs and allotted over $230 million dollars to startup companies throughout the state (with the University at Buffalo being one of its main partners).

43North, coined “the world’s largest idea competition” in a recent Inc. article, is designed to systematically generate new business ventures in Western New York, support early-stage firm growth, and attract additional venture funding to the region. Since its launch in 2014, the competition has already awarded $15 million dollars in cash prizes to local startups.

Encouraged by the success of its initial investment, New York state recently announced a proposal for a $500 million expansion of the project “to continue building on the renewed economic engines and reinvigorated civic spirit throughout Buffalo and the entire Western New York region.”

With the support of the state and the backing of organizations like START-UP NY and 43North, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists alike are recognizing that this former factory town is developing a well-earned reputation as a hotbed for startups.

Another Buffalo Startup Weekend is just around the corner!

Traditionally kicking off 43North Week, Buffalo Startup Weekend is an intense, 54-hour event where local entrepreneurs, developers, designers, marketers, product managers, startup enthusiasts, and anyone interested in building a business come together to share ideas, get inspiration, form teams, and launch a startup.


The event, which begins Friday, Sept. 29, and lasts through the final judging on Oct. 1, has been the launching pad for several successful Buffalo startups. Photos of the 2016 event can be seen on 43North’s Facebook Album.


Heads Up, which has recently raised an undisclosed seed round, refined its idea for a wearable safety communications system at the event. “We came into Startup Weekend with an idea for our Heads Up indicator product, we had no clue what it would be used for in particular, how we would build it, or sell it,” says Brendon Dever, founder of the company.


In addition to pulling together teams to inspire startup ideas and companies, Startup Weekend also provides experienced entrepreneur coaches to help the teams. Dever found their advice invaluable. “The mentors provided valuable insight into how to make a business case for this product. Identifying costs, and potential markets to sell into,” he said.


Today, Heads Up has sold its solution to multinational corporations and distributors, and has raised additional funding from private investors. Dever offers advice for those thinking of attending: “Come to Startup Weekend with your ideas on your sleeve. We are often scared into thinking that one needs to protect their ideas, and only discuss them under confidentiality. In my experience, nothing could be more false. You need to have the input of as many other people as possible so you can ensure your product or service is going to be received in the way you intend.”


Other companies launched from Buffalo Startup Weekend include The Atinga Project, social activists partnering with Rwandan artisan shoemakers; and Buffalo Automation Group, which was voted the top information technology and software startup in New York state in 2016.


This is organizer Matt Hostetler’a second Startup Weekend. He noted that “previous participants have also gone on to other startup businesses and 43North winners such as ACV Auctions, CoachMePlus and 19Ideas.”


“This year we are focusing on the importance of community when it comes to taking an idea to the next level,” Hostetler continued. “We want entrepreneurs to feel the momentum of the people and resources around them to feel empowered taking their idea to the next step. This is such an important part of building an ongoing startup community, and we feel Startup Weekend is uniquely positioned to provide that energy.”


Hostetler also has advice for people who may be thinking about seeing what it’s all about. “Just show up! Taking the first step is always the hardest, but once you arrive, you will quickly find that all talents, abilities and experience levels are needed! Startup Weekend is a very rewarding event for the participants. And register early! It is very important for organizers to make sure we get the right mix of idea generators, developers, creative professionals, and business-minded entrepreneurs; signing up is the best way for us to track and organize the right mix of people.”


On a personal note, I was a coach at last year’s event, and the overall energy, enthusiasm, and excitement was inspiring. It was an ideal environment for people to form teams and brainstorm on a deadline, which is part of the captivating nature of Startup Weekend. I’ll also be coaching at this year's event, and hope to see you there!


A Harvard degree from home

Harvard Business School has one of the most respected MBA programs in the country. And now, entrepreneurs can take advantage of the prestige of a HBS education by enrolling in a new four-week, online course, Entrepreneurship Essentials: People, Opportunity, Context, and Deal, offered through its HBX program. 

Participants will walk through the entrepreneurial journey, from finding an idea, to gaining traction in the marketplace, to raising capital. The learning is active, case-based, and social, and is structured to allow students to complete the coursework on their own time. The overarching framework of the program—People, Opportunity, Context, Deal— has been taught to thousands of Harvard Business School MBA students over the past 30 years.

