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National Grid Invests $490,000 in Entrepreneurship Programs with University at Buffalo, Launch NY

National Grid today became the first company in Western New York to commit direct support to the University at Buffalo’s (UB) newly launched High-Tech Entrepreneurship Opportunity Program, designed to promote innovation and growth in entrepreneurship throughout the region by directly supporting companies in their earliest business formation stage when bringing new technology, products and services to the marketplace. 

In tandem, National Grid provided a second grant to Launch NY’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence Program, which provides entrepreneurs support in the initial growth stages of business development while offering mentorship and long term advisement by matching experienced professionals with high potential startup companies. Both programs will work closely together to ensure that regional entrepreneurs are provided coordinated assistance in the critical start-up and initial growth periods of the business development pipeline.

Steve Holliday, National Grid’s global chief executive officer, and Ken Daly, president of National Grid – New York, were in Buffalo today to announce the grants that total $490,000.

“Our success as an energy company is directly connected to the communities and people we serve,” Holliday said.  “Growing the economy in any community is no easy task, so it is vital that we find ways to help the budding businesses that are at the cutting edges of innovation and technology.  We view our partnership with the University at Buffalo and Launch NY as an investment that should pay dividends for Buffalo and all of upstate New York.”

National Grid’s CleanTech Incubation grants to the University at Buffalo ($240,000) and Launch NY ($250,000) will support high-tech start-ups in the critical early stages of growth. The grant to UB will allow the university to work with entrepreneurs on the early identification, assessment, inventory, and triage of high-tech start-ups, and provide up to $10,000 in support of the most promising companies to foster their creation and success within the National Grid service footprint in Western New York.  The program will connect entrepreneurs and start-up companies with various business services that can assist their needs such as technology assessment, market research, business plan development, grant writing, product development, operations implementation, and related legal and accounting services. National Grid has been a long-time supporter of UB’s economic development efforts through grants and sponsorship of entrepreneurial programming and events.

Launch NY’s grant will support their Entrepreneur-in-Residence program, which works to match experienced mid-career professionals with high-potential startup companies within the 27 counties of upstate New York. Through the program, Launch NY’s EiRs will conduct outreach efforts to these markets through educational seminars, events and partner programs; will offer readiness assessments to initial candidates for support; and will provide hundreds of hours of support to companies who are selected for the program, with the main objective of this phase being to help companies access capital and grow within our region.  In addition, Launch NY will pursue two key objectives: maintaining an index of support organizations available to companies within the region, as well as compiling a robust data set around entrepreneurial activity and outcomes, allowing it to track its own efficacy as well as serve as a resource on developments in the region.

“At Launch NY, we help start-ups bridge the gap in their most critical stage of growth,” said John Seman, chief executive officer of Launch NY. “This generous grant from National Grid will help provide much-needed support for Upstate New York’s most promising companies as they work to transform our economic landscape.”

National Grid’s CleanTech Incubation grant program supports the development of a self-sustaining entrepreneurial and innovation “ecosystem” in upstate New York that will stimulate and support high growth new businesses generating new jobs and new investment.

The program was created to support initiatives that facilitate formation of new ventures or growth of high potential small ventures and also to make buildings more marketable for the creation of new jobs in the clean tech industry and other advanced technology industry sectors.

Entry image: Ken Daly, NYS president, National Grid, Heidi Wagner, president/CEO, MedPath Solutions, John Seman, CEO, Launch NY, Steve Holliday, global CEO, National Grid, Marnie LaVigne, PhD, associate vice president for economic development, UB, Dennis Elsenbeck, regional executive for National Grid.

Written by WCPerspective


Buffalo and development junkie currently exiled in California.

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  • MichaelKlanac

    As the CEO of a Buffalo technical start up halfway through a seed raise, I’m interested to see how and when LaunchNY actually begins to fulfill their mission.  To date I’ve found it difficult to get any sort of consistent communication with the organization.  I have a great concern over local funds being allocated toward a program that doesn’t invest all of that money in the promising businesses in the area (or publicize the time frame for doing so – are we just paying part time salaries to business coaches?).  There is a tremendous seed fund shortage in WNY so the need to move it directly to promising companies is even more important.

