Startup Ecosystem Proving to be a Growing Source of Talent Attraction and Retention in the Region

 Buffalo, N.Y. – Launch NY, the first and only nonprofit venture development organization that provides the 27 westernmost counties in New York early-stage pro bono mentoring and seed capital access, has hired Dustin Wilson, MBA as Program Manager and Betsy Lehan, M.S as Grant and CRM Administrator.

Born and raised in Genesee County between Buffalo and Rochester, Wilson has over 6 years of experience working within and building startup companies. He served most recently as Creative Director at KnowCap Interactive in Boulder, Colorado. KnowCap supports undiscovered founders from overlooked communities by providing business, product development, marketing, and fundraising services.

As a founder, Wilson has designed impact-driven businesses in the e-commerce, event marketing, and sustainability sectors. He received his MBA in Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise from Colorado State University.

Wilson says he is “eager to leverage my experience and passion to help grow the startup ecosystem here where I grew up, in the community I love most. Originally, I left home because I felt like I needed to go elsewhere to get the entrepreneurial education and experience I wanted, and I am thrilled to be able to return now to join Launch NY and the Upstate New York’s growing startup ecosystem.”


Marnie LaVigne, President and CEO of Launch NY, said “our region’s startup ecosystem is becoming an increasingly important factor in our ability to attract and retain talent in the globally competitive innovation economy. For far too long, people like Dustin and so many others left the area to pursue career opportunities, but today we can attract and retain this kind of talent, often drawing expats back to the area, because now we can offer them innovative careers in new economy industries and companies.”


Lehan received her B.A. from Nazareth College and an M.S. from University at Buffalo. She joins Launch NY from her previous role as a Workforce Development Program Manager at Goodwill of Western New York.


As a non-native to Buffalo, she says is “excited to witness and be a part of the changes the area has made in terms of equity, opportunity, and environmental sustainability, and I’m proud to join and support a team with Launch NY’s reputation and impact.” Betsy engaged early in the innovative economy efforts in the region, when she worked at the NYS Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics & Life Sciences at the University at Buffalo, prior to earning her M.S. degree.


“With the terrific developments in our ecosystem in the past few years – and the national press that has gone along with it – we’re seeing increasing demand for engagement with Launch NY not only from entrepreneurs, but also from talent like Dustin and Betsy, who want to be part of driving our growing ecosystem,” said LaVigne. “Their unique experiences, combined with their commitment to our region, will help us continue to optimize our programs and expand our impact on building the local economy through scalable startups.”


About Launch New York

The mission of Launch New York, Inc. (Launch NY), the only U.S. Treasury-designated Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) directly providing venture funding to businesses in New York State, is to identify, support and invest in high-growth, high-impact companies that can transform the local economy and catalyze the entrepreneurial culture in the 27 counties comprising the western half of Upstate New York. Launch NY is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit venture development organization that promotes economic development through best practices, including high-quality pro bono business mentoring, while operating the most active seed fund in New York State that provides access to seed capital as part of an array of #InvestLocal financing programs designed to facilitate funding for investment-ready companies which have the promise to drive significant economic impact and jobs for our region.

Launch NY is headquartered in Buffalo and has co-locations with partner organizations in Binghamton, Ithaca, Rochester and Syracuse. Since 2012, it has served over 1,359 companies, has more than thirty experienced local entrepreneurs-in-residence and its National Mentor Network of 2,000 industry, business and investment experts. Launch NY has mentored companies, including 28% women-led and 28% minority-led startups, which have created 4,845 jobs, attracted over $1 billion in co-investment and follow-on capital after joining Launch NY and generated over $204 million in annual revenues.

Launch NY’s #InvestLocal Financing Programs include a nonprofit fund, for-profit limited partner fund and Investor Network. The Investor Network includes opportunities for accredited investors to fund Launch NY portfolio companies of their choice for as little as $10,000 starting with a free sign up to join a community of over 190 members. Those funded by Launch NY’s nonprofit fund, started in 2016, include 77 portfolio companies comprising 29% women-led and 28% minority-led, have created 447 jobs, attracted over $176 million after receiving funding from Launch NY and generated over $39 million in annual revenues. Launch NY also leads the premier Emerging Cleantech Opportunity (ECO) Incubator, one of six designated clean energy incubators sponsored by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), as well as the Founders Go Big program, an innovative diversity and inclusion initiative introduced in 2020.


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