Entrepreneurs John Osher, who has successfully launched many consumer products; Jennifer Hyman, CEO of Rent the Runway, which rents fashionable dresses and accessories; and Scott Cook, founder of Intuit, a software startup that grew to multibillion dollar enterprise, will offer insight and advice  based on their personal experience.

Applications for the program, which costs $950, are accepted on a rolling basis. The first session will be held in October. For more information, click here.

Millennials staying local: No better time than now for Buffalo startups

A 2016 Pew Research study shows that only 20 percent of millennials, including entrepreneurs, have moved away from their home in the last year.

This phenomenon is not entirely surprising or new. With the lack of jobs available in their fields, new graduates are, more times than not, forced to find an entry-level position close to home to pay their bills.

But many young entrepreneurs see opportunity in these realities. They recognize that the lower cost of living in their hometowns (compared to Silicon Valley or New York), coupled with less competition, presents them with the opportunity to take a chance on creating a successful startup of their own.

And more and more young entrepreneurs are taking this risk. The 2016 BNP Paribas Global Entrepreneur Report showed that twice as many millennials (aged 35 or younger) are creating businesses, as compared to their parents (eight to every 3.5). And luckily for young Buffalo entrepreneurs, startups have been extremely successful in the Queen City in recent years.

A 2017 article by Inc., Forget Silicon Valley. Move Your Startup Any of These 3 Places, tabbed Buffalo as one of the best places in the country to create a startup. It cited the city’s proximity to larger cities like Toronto, New York, and Chicago, along with “an impressive amount of funding from both the state’s Buffalo Billion initiative and private investors.” It also noted that companies are not forced to run on tight budgets, with employees barely being able to afford rent.

The piece also mentioned 43North (a competition created out of the Buffalo Billion project in 2014) as a major asset to Buffalo entrepreneurs, calling it “the world’s largest idea competition.”

According to the 43North website, the organization gives $5 million in capital to local startup companies each year, with a grand prize of $1 million (eight winners overall). In addition to the capital, winners also receive office space, mentorship, and 10 years of freedom from New York state taxes.

Even if you are not one of the lucky companies to win money from 43North, you still have a strong chance to succeed, because many venture capitalists are willing to invest in companies in “second-tier” cities like Buffalo, where less competition can lead to greater growth for startups. And today’s technology enables companies to easily connect with current or potential investors, whether they are in the area or not.

With Buffalo on the rise in many areas, now could be the ideal time for young entrepreneurs to take the chance to go after their dreams, even if it is in their own backyard.

Do Buffalonians have that ‘one thing’ Mark Zuckerberg calls key ingredient for success?

It all starts with a problem and the desire to solve it. That’s according to entrepreneurs Daymond John, Mark Zuckerberg and Mark Cuban, who all agree that the most investment-worthy businesses are the ones driven by a passion to find answers to the world’s challenges.


“Shark Tank” judge Daymond John warns entrepreneurs not to develop ideas specifically in the hopes of being picked up by other major companies. Mark Cuban believes that a business should be founded on passion and commitment. And Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg urges up-and-coming business owners to create for the sake of change, versus creating in the interests of money.


We at UpstartNY think Buffalo startups exemplify these aspirations. Take Mary Goodwill, owner of Mary's Little Lambs Childcare, who goes the extra mile for families in need of childcare in the city of Buffalo.


“Our extended hours, from 6 am to midnight will allow working families to have one consistent provider to meet their needs and ensure healthy meals and remarkable care is given in both the traditional and evening hours,” she says.


Or Zaw Win, who came to Buffalo as a refugee in 2005. His venture to help serve Buffalo’s refugee community is the Westside Value Redemption located at 327 14th Street. After hearing about their experiences being bullied at other centers, Win developed his center geared toward refugees to help protect and encourage hard work through incentives.


Even the more obscure businesses are rooted in more than solely money-making motives. Hatchet and Hops, owned by Dustin Snyder and Andrew Piechowicz, is not just a place to drink and competitively throw axes. It is built on values like community and confidence.


