Buffalo’s Startup Sherpa

by Matthew K. Pelkey
November 4, 2019

What a week it was for Buffalo’s entrepreneurs. While I was home sick, 43North killed it in front of a packed house at Sheas with its sixth annual $1MM pitch competition. Public reports indicate that our startup darling ACV Auctions is closing in on unicorn-valuation-status of +$1B. A first for Buffalo. I taught my students about founder’s equity through Arrested Development and banana stands. And Techstars founder and startup-oracle Brad Feld came to see what all the buzz is about. Quite the contrast from where we were a decade ago.

Of course, there is still plenty of work to do. As luck would have it, this week I had the pleasure of sitting down with Brad Feld and a small group of like-minded entrepreneurs to talk about how to continue building the WNY startup ecosystem — how we can all adopt a #GiveFirst mentality to effect the broadest positive change. Change that if executed correctly, can create sustainable growth for generations to come.

One of the takeaways from our talk with Brad was about creating a breadth and diversity of startup related events, and getting new people to those events. Be intentionally inclusive and meet people where they are. It’s not enough to expect that we can build it and they will come. If we do this right we can engage a diverse group and create a critical mass to build off of. If you’re already a regular in the startup scene, invite someone new to come — perhaps someone interested in starting a business or in angel investing.

Be their startup Sherpa.

Fortunately, there are a ton of opportunities to get engaged. Have an idea for a business but not sure where to start? Are you a founder and not sure how to solve a problem? Are you a potential investor wanting to help the WNY startup community? It can be difficult to know exactly which event fits your particular interests. Hopefully this list will help guide you.

By no means is this an exclusive list, but here are some excellent startup events coming up in November:

· Open coffee club: Tuesdays at 7:30 a.m. at Rowhouse. This is a great event now hosted by Techstars Buffalo for anyone interested in getting more exposure to the startup community. Come enjoy a coffee in a casual open environment. Meetup details are here. Also keep an eye out for Open cocktail club. Same idea but with…well…you get the idea.

· Founders table: Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. at JAM Parkside. This is an event geared specifically to founders in the Buffalo area. The facilitated round table format provides founders an opportunity to discuss challenges they face and possible solutions in a confidential and empathetic format. Registration required as space is limited. To register, click here. This is not a venue for sales so leave the elevator pitch at the door.

· WNY Venture Association: November 13, 2019, at the Buffalo Club at 7:30 a.m. WNYVA hosts company pitches and is a great entry point to Buffalo’s angel investors. If you’re interested in pitching or attending, check out the details here.

· UB Blackstone Launchpad. The epicenter of UB’s startup community, Blackstone Launchpad does a great job of providing a plethora of events for both students and the broader community. Come check out the elevator pitch competition on November 21, 2019 at 5:30 p.m. at the Student Union. And while you’re at it, mark your calendar for the Panasci pitch competition info session on November 22, 2019, 12 p.m. at the Student Union.

· LaunchNY #LaunchHour Twitter Chat. For the last few years LaunchNY has hosted a monthly Twitter Chat highlighting some great topics for entrepreneurs in WNY. From raising capital, to empowering female founders, this is a staple event now in our community. The next chat is November 20, 2019, 12–1 p.m. Grab a burrito from your favorite taco truck and hop on twitter. This is a great way to learn more about Buffalo’s startup scene from the comfort of your desk.

· Open office hours www.openofficetime.comOpen office hours was one of the first things Techstars recommended we kickoff here in Buffalo back in March. I’m happy to stay that what started as Alex Gress and myself this past spring has blossomed into over 40 entrepreneurs and community leaders and now even has its own website. Make sure to take advantage of this incredible asset or consider signing up and giving whatever time you can. This is all about helping people with no expectation in return.

Interested in starting an event yourself? It can be as simple as a meet up or as complicated as you want to make it! The only thing stopping you, is you! Already hosting an event you want to help get the word out about? Send me the details and I’ll share it. I’ll try to do this at least monthly.

Interested in attending? Grab a friend and bring them along. Together we’ll make Buffalo a better place to work, live and play, one person at a time. #GiveFirst