    • Rand503

      MichaelKlanac Thanks Michael — you hit the nail on the head.  There is a tremendous shortage of seed capital in the US, not just Buffalo.  From what I see above, very little of that money will actually go to companies as funding.  If that money goes to institutions, it’s just pissed away.  
      If instead, they selected ten companies in the Buffalo region and gave them each $50,000 in exchange for an equity position, that would go much further to creating an innovation ecosystem then anything else they could do.  How to select ten companies?  Get the best serial entrepreneurs to vet them , do due diligence on them, and treat it as a bonafide investment.  Ten carefully selected companies should yield several that go to exit, and that half million. 
      You need to get people who really know what they are doing, and that means you might even have to find vetters from outside Buffalo.   No matter.  You have to take a good hard look at the companies, and if there are not ten investment worthy companeis in Buffalo, then you fund only those that are.  
      Then, you work closely with those companies to help them grow as fast as possible to position themsevles to an exit.  The money they get as a return from their investments can them be used to reinvest in more companies, and you now have more experienced people in Buffalo.  Lather, rinse, repeat, and soon you have a self-sustaining innovation ecosystem.
      Until you do that, Buffalo will never have one.

      • Rand503

        MichaelKlanac No one should be paying business coaches.  Unless they have skin in the game, you shouldn’t waste your time with them.  A good business coach should devote his time and expertise to your company in exchange for an equity position in your company.  He may want a small salary as well, which is perfectly okay, but a good coach knows that if your company really is going anywhere, the big payoff for him is when you exit.  
        If you are instead paying a coach for his advice (or someone else is paying for it), he could be totally wrong, an he doesn’t really care since he got paid anyway.  That’s not good for the early stage company.  Insist on his taking an equity stake instead of a big salary.  If he won’t do it, his advice was worthless anyway.

  • KenStackowski

    This is good BUT the bigger issue is that NYPA owes Niagara Falls, Niagara County and Buffalo.
    The $500k is good seed money for entrepreneurs but my opinion is:
    1) NYPA should be paying property taxes or the equivalent of property taxes. Its been long enough to repay the loads for building the Niagara Power Plants, reservoirs and distribution infrastructure. Its nice but these are gifts…in lieu of what they really should be paying.
    2) Why is NYPA in Albany? Those jobs should be in Niagara Falls.
    3) UB should have a Research Campus in Niagara Falls (preferably called TESLA AC) and it should be a research center for all forms of power generation technology (heavily leveraging UBs computing), power distribution, power management.
    Partnering this research campus with a research campus in the material sciences could pave the way for everything from solar to new thorium hybrid nuclear reactors, battery technology, etc.
    We could attract big players here with this kind of research…and give these entrepreneurs both patners and customers…so they don’t have to go it alone.
    This is good but its like self satisfaction from giving out a lollypop when you know they deserve a bike.

    • KenStackowski

      another point…with NYPA having its largest energy producing here in Niagara Falls…but no NYPA jobs and no partnership in a research campus….I am stupefied and dumbfounding how would choose to locate a Solar facility in Rochester’s Long Pond Industrial Park.
      There is no SUNY in Rochester!
      The closest SUNY is in Brockport and that campus has nothing to do with solar or energy.
      See this is BS on a grand scale because this facility should have gone to Buffalo or Niagara Falls…along with an energy research campus partnered with SUNY.
      Stuff like this makes me furious! Someone is actually going to tell me that Rochester deserves a solar R&D and production facility more than Niagara Falls..the largest energy producer in NYS…that pays no NYS or local taxes.

  • Dwolp

    MichaelKlanac An old article, but I found your comments interesting. It appears that you’re a bit correct on the article–as it appears that Launch NY is stills struggling:

  • Dwolp

    Rand503 MichaelKlanac Not a bad idea, but at the $50,000, you’re really investing in companies that are looking to build the proof-of-concept stage. It’s more of a gut check (with a little market research) at this stage.