“We wanted to bring people together,” Snyder says, “We wanted a place that was fun to work at as well, and where we could practice our values.”


Not to mention Bak USA and BreadHive Bakery, two very different businesses who are making a difference in their communities. Bak USA is providing local manufacturing employment while Breadhive is building worker equity.

Do Buffalo businesses have the passion for solving problems? Here at UpstartNY, we give a resounding yes.

And the winner is ….

Being an entrepreneur requires learning and determination. That can help explain why entrepreneurs naturally create close-knit and supportive communities.

Upstart NY is devoted to supporting Buffalo’s and Western New York’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, and as part of our successful launch, we decided to help build that community by offering sweepstakes featuring one of that ecosystem's premier products.


We partnered with Bak USA to provide new readers interested in entrepreneurship and innovation one of their very own Bak USA Seal tablet, valued at $699.


Bak USA builds their Seal tablet, which is waterproof, weatherproof, dust and drop resistant, right here in Buffalo. Carli Battin of Bak USA, a startup itself, shares that the company is “so excited to see the startup culture take off in Buffalo along with 43 North, Launch NY, and now Upstart NY are talking about the startup culture and helping to make those connections among each other.”


She adds that “it just helps us create a powerful network of the startups here and we can rely on all the momentum from each of us individually to help all of us entrepreneurs succeed.”


Battin, along with Upstart NY team members, was recently on site at Bak USA’s headquarters to proudly hand over the tablet to the sweepstakes winner: Sandra Ann Talley of Buffalo.


Talley was very surprised to learn she had won Bak USA’s Seal tablet and knows she is going to put it to good use. “I am an entrepreneur here in Buffalo, and this tablet will really help me with my business,” she says.


“I love Upstart NY,” Talley adds. “I am trying to expand my business, so it was great to see a new online magazine about entrepreneurship to learn and grow from.”


Talley was one of nearly 400 sweepstakes entrants and now new members of Upstart NY’s growing community.


Upstart NY is devoted exclusively to entrepreneurship & innovation in Western New York. We are committed to covering the full entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region, from venture capital-backed, high-growth startups to grassroots, neighborhood small business--and everything in between.



Buffalo featured in multiple city 'best of' lists

The revitalization that is taking place in Buffalo is astonishing. The pulse of a city on the brink of a new renaissance beats quicker every day.

And it’s not only the residents of Buffalo who are noticing the city's burgeoning appeal. Buffalo is catching attention across the country once again, and not for sports this time (or rather, not only for sports.) 

Buffalo has been featured or mentioned in several “Best Of Lists” in the recent past, which can only mean the economic and social boost is far from stalling.

Here's a sampling of those mentions:

1.— 8 Cities Whose Entrepreneurship Communities Are Booming

Buffalo is almost at the top of this list, ranking #2 behind only San Francisco. The post is complimentary of Gov. Cuomo’s implementation of the "Buffalo Billions” fund, the project he proposed and instituted that aims to invest over a billion dollars in Buffalo. The 43North competition is supported by the Buffalo Billions initiative, which requires startups to relocate their companies to Buffalo for one year to enter a contest that could win the start-ups funding and prizes.

2. National Geographic— Top 10 Food Cities

Buffalo gets an impressive #3 spot in this tantalizing list, which includes such exotic places as Lyon, France and Chennai, India. Of course, the Buffalo wing is the only food mentioned, but Buffalonians know that there are other culinary experiences besides the famous chicken appendage.

3.— Forget Silicon Valley. Move Your Startup Any of These 3 Places

The article points out that many of the “traditional” places for startups to flock to, like Boston or New York City, may have outrageously high rent or not enough availability for a brick and mortar business. Remote workers are becoming more of the norm, so presses that physical location may not be as vital to start-ups as they may think. 


4.— The 25 Cities Where Millennials are Moving

Millennials are still seeking out large metro areas like Los Angeles and New York City to make their home, no surprises there. But has discovered that smaller cities are where most millennials are headed. Buffalo ranks 12 out of 25 on this list, just below the Philadelphia/Camden/Wilmington area and above San Antonio. The Buffalo area saw a 6 percent rise in millennials, young adults ages 25-34, in just a half decade 2010-2015.

