Release Date: April 5, 2019
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Willow, a startup co-founded by University at Buffalo School of Management MBA student Will Zacher, was one of four companies to receive an investment from Launch New York through its new Limited Partner (LP) Fund, the venture development organization announced April 3.
Launch NY provides pro bono mentoring and capital access to high-growth startups across the state’s 27 westernmost counties. Its LP Fund is a returns-based investment opportunities platform for accredited investors looking to make a profit while positively impacting the Upstate New York entrepreneurial ecosystem and economy.
An online platform, Willow uses propriety algorithms to help match families with affordable senior living options in their area based on a variety of factors, including medical conditions, financial information and up-to-date facility ratings. Zacher found inspiration for the company in 2015, when his family started searching for senior placement for his grandmother.
“We didn’t know how to get started or where to look,” Zacher says. “I started thinking about how people are making this decision and how we can help.”
Being part of the Launch NY LP Fund’s inaugural investment will help make Willow’s platform more intuitive for families who are searching for assistance, as well as help attract additional funding dollars.
“Launch NY’s support has been instrumental to Willow’s success thus far,” Zacher says. “The biggest impact has been the mentorship and support they provide. Having established entrepreneurs help shape my startup has been invaluable. The direction they’ve given has helped us expedite our product’s path to the marketplace.”
Zacher’s team members from the UB School of Management include co-founder Avneesh Sharma, a master’s student in management information systems, as well as mentors like Larry Zielinski, executive in residence for health care administration, and others who helped bring his vision to life. Willow was also a 2018 finalist in UB’s Henry A. Panasci Jr. Technology Entrepreneurship Competition.
Meanwhile, Launch NY's team has several School of Management alumni, including Danielle Blount, MBA ’16, project management and program coordinator; Celine Keefe, MBA ’17, marketing director; and Alex Killian, BS/MBA ’16, investment associate; as well as entrepreneurs-in-residence Rich Delmerico and Deb O’Shea, who earned degrees from UB in engineering, and sociology and law, respectively.
“I wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without the support of the professors at the UB School of Management and resources on campus such as UB’s Blackstone LaunchPad,” Zacher says.
The for-profit LP Fund is designed to co-invest alongside Launch NY’s nonprofit Seed Fund and provide investment capital to companies who meet certain criteria, which includes working with Launch NY’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence program for at least three months. In addition to Willow, the other inaugural LP Fund investments are as follows:
“By introducing the new LP Fund we created a way to effectively double the capital we have available to local startups, and investors have an opportunity to earn a profit while doing good in a community they hold near and dear,” says Marnie LaVigne, president and CEO of Launch NY. “We are seeing the region transform economically and culturally through entrepreneurship, and people want to get involved.”