By Brett DeNeve:
Okay, I’ll be honest, the only thing I could think of at first after reading this was my sister’s favorite ABC TV series Shark Tank: 35 contestants, a panel of judges, and a clock counting down their remaining time to convince investors that they are worthy of the startup money they are asking for. Alas, this is not ABC sponsored, but will definitely make for a viewer-worthy program.
35 early-stage high-tech companies step on the mound against investors today via Western New York’s premier venture forum Bright Buffalo Niagara. The event is held at Statler City, 107 Delaware Ave. in downtown Buffalo, right by Niagara Square, and runs practically all day from 8 a.m. to 6:45 p.m.
The companies are a diverse group, varying in their particular technological fields as well as their levels of professional development. Investors will be sure to hear from companies interested in the life sciences, energy, and software to name a few. The pitches are categorized by length of duration, either one-minute or ten-minute, and are cycled between the two throughout the day.
Aside from the presenters, guest speaker Victor Hwang, a San Francisco based venture capitalist and author of “The Rainforest: The Secret to Building the Next Silicon Valley,” will enlighten participants from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. Hwang is also a contributor to Forbes’ online publication. His personality shines right through the text in his piece titled “A Huge Global Epidemic: Fake Nerds,” published in early June of this year, speaking on behalf of those who sported their black, thick-rimmed glasses throughout the 1980’s (as well as other passed generations of judgment) with their matching bruises from being stuffed into lockers by the jocks with pride because one day . . . One day those jocks would be working for them.
Now, these once oddballs of society, are viewed not for their lack of conforming and being “cool,” but for their immense amounts of success. These days, however, the list of celebrities claiming to be “nerds” or even looking the part is at an all-time high; Hwang sites Anne Hathaway, Justin Timberlake and more. He then humorously provided a “nerd test,” asking questions that require a deep understanding of Star Wars, Star Trek, Dungeons and Dragons, and things of the “Old School Nerd” mentality. Hwang is definitely a personality and a half. His presentation should be one for the ages for sure.
Bright Buffalo Niagara has been “Aligning Investment with Innovation,” as their website’s fresh citrus orange and mint green font proclaims, since 2009, making way for an environment that supports economic growth. Roughly 100 early-stage companies have presented at Buffalo Bright Niagara since they started, having about 250-300 attendees each year. Frequenters include: entrepreneurs, angel and venture capitalists, potential business partners, industry leaders, elected officials and more. In this venture forum’s brief three years of existence, its participants have managed to accumulate over $23 million in funding, not to mention the priceless exposure to national markets and potential future investors.
These presenting companies will represent a diverse but telling lens into this area’s rising high-tech economy; nanotechnology, drug development, and, of course, smartphone applications are only the beginning of the list.