Venture capitalists and startup companies meet at UB event

Jun 29, 2017

In the world of high-tech and venture capitalism, there are three requirements: entrepreneurs, investors and customers. UB's Bright Buffalo Niagara Entrepreneur Expo on Wednesday looked to bring those parties together.

UB's Bright Buffalo Niagara Entrepreneurial Expo looked to bring venture capital and startup companies together.
Credit Mike Desmond/WBFO News

The event in Hotel Henry offered a $20,000 top prize for five vying companies. Another 16 presenters competed for a $5,000 People's Choice Award.

The presenters had a chance to pitch their product and take questions.

Norma Nowak,a founder of Empire Genomics, is executive director of the state's Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences.  She understands the difficulties of getting a business started and the vital search for capital.

"Now, there's an entire support group, both at the university and in our greater community to actually help folks critically analyze the idea that they have, help them develop market plans, help them find investors."

Companies showcasing their products ranged from a software company helping non-profits raise money to a company making barriers for buildings when floods threaten to a company making specially treated pads to help women breastfeed.

On the venture capital side was Jenae Pitts, managing partner for OneTen Capital. The investor specializes in engineering and hardware startups.

"What we don't want to happen is for those (startup) companies to go looking (for capital) in San Francisco or looking in New York City and relocate."

Others saw specific advantages for starting up in the Buffalo area.

"It does appear like there's some great young talent coming out of the local universities that could be great candidates for our company," said Ben Lamson, a co-founder of WeDidIt, a company that develops fund-raising software for non-profits.

"Especially for some of the areas we're looking for talent in machine learning and data science."