Author: Michael Tkaczevski
New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on June 4 the eight companies that would receive tax incentives as part of the first annual START-UP NY program to encourage job growth in Upstate New York.
The START-UP NY program, which stands for SUNY Tax-free Areas to Revitalize and Transform Upstate New York, will waive New York State business, corporate, income, sales, property, or franchise taxes for 10 years for the eight companies, all of which have close ties with the University at Buffalo. The estimate is that the eight companies will bring 204 new jobs and more than $6 million in capital investment over the course of five years to Upstate New York.
The eight companies are: Aesku.NY, a subsidiary of Aesku.Diagnostics, a German-based medical science firm, that has previously collaborated with UB’s School of Medical and Biomedical Sciences; ClearView Social, a software company that makes information-sharing social media for law firms; CoachMePlus.com, which provides athlete diagnostic information to professional coaches and sports teams; Decision Pace, which collects and analyzes data for clients and has an internship program with UB’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering; Heads-Up Display (lead image), which produces wearable devices that distribute simple information for rapid decision-making; Lineagen, a Utah-based medical diagnostic company that is working with UB and the New York Genome Center to study autism and other developmental delays; Nupur Technologies, a start-up that is designing an earwax cleaning device for doctors and plans to hire two UB medical graduates and provide internships for students in the School of Management; and Sinapis Pharma, a Florida-based pharmaceutical company that is designing medicine to treat brain trauma and strokes.
Some of the eight companies are foreign businesses opening branches in Buffalo, NY, and others are Buffalo start-ups that are expanding. UB and New York State do not have direct input on how the companies operate, but the university does provide many with resources and potential new employees.
Heads-Up Display began as a rapid prototype that Brendon and Clark Dever and their team members created in Buffalo, NY in 2013 at Startup Weekend, a conference for new start-up business run by a non-profit organization of the same name. After the conference, the Dever cousins’ teammates separated to work on other projects while the cousins decided to start a company based on the prototype they pitched at the conference.
Much of the funding has come out of the Dever cousins’ pockets and employees have come and gone as the product matured. The grant will reduce the cost of business and allow Heads-Up Display to hire recent UB graduates and expand their manufacturing and market. Currently, the Dever cousins are working with an engineer who they want to hire full-time.
The Heads-Up Display’s main clients are industrial workers, and the software is customized for each client.
The Heads-Up Display product (see Facebook) is based on the Google Glass eyewear, but has different software. Clark Dever said the Google Glass is insufficient for industrial and defense applications because it displays too much information at once. Dever also said Google Glass could be unsafe for industrial jobs because it could be crushed or its wires could get snagged.
“We wanted to make a simple display … so we have full-color LEDs that talk constantly,” Dever said. “We’re calling it a traffic light for your face.”
Streamlined information and less battery usage will allow supervisors to relay warnings and alerts to workers quickly without confusion if there’s an emergency.
“If you’re working on a six-story building and there’s a fire, there’s no good way to notify the guys still working. You could use text messages or air horns … but there’s no instant way to evacuate everyone,” Dever said. “Heads-Up Display would allow systems to communicate with all workers instantly, like an emergency button.”
The software can be modified for different applications, not just industrial warnings. Dever gave the example that a marathon runner could monitor their heart rate while running. Yellow would mean the heart rate is too slow, red would be too slow and green would mean a good rate, he brainstormed.
Heads-Up Display expects to reach $20 million per year in revenue generation within three to five years. Dever said the company wants to bring business and jobs to Buffalo even if they increase their interaction with international clients.
Another company, CoachMePlus (see Facebook), started out small and has grown to become a larger operation, and plans to expand even more with the tax incentives. CoachMePlus collects, organizes, and helps analyze information on athlete’s physical performance and wellbeing for coaches.
The co-founders previously worked for M2 Synergy, an advertisement workshopping company. The CoachMePlus app began when the co-founders were commissioned by the Buffalo Sabres to replace their paper workout regimens with CD-ROM or web-based documents.
Kevin Dawidowicz, president and co-founder of CoachMePlus and graduate of UB’s Center of Entrepreneurial Leadership, said he and his colleagues realized there was a problem with just using spreadsheets for workouts, not just paper.
“[Coaches] were stuck with Excel, and they’d have to spend hours filling out spreadsheets for their athletes. That’s an hour they could be spending on training,” Dawidowicz said.
The CoachMePlus app integrates exercise equipment with data analysis programs to collect data and present it to coaches quickly. Coaches can also upload videos, charts and their own analysis onto a convenient dashboard.
“We wanted to centralize that data and give to coaches,” Dawidowicz said.
The information helps coaches stay informed at all times and be able to make better decisions about exercise, nutrition, recuperation from injuries, and preparation for games, he said. Not having a way to centralize and find trends in data can slow down a coach’s ability to notice and respond to their athletes’ conditions.
The Philadelphia Eagles used CoachMePlus and reported the fewest injury days among all teams in the NFL. Dawidowicz said coaches were able to react and plan more precisely with the data that the app provided.
CoachMePlus mostly has contracts with professional sports teams around the United States in the NHL, NFL, MLB, NCAA and the Olympics, as well as a few teams in Canada and Australia.
CoachMePlus plans to make the app be not only for professional sports teams, but also for personal trainers and other consumers.
The company’s revenue comes from manual licenses ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 per year depending on how many features a team decides it wants when negotiating.
“It’s based on trust,” Dawidowicz said. “We can’t walk in and do all this stuff without any history between us. We need a long-term partnership with these organizations, and we’re willing to put in that time to build trust.”
CoachMePlus has participated in other UB business-oriented programs and worked with other venture development firms in the past, and had heard about START-UP NY while it was still being drafted. As the company grows, it plans to hire customer service, health management, app programmers, and sales personnel.
Most of the companies benefitting from the tax incentives plan to expand internationally, but keep job growth local in Buffalo. UB graduates can expect to find interested companies right on campus.