5. Travel and Leisure— America’s Favorite Cities 2016

Buffalo ranks #1 on this list, surprising everyone except perhaps native Buffalonians and recent visitors. Travel and Leisure note the unexpected victory taking place primarily for one reason: Buffalo is highly underrated.

T&L mentions the outstanding food options, from high-end to local favorites, the revitalization of Canalside and Riverworks, and the charm of Buffalo’s historic architecture. Also, it goes without saying that Buffalo is more affordable than most major cities in New York State. Criticism goes only to Buffalo’s weather, something well known to all the USA anyway. Tourists are just encouraged to visit in the warmer months.

Buffalo floats toward new opportunities for water-based seasonal business

From Canalside to the Outer Harbor, Buffalo’s waterfront is growing with new events and businesses.  

The waterfront has a long and proud history marked by heavy industry. Buffalo’s proximity to the Erie Canal brought booming business to the area in the 19th and early 20th centuries, with shipping in the west and commercial and financial centers on the east end. The canal district stood at the center of the city's growth and development in the 19th century. The Inner Harbor was an exchange point for goods and culture, while the Outer Harbor was home to the industrial sites which brought numerous jobs to the city. 

Deindustrialization followed, and the bankruptcy of Bethlehem Steel marked the beginning of an economic downturn. For a time, Buffalonians turned away from their waterfront. But with recent efforts spearheaded by the Green Code's Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, modern Buffalo is in the midst of an economic and cultural reinvention of the city’s waterfronts.

Today, you will find newly constructed hotels, summer concerts, and food festivals. You’ll also find entrepreneurs leveraging these assets with tours of the Buffalo river and nearby silos, cocktail cruises, restaurants, water bikes, and more. Here are 17 ways to patronize these businesses and enjoy the waterfront.

Since 2013 Buffalo has integrated more than $19 billion in construction projects, including the redevelopment of the city’s waterfront, according to the city of Buffalo's website. Strategic public investments in parks and amenities have spurred private investment, and business startups have followed.

Canalside is the centerpiece of this effort. The waterfront’s revival has brought a half billion in private development surrounding Canalside including the HarborCenter (home of the Buffalo Sabres) and (716) Food & Sport, where sports fans can indulge with a 38-foot TV screen.Open throughout the year, patrons can participate in the winter with an outdoor rink accommodated with skate rentals and a concession lodge. During the summer the waterfront hosts a concert series, food trucks, and other entertainment. 

Last year more than 1.5 million people partook in the waterfront’s summertime amenities. Construction growth has included $30 million in renovations at One Canalside, which includes office space, retail, and a Marriott hotel. Three more buildings are in the works, including an Explore and More Children’s Museum.

Beyond downtown, the Outer Harbor waterfront and areas of the Buffalo river are also under development. Buffalo River Landing and the 301 Ohio building are two newly developed residential buildings along the river, with construction totaling $27 million. Wilkeson Pointe, at the Outer Harbor, provides rentals for bikes, kayak and stand up paddle boards, a beer garden, and numerous other amenities.

Buffalo is not the only Rust Belt-era city taking advantage of its long-abandoned waterfront. Look to nearby city Cleveland, where rowers and sailors (and the businesses that support them) are being encouraged with new facilities along the Cuyahoga River. The Lakefront West Project is using bike and pathways to connect the west side neighborhoods with the lakefront, and the Edgewater Park beach house will provide a new concession stand for citizens. Additionally, the Detroit waterfront has transformed itself from a derelict warehouse district to a recreational hub for residents and tourists, led by the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy. More than five miles of land will be transformed into a walkway with access to parks, plazas and pathways to green spaces.

So get out there and enjoy the blue, Buffalo!

Next week's Buffalo Float on Sunday, Aug. 6, a community event for locals with kayaks and canoes, is designed to celebrate the revitalization of the waterfront. The event, hosted by Buffalo Paddle People and Camp Good Days and Special Times Inc., and will take place from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. at Buffalo Riverworks, located at 359 Ganson St.

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