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Upstate Venture Connect study reveals characteristics of emerging growth companies

By Vance Marriner


SYRACUSE — A recent study commissioned by Syracuse–based nonprofit Upstate Venture Connect (UVC) has revealed some traits of high-growth companies in upstate New York’s innovation economy.

UVC describes itself as “an entrepreneur-led nonprofit focused on building a region wide startup community” and seeks to connect upstate entrepreneurs with resources needed to succeed.

To better understand the characteristics that fast-growth companies in the region have in common, UVC commissioned the Rochester–based Center for Governmental Research (CGR) to conduct an online survey among CEOs of such companies. The survey yielded 115 responses, and the data revealed the following:

• CGR describes the firms as “new and young.” Half of the respondent organizations had been operating for less than six years.

• The median company size was eight full-time equivalents (FTEs). Half of the respondents employ five or fewer FTEs.

• The companies were overwhelmingly national or global, as opposed to local, in their focus. Nine out of 10 had plans to compete for customers across the U.S. and/or globally.

• The companies represent a wide variety of industries. The 115 respondents were spread among 47 different industry sectors, ranging from technology to educational services to accounting. In an interview about the findings, Nasir Ali, co-founder and CEO of UVC, described this diversity of entrepreneurship in the region as “truly staggering.”

• The high-growth companies employ a highly educated workforce. Three-quarters of the respondents said that 80 percent or more of their positions require college degrees. Ali noted that this finding speaks to a key opportunity for Upstate with its large number of colleges and universities.

• The firms were spread throughout Upstate and did not conform to geographic clusters.

• Average annual pay per worker among the respondents ranged from $41,000 to $75,000.

• The respondents had aggressive growth plans. Collectively, they planned to create 9,600 jobs over the next five years.

Ali stated that the research findings will be used to inform UVCs ongoing efforts to increase connectivity across the region and nurture entrepreneurs. UVC plans to do follow-up research later in 2017 to learn more about high-growth firms, and some of the respondent companies will be featured as participants in the organization’s Venture Ecosystem Awards event in September.

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