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Launch NY to use federal grant funding for virtual incubator program

By Eric Reinhardt


Regional startups in Central and Western New York will now have “100 percent virtual access” to resources that can help them succeed. 

Buffalo–based Launch NY will use a federal grant of $750,000 toward its Rebound and Innovate program, which also involves Cornell University’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement. 

The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) awarded the funding.

Launch NY describes itself as the “first and only” nonprofit venture-development organization that provides the 27 westernmost counties in New York with pro-bono mentoring and access to seed capital, per its May 18 news release.

The funding will help pay for Launch NY’s Rebound and Innovate program. It includes Cornell University’s distance-learning curriculum, which seeks to “to solve challenges to accessing entrepreneurship support and capital caused by coronavirus through a full transition to virtual mentorship and novel financing programs for technology-based startup companies, driving economic recovery and ensuring long term resilience in responding to similar threats,” as outlined on the U.S. EDA website.

Rebound and Innovate will support 200 companies with up to 50 mentors and staff. It will also bring together up to 250 investors, while also ensuring ongoing accessibility through a new Founders Go Big (FGB) Resource Center, for which Launch NY will reveal the details “soon.” 

It will build on the award-winning FGB program, which seeks to “enhance the engagement” of underrepresented, disadvantaged founders by creating high-growth potential businesses.

Among more than 250 active client companies, Launch NY has invested in 70, including 33 percent that are women-owned and 27 percent which are minority-led. These companies — along with businesses expected to participate in Rebound and Innovate’s new, long-term virtual programming — anticipate raising $25 million in new capital, generating $14 million in annual company revenues, and retaining and creating 600 jobs, per the release.

“If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected,” Marnie LaVigne, president and CEO of Launch NY, said. “Startups across Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and the Southern Tier will have access to all the tools they need in one virtual location — meeting space, virtual office hours, peer networking, and our powerful investor network that is already providing as much as six figures in seed capital to our most promising local entrepreneurs. Being prepared to support the progress of new ventures creating new jobs and wealth in our community, especially in neighborhoods that need it most, is essential to building an economy that can function in a variety of conditions.”

The EDA grant is part of a $29 million Scaling Pandemic Resilience through Innovation and Technology (SPRINT) challenge, which uses entrepreneurship and innovation to address economic, health and safety risks caused by the pandemic. Launch NY is among 44 awardees nationwide, and one of only three in New York state.

“We are eager to get our startup educational tools into as many hands as possible to help grow businesses and create more jobs in upstate New York,” Tom Schryver, executive director of the Center for Regional Economic Advancement at Cornell University, said. “By continuing our long-standing partnership with Launch NY and offering this multi-pronged program, startups will have a competitive advantage to set down roots in our region and a bounty of support resources at their fingertips — accessible any time they need them.”

Besides its headquarters in Buffalo, Launch NY also has co-locations with partner organizations in Syracuse, Binghamton, Ithaca, and Rochester. Since 2012, it has served more than 1,199 companies, has more than two dozen experienced local entrepreneurs-in-residence and its National Mentor Network of 2,000 industry, business and investment experts, per its release.                     

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