Buffalo, NY, October 13, 2020 – Launch NY, Upstate New York’s first and only venture development organization to provide pro bono mentoring and the most active seed fund in New York State to high-growth startups across the 27 westernmost counties of the state, announced that it has selected Buffalo native Crystal Callahan as an Entrepreneur-In-Residence (EIR) and co-lead for Launch NY’s new underrepresented founders pilot program, Founders Go Big (FGB). She provides mentorship from her experience in both Main Street and high-growth entrepreneurship, both as a founder and as a mentor, which included her work in the Buffalo entrepreneurial ecosystem from 2013-2015. New York City based, Crystal creates a powerful team and joins recently announced expat co-lead Anthony Jones, who is based in Atlanta.
Founders Go Big, announced as Launch NY’s new diversity and inclusion initiative supported by JPMorgan Chase earlier this year, