Release Date: April 24, 2012
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The climate for high-tech investment in Western New York has improved steadily over the past few years, and a driver of new successes is an annual investor forum that's happening again this spring.
The Bright Forum is Buffalo Niagara's premier event for introducing investors to promising technologies from across New York and Ontario, Canada.
Hosted by Bright Buffalo Niagara, a coalition of regional partners led by the University at Buffalo, the forum features a series of pitch sessions where entrepreneurs present ideas to investors. Sponsors include UB's New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences and Superior Group, a global workforce and business solutions provider.
This year, the event takes place from May 16-17 in the form of the 2012 Venture Forum, a collaboration between the Bright Forum and the Center for Economic Growth's SmartStart UNYTECH Venture Forum.
Since its inception in 2009, the Bright Forum has not only catalyzed deal-making, but helped lay the foundation for a successful entrepreneur economy.
Eric Leinberg, president of InfoPreserve, a Rochester-area firm that provides a private, cloud-based platform for securing and managing digital records, said his company met one of its early investors through the Bright Forum and later connected at the forum with another prospective investor from Pittsburgh.
Jack McGowan, director of the Western New York Venture Association/Buffalo Angels, said the Bright Forum has enabled him to raise his organization's profile and meet investors from other cities who may be interested in co-investment opportunities.
Marnie LaVigne, associate vice president for economic development at UB, said the Bright Forum helped spur the creation of Launch New York, a new nonprofit that will accelerate the growth of high-tech companies in Upstate New York by facilitating deal-making and serving as a direct investor.
Launch New York will provide high-potential startups with capital and expert assistance in commercialization -- and other crucial areas. One goal is to develop university research into products and services available to consumers.
"As we build a stronger entrepreneurial ecosystem in Buffalo Niagara and neighboring regions, the Bright Forum connects investors with entrepreneurs who have urgent business needs," said Scott Stenclik, president of Superior Group. "Given our expanding business in applying human resources solutions in regional and global high-tech sectors, our firm sees creative partnerships like the Bright Forum as a critical piece of growing a knowledge-based economy."
"All net new job growth in the U.S. in the past 30 years has come from young companies, as shown by the Kauffman Foundation," LaVigne said. "Innovation and entrepreneurship have to be a centerpiece of transforming our region's economy."
Launch New York emerged from conversations between regional leaders and the Bright Forum's 2009 luncheon keynote speaker from JumpStart Ventures, an organization driving the creation of high-growth companies in the Cleveland, Ohio, area.
"Everyone was so impressed, hearing what Cleveland had done to drive entrepreneurship as traditional industry struggled, that a group of us were motivated to bring the talent and funding together to make the same effort here," LaVigne said.
In accordance with a Regional Entrepreneurship Action Plan developed in collaboration with JumpStart, Launch New York was incorporated at the end of 2011. Regional supporters included UB, the John R. Oishei Foundation, National Grid, Erie County Industrial Development Agency, Genesee County Economic Development Center and Tompkins County Area Development.
The nonprofit will serve a 27-county region spanning Upstate New York. The organization has received seed funding from New York State through the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council and is now applying for a federal Economic Development Administration grant.
Launch New York is just one example of how the Bright Forum helps build meaningful, long-term relationships between Western New York and partners who can facilitate the growth of the region's high-tech economy.
McGowan said the Buffalo Angels network decided to join the national Angel Capital Association in 2010 after meeting the association's chair, a keynote speaker, at the Bright Forum.
Leinberg said the Pittsburgh investor he met through the Bright Forum not only introduced InfoPreserve to the investor's angel group, but has also taken a personal interest in assisting the company. The investor has visited Rochester, where InfoPreserve introduced him to other emerging companies from the region.
"Success is all about making the right connections with investors, advisors and customers," Leinberg said. "The Bright Forum has been a catalyst in making some of those initial connections."
To register for this year's Venture Forum or to learn more, visit http://www.brightbuffaloniagara.com.