Buffalo, N.Y. – Launch NY, the first and only nonprofit venture development organization that provides the 27 westernmost counties in New York with pro bono mentoring and access to seed capital, has announced the creation of an advisory board for its Founders Go Big (FGB) initiative to guide program design and development, while augmenting hands on company support, as FGB expands beyond its pilot phase serving women- and/or underrepresented minority-led startups.
Thanks in part to a grant from J.P. Morgan Chase in early 2020, Launch NY created FGB to enhance the engagement of underrepresented and underserved founders to pursue high-growth potential businesses that will, in turn, create more jobs and wealth, strengthen the local economy and increase the number of minority and women owned venture-backed start-ups.
Since introducing its pilot last year, FGB has served 23 companies, ranging from food and software to cleantech, with one-on-one mentorship, customer discovery, expanded Entrepreneur-in-Residence diversity and training, and “Starter Funding” with the first investment recently announced funding high-end fashion business, Anaghe Atelier. Powered by its new advisory board, with backgrounds ranging from publicly traded companies to startups across industry sectors, program expansion is underway as FGB seeks to proactively identify, educate, inspire, and engage founders of color and women, helping them to build their businesses for optimal impact.
Launch NY board members Quincy Allen (Board Member, Office Depot) and Melodie Baker (National Policy Directory Just Equations) also serve on the FGB Advisory Board. FGB Board membership also includes Kate Brodock,(CEO, Woman 2.0); Michelle Fisher (Senior Vice President of Operations, Circuit Clinical); Christian Johnson (CEO, Beautiful Brains); Tyra Johnson Hux,(Deputy Director, LISCWNY); Anthony Jones (CEO, Flextime Nurses) and Yahaira Zapata (Business Development Officer, Pathstone Corp.).
“Not only do I believe it’s important to see all kinds of representation in business and mentorship, but it’s vital,” said FGB Advisory Board member Yaharia Zapata. “In order to change the status quo of society, we need to learn how to work together and allow space for people of different backgrounds to express their creativity and grow, in what can often times feel like an elitist space.”
Anthony Jones, the FGB co-lead said, “The program is an opportunity to provide guidance and mentorship to a unique group of diverse founders that I hope will provide generational wealth opportunities and uplift communities historically left out of pathways to capital raising and investment.”
“I joined the FGB advisory board to pay forward the support and mentorship that I was given through my experience with building a young company,” said board member Michelle Fisher. “I am passionate about creating more, and improved, paths to entrepreneurship, especially for women and people of color. When we strive for greater diversity and help lift others as we rise, the stronger our community will be.”
Crystal Wallace of CMW Services, who serves as Founders Go Big Project Manager, believes the FGB Advisory Board members also serve as role models for the entrepreneurs in the program, as they all have forged pathways in their own careers and businesses.
“One consistent trait among our advisory board members is persistence, which is necessary for any entrepreneur to be successful, but definitely those ‘Going Big,’” said Wallace. “Being an entrepreneur takes intention and passion. Many desire their businesses to produce lasting outcomes, including financial stability and prosperity. Glamorizing owning a business isn’t our goal. We want to illuminate minds to the idea of high-growth entrepreneurship and support the needs of our FGB Founders to make this a reality. We know that our Advisory Board will assist us in this.”
Launch NY was recently recognized for its business inclusion efforts through FGB. In April 2021, the organization received the Building Inclusive Economy Award from the Local Initiatives Support (LISC) Organization Western New York. In May of this year, Launch NY announced it had allocated $750,000 in federal grants toward its Rebound and Innovate Program, which in partnership with Cornell University’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement will provide 100% virtual access to educational tools and resources to help vulnerable startups remain viable should another national emergency or natural disaster disable traditional business administration channels.
FGB was built on Launch NY’s existing diverse startup portfolio, which includes 33% women- and 27% minority-led businesses. “Inspired to create FGB by our track record and huge demand among budding entrepreneurs without natural access to resources, especially during the pandemic, Launch NY has been gratified that the program could hit the ground running, making a profound impact in the regional economic ecosystem,” said Marnie LaVigne, Launch NY’s President and CEO. “Creating this advisory board positions us to help both individual founders and the program itself to ‘Go Big,’ so more underserved entrepreneurs can be part of creating our economic renaissance.”
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 Invest Local 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 1,210 companies, has more than two dozen experienced local entrepreneurs-in-residence and its National Mentor Network of 2,000 industry, business and investment experts. Launch NY mentored companies, including 27% women-led and 26% minority-led startups, that have created 4,301 jobs, attracted over $1.2 billion in co-investment and follow-on capital, and generated over $146 million in annual revenues. Those funded by Launch NY starting in 2016, including 73 portfolio companies comprised of 33% women-led and 27% minority-led, have created 318 jobs, attracted over $69 million, and generated over $16 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.