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CEO FOCUS: A Unicorn, an Acquisition, & Millions in Investments

By Robert M. Simpson

Date:

These are worth celebrating in CNY’s startup ecosystem

Over the past few weeks, several significant announcements have placed a spotlight on the strength of our innovation ecosystem, serving as categorical proof that Central New York is a place where tech companies and startups can grow and thrive.

Among the most exceptional, CenterState CEO member and Tech Garden anchor tenant Density announced a $125 million capital raise led by Kleiner Perkins (https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/density-secures-125-million-in-series-d-funding-to-accelerate-growth-acquires-helix-re-301421033.html). This investment brings the startup’s valuation to $1.05 billion, officially making it the first “unicorn” — a privately held startup company valued at more than $1 billion — to come out of the Tech Garden. With just over 900 “unicorns” worldwide, and fewer than 450 in the U.S., this is truly a remarkable accomplishment.

Density’s people-counting, AI-powered sensors, manufactured within the Tech Garden’s hardware center, anonymously measure how people use space, allowing customers to build better workplace experiences. In addition to this Series D raise, the company also announced it acquired HelixRE, a technology that creates a digital representation of buildings to streamline data collection. Since March 2020, Density has experienced more than 500-percent growth, and expanded its employee base by 300 percent since the start of 2021, with plans to double its headcount in the next year.

Just down the road from the Tech Garden, TCGplayer is also experiencing explosive growth, expanding its workforce by more than 81 percent in the past year — creating hundreds of jobs in downtown Syracuse and adding nearly 100,000 square feet of office space. The company, which is the leading technology platform for the collectibles industry and operator of the largest online marketplace for trading card games, announced earlier this month that it has acquired Roca Robotics Inc. (https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/tcgplayer-acquires-roca-robotics-301416101.html). [That Colorado–based company] has produced the world’s leading robotic card-sorting machine for the trading-card market. The acquisition will allow the company to better support its customers and clients, and continue its significant growth.

Our GENIUS NY teams have also announced recent investments. Over five rounds, 26 unmanned-systems startups have used $15 million invested to date to leverage more than $75 million in follow-on funding, and have contributed to more than 70 new jobs in upstate New York.

Anyone who has watched the evolution of this innovation ecosystem over the past two decades knows how truly incredible these benchmarks are. It speaks to the positive trajectory of a region that once lagged so many of its peers in resources, investment opportunities, public and private-sector support, and the collaborative partnerships needed for startups and entrepreneurs to excel. Today, the speed of growth for these young firms is accelerating. They are job drivers, contributors to the vibrancy of our community, and integral to the vitality of our 21st century regional economy. As we celebrate these companies and their milestones, we remain committed to supporting the environment that will ensure similar success for others within this ecosystem.

Please join me in congratulating these companies on their progress and success. To learn how you can mentor and support companies in our innovation ecosystem, please contact Jeff Fuchsberg, CenterState CEO’s VP of innovation and entrepreneurship, at JFuchsberg@thetechgarden.com.              

Robert M. Simpson is president and CEO of CenterState CEO, the primary economic-development organization for Central New York. This article is drawn and edited from the “CEO Focus” email newsletter that the organization sent to members on Nov. 18.