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
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
"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
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
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
To register for this year's Venture Forum or to learn more,