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VC firm partner sees opportunity with new Tech Garden office

By Eric Reinhardt (


CenterState CEO says New York City–based ff Venture Capital (ffVC) has opened an upstate New York office within the Tech Garden in downtown Syracuse. The new office makes ffVC the facility’s first in-residence investor. (Photo Credit:

SYRACUSE — A partner in ff Venture Capital (ffVC) is giving a thumbs up to its role as the first in-residence investor at CenterState CEO’s Tech Garden.

Its operations at the Tech Garden also represent an upstate New York office for the New York City–based firm.

The Tech Garden, operated by CenterState CEO, is home to the Genius NY program, described as the world’s largest business accelerator for uncrewed aerial systems (UAS). 

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

To date, ffVC has invested in two Genius NY portfolio companies: CivRobotics and CarScanner. 

“This partnership offers ffVC a unique opportunity to be actively engaged with some of the best mechatronic startups in the world, working with them to turn their products into thriving companies generating hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue,” Oliver Mitchell, partner at ffVC, said in the CenterState CEO announcement. “Central New York is a critical environment for launching uncrewed systems and offers a unique landing pad for international founders entering the United States. We are excited to deepen our efforts in the Upstate region, expanding our portfolio and presence in the fields of autonomy and mobility.” 

Mitchell recently joined ffVC’s partnership to increase the firm’s focus in the automation sector and sits on the boards of portfolio companies Civ Robotics and Cambrian Robotics. 

He has a track record as a serial entrepreneur and angel investor with recent exits in Ekso Bionics (NASDAQ: EKSO), NovoCure (NASDAQ: NVCR), and TripleLift.

Within the new partnership, ffVC will have an office at the Tech Garden and will be available to meet with Genus NY and Tech Garden members, “bringing potential new deal flow opportunities to the region,” CenterState CEO said in a news release.

Almost half of companies in Genius NY have gone on to raise follow-on funding from venture capitalists, with more expected. Each cohort year, companies are fundraising and seeking follow-on funding, making this partnership “crucial” for the continued growth and survival of startups, CenterState CEO contends. 

“This partnership and the growth of venture capital and early-stage investment in the region is another sign of the strength of Central New York’s innovation ecosystem,” Kara Jones, director of Genius NY, said in the release. “This valuable new investment tool is part of [a] growing set of resources that will help entrepreneurs thrive here in our region.” 

Founded in 2008, ffVC is an international venture-capital firm with offices and funds in the U.S. and Europe. The firm has been helping startup founders with funding and resources to launch technologies that “impact the lives of millions,” per the announcement. 

Since its first investment in the drone space in 2014, ffVC has been an active investor in the automation industry, including such firms as Burro, Cambrian Robotics, Digital Twin, Lynq, Manna, PlusOne Robotics, SkyCatch, and Zenith Aerospace.

To date, Genius NY has invested more than $30 million in 32 startups, which have gone on to raise more than $100 million in follow-on funding, adding more than 80 new local jobs from teams, CenterState CEO said. 

Finalists for the program’s seventh cohort are currently participating in the accelerator, and will compete for $3 million in direct investment, with one grand prize of up to $1 million and four $500,000 awards, at Innovation Night featuring GENIUS NY Pitch Finals, on Oct. 4.

“The decision by ff Venture Capital to open an office at The Tech Garden, home to the New York State-supported GENIUS NY accelerator, reflects the global success of this uncrewed aerial systems competition and the attention and private investment it’s attracting based on all that the Central New York region has to offer,” Hope Knight, president, CEO, and commissioner of Empire State Development said in the release.

Additionally, ffVC and Genius NY plan to continue to hold its annual Robotics and Drone Summit, with the goal of exploring how drones and robotics are impacting the construction, agricultural, transportation, supply chain, energy, aeronautics, consumer, and defense industries. 

Last year, the summit was held in the fall in New York City and attracted more than 300 attendees including mechatronic entrepreneurs from across the world, leading investors, corporate innovation leaders, and curious customers. 

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