By Another Voice – The Buffalo News
Published September 18, 2019
By Marnie LaVigne
There’s no doubt about it: Buffalo is in the midst of a renaissance. I was repeatedly reminded of this during Buffalo Homecoming (Sept. 11-13), an event highlighting our region’s revitalization efforts to former Western New York residents who also happen to be renowned business leaders and industry experts.
As one of the attending sponsors, I was also struck by the willingness of our guests to impart their wisdom and insight upon Buffalo-based startup entrepreneurs. They know that while money is obviously a vital component to a thriving local ecosystem, brainpower is another necessary commodity that shouldn’t be overlooked. The relationship between a mentor and protégé and the wisdom passed down can be just as valuable as a check with many zeros in it.
I’ve found the most successful entrepreneurs are secure enough to recognize there’s enough room for everyone who works hard and truly believes in his or her idea. We want to foster that, which is why the Entrepreneur in Residence program, which Launch NY oversees, connects clients with experienced business professionals who provide one-on-one coaching. It’s free for our clients and helps prepare startups to raise the investment capital necessary to grow their businesses.
The results are tangible. For example, one of our first mentors, Jack Greco, worked with ACV Auctions in its early days and ultimately became a co-founder with Dan Magnuszewski, who in turn has paid it forward as an EIR. Having Dan mentor Patrick Walsh and Will Schulmeister, founders of EagleHawk One, a commercial roof inspection company, shows how sharing experience and expertise creates a cycle to build our entrepreneurial ecosystem.
With our mission to help support high-growth, high-impact companies in creating jobs and prosperity in upstate New York, we view these entrepreneurs willing to share their insight as essential for local economic growth. Capital investment may be the heart of a healthy local economy, but the energy and wisdom the people provide are its soul.
Buffalo Homecoming helped to highlight the #InvestLocal movement by urging attendees to use their relationships, expertise and resources to keep Buffalo’s renaissance going. Economic growth is obviously dependent on the infusion of dollars within the region, but I don’t want us to forget intellectual investment is another vital economic resource.
We need the next generation of our region’s innovators to expand upon how they view their contributions to the local ecosystem. Large pocketbooks are certainly welcome, but intellectual generosity can go a long way toward shaping the Buffalo of tomorrow, too.
Marnie LaVigne, Ph.D., is president and CEO of Launch New York.