University at Buffalo Welcomes Venture Program As Startup Scene Charges Forward

by Matthew K. Pelkey
May 7, 2018

A lot can happen in two weeks—especially here in Buffalo. The Buffalo Bills drafted their first-round quarterback of the future (knock on wood). The Sabres finally won the draft lottery and the number one overall pick in the 2018 draft. Alton Brown disparaged Buffalo’s place as the chicken wing capitol of the world. And Avengers: Infinity Wars left us all feeling hopeless after Thanos killed off at least one of your favorite super heroes (rest in peace Dr. Strange). Suffice it to say we’ve had a lot going on lately.

What may have been missed in all of this excitement was some truly monumental news for the University at Buffalo and the Western New York startup ecosystem; something which may very well leave a longer impact on Buffalo than either Josh Allen or Rasmus Dahlin. I know…I realize what I just wrote. And I stand by it.

April saw an announcement from the University at Buffalo that the State of New York would be investing $32MM in a University venture fund and entrepreneurship clinic. The program will be used to cultivate, develop and accelerate student and faculty startups. The program will partner with research institutions such as Roswell Park, Hauptman-Woodward, the Jacobs Institute and Kaleida Health. The goal? The facilitation of commercialization at UB. Christina Orsi, UB’s vice president of research and economic development had the following to say in a recent Buffalo News article:

“We don’t see enough of those commercialized here…One of the reasons is the lack of that first-time, early-in funding.”

Universities have played a vital role in the long-term viability of startup ecosystems across the United States. Cities like Boulder, CO and Boston, MA have had university entrepreneurship at the core of their success. In Western New York, organizations like 43North, LaunchNY and Z80 labs are pillars of the startup community, but there’s no denying the need for increased activity within our universities and colleges. Given the University at Buffalo’s positioning as the region’s largest research university, it is a natural fit to fill this role.

To its credit, UB has already taken steps to support Western New York’s relatively young startup ecosystem through programming like the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership and UB Blackstone Launchpad. The school of management, school of law and engineering school are likewise creating course offerings to highlight, nurture, and provide experiential learning related to entrepreneurship. The hope for this new venture fund and entrepreneurship program is that by further increasing the resources available to early stage startups, companies at UB will be more likely to commercialize and more likely to have a positive impact on long-term economic success of the region.

UB’s efforts are not simply aspirational policy dreams coming out of Albany. In fact, UB’s entrepreneurship efforts are already showing results. Just this past week, UB’s own student team “Bitcrusher” won the New York State Business Plan Competition and received $20,000 in prize money to help with commercialization. This comes after the team won UB’s own Panasci Technology Entrepreneurship competition earlier this month.

Bitcrusher designed an electronic device for guitars which allows a musician to control sound effects that would typically require dozens of pedals and attachments. The company hopes its technology will disrupt the guitar manufacturing industry which has remained virtually unchanged for nearly fifty years. Now instead of an entire trunk full of equipment, a guitar player can manipulate sound with just a computer and his guitar. Bitcrusher pitched earlier this week at the Bright Buffalo Niagara Entrepreneur Expo, and won second place, a $5,000 prize.

Whether you are a Bills fan, Sabres fan or just hoping that the region’s startup ecosystem continues to flourish, the recent news coming out of Buffalo should give you plenty of reason for optimism.

Let’s go Buffalo.

Original article can be found on the Upstate Venture Connect website: