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Fotokite wins $1M grand prize in Genius NY 2.0 business competition

By Eric Reinhardt

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Christopher McCall (second from right), CEO of Fotokite, helps hold a ceremonial $1 million check as the grand-prize winner of the Genius NY business-accelerator competition. Fotokite captured the top prize during the pitch competition held Monday night at the Marriott Syracuse Downtown. Also holding the check are (from left to right) Rick Clonan, VP of innovation & entrepreneurship at CenterState CEO; Robert Simpson, president and CEO of CenterState CEO; McCall; and Jonathan Parry, director of Genius NY. (Eric Reinhardt / BJNN)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Fotokite, a firm based in Switzerland, on Monday night captured the $1 million grand prize in the second installment of the Genius NY business-accelerator competition.

Fotokite was one of six Genius NY finalists that competed during the competition’s pitch night held at the Marriot Syracuse Downtown.

Genius NY stands for Growing ENtrepreneurs & Innovators in UpState New York.

The initiative is “one of the world’s largest business competitions focused on unmanned systems, cross-connected platforms and other technology-based sectors,” according to the office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

About Fotokite

Fotokites are tethered drone systems that work like a 200-foot tower, “flying fully autonomously and deploying with the push of a button,” according to a description in the event program. Fotokite provides firefighters and fire departments with a “live aerial situational awareness tool to help them save lives and preserve property,” the description said.

The company will use its $1 million award to “accelerate” its operations, says Christopher McCall, CEO of Fotokite, who spoke with BJNN following Monday night’s awards ceremony.

The prize will help “…build the presence here, to move faster toward real-world solutions in this space. We’re all about trying to get to the application and try to get to the real end users and customers and help them in their missions,” says McCall.

Fotokite currently has 14 employees, including one in Syracuse, he adds. Most of its workers focus on research and development in Switzerland. Fotokite wants to assemble a sales and business-development team and manufacturing for a U.S.-made product.

“That’s exactly the mission that we came over here [for] and participated in the Genius NY program to achieve,” says McCall.

Other winners

In addition to Fotokite, Quantifly was awarded the second place prize of $600,000; TruWeather was named third place, winning $400,000; while three finalists, UsPLM, Dropcopter, and Precision Vision all were awarded $250,000. TruWeather was also named the crowd favorite in a live poll taken during the event.

Genius NY, a year-long business accelerator, awarded six finalist teams a total of nearly $3 million at the pitch event. The awards included prizes of $1 million, $600,000, $400,000 and three $250,000 awards.

Participants are required to operate their business in Central New York for at least one year.

Empire State Development Corporation, New York’s primary economic-development agency, supports the Genius NY program.

Contact Reinhardt at ereinhardt@cnybj.com