Release Date: November 16, 2011
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Two annual investor forums in Upstate New York will partner in 2012 to host a single event: A two-day forum in Buffalo that will connect early-stage, high-tech companies with angel investors and venture capitalists.
The 2012 Venture Forum, which will take place May 16-17, is a partnership between Western New York's Bright Forum and SmartStart/UNYTECH, two well-established venture forums in Upstate New York.
While the Bright Forum has been a Buffalo-based forum since its inception in 2009, the SmartStart/UNYTECH program, run by the Center for Economic Growth (CEG), travels periodically from its home base in Albany to different locations around Upstate New York.
Partnering in 2012 will enable the two events to merge their audiences, reaching both the venture capitalists that SmartStart/UNYTECH typically attracts and the angel investors that have been the focus of Bright in past years.
By building relationships between angel investors and venture capitalists, the 2012 forum will improve the funding pipeline for early-stage companies in New York State and beyond. A newly formed investor committee that is helping to plan the event has nearly 20 members representing groups from across New York State and from Canada, Pittsburgh and Boston.
"This collaboration will greatly enhance the exposure and opportunity for investment and growth of Upstate New York's great early-stage technology companies," said F. Michael Tucker, president and CEO of CEG.
"Knowing that all net new job growth in the U.S. in the past 30 years has come from companies less than five years old, we are collaborating to accelerate new, high-growth businesses through equity funding," said Marnie LaVigne, director of business development for the University at Buffalo's New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences, a key partner in the Bright Buffalo Niagara initiative that runs the Bright Forum.
"We have incredibly rich investment opportunities in Upstate New York, which hasn't traditionally been on the radar for most investors," LaVigne said. "By joining forces in 2012, our regional organizations are bringing tremendous focus to building funding relationships that are key to growing our high-tech, high-potential start-ups and early stage firms."
The Bright Forum is run by Bright Buffalo Niagara, a community-driven high-tech initiative led by UB's Center of Excellence in concert with more than a dozen regional organizers.
The event, now in its fourth year, attracts hundreds of participants annually. It features a full day of presentations by entrepreneurs in high-tech sectors from across New York State and Canada. In 2011, more than 50 firms applied to present. Of those, 16 were selected to give one-minute pitches to investors and 12 were chosen to deliver longer, 10-minute presentations.
SmartStart/UNYTECH, now in its 12th year, has highlighted 255 high-quality companies that have raised over $500 million in equity financing, including over $72 million directly attributable to their participation in the forum.
The forum showcases early-stage companies, including spin-outs from more than a dozen universities who partner on technology transfer through UNYTECH. UNYTECH, the Upstate New York Technology Group, is a collaborative effort between higher education, industry and economic development agencies to commercialize university research.
"A vital part of commercializing university technologies is making them 'shovel-ready' for investors who can take these opportunities to the next level," said Robert Genco, chair of UNYTECH and director of UB's Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach. "Showcasing these opportunities, getting them funded and growing technology-rich companies is an important step toward reinvigorating the upstate economy."
The joint SmartStart/UNYTECH and Bright Forum in 2012 will combine the strengths of both events to expand the investor and company participation statewide and beyond.
Each strives not only to promote deal-making, but also to strengthen the region's entrepreneurial ecosystem by helping investors, entrepreneurs and community leaders establish trust and long-term relationships.
The Bright Forum, which has traditionally focused on angel investment, has had significant success in this area: As a result of momentum created by the event, the Western New York angel investor network has doubled in size since 2009 and formalized association nationally through membership in the Angel Capital Association.
The 2009 luncheon keynote presenter, JumpStart Inc., partnered with economic development leaders in Western and Central New York in 2010 to secure $445,000 in federal funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to transform entrepreneurship in Upstate New York into a significant engine for regional economic growth.
Since its inception just three years ago, the Bright Forum has featured nearly 100 high-tech companies. Working with SmartStart/UNYTECH in 2012 will enable Bright Buffalo Niagara to begin building connections between angel investors and venture capitalists.
About the 2012 Venture Forum:
About the Center for Economic Growth: http://www.ceg.org
About UNYTECH (Upstate New York Technology Group): http://www.unytechny.org
About Bright Buffalo Niagara: http://brightbuffaloniagara.com