Launch New York to devote $750,000 grant to boosting startups

Marnie LaVigne
Marnie LaVigne, president and CEO of Launch New York, said a $750,000 federal grant will boost startups’ development. 


Launch New York will use a $750,000 federal grant to help upstate startups prepare for the next stage of their growth.

Launch New York’s new program, called “Fast Forward for Tech-Driven Startups,” aims to help seed-stage companies get ready to raise more money and build up their operations. That support will be fueled by a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, distributed over a three-year period.

“What we’ve found is in getting a really strong pipeline of companies coming through, getting our seed funding, their needs actually only become more complex, more deep and wide, said Marnie LaVigne, president and CEO of Launch New York.

The Buffalo-based nonprofit venture organization serves the 27 westernmost counties of New York State, providing startups with access to seed fund capital and pro bono mentoring.

Fast Forward will help startups shift from one-on-one mentorship to what is essentially a panel of mentors, similar to a board the startup will have as it evolves, LaVigne said. These are companies on their way to seeking more investment, hiring more people and enhancing their marketing and product development.

“They’re making progress, but they need more support around them,” LaVigne said.

Two areas of concentration for Fast Forward will be underrepresented startup founders and the cleantech industry.

Underrepresented founders typically have fewer role models to follow on the path to developing a startup, LaVigne said. “Fast Forward will take those companies that have started to get traction and put around them an even more intensive team, with additional outreach.”

Similarly, the program will devote more resources to developing the region’s clean technology sector, she said.

Launch New York will partner with Endeavor Western New York and Upstate Venture Connect to develop and deliver Fast Forward. Bringing those partners together will give startups what they need to grow, “instead of either dying on the vine or leaving town,” LaVigne said.

Fast Forward’s goal is to put emerging startups on a solid path to a Series A funding round, which typically comes after a company is generating $500,000 to $1 million in annual sales, and has built out its management team.

“That is where you start seeing the impact on jobs, local hiring, revenues,” LaVigne said.

Matt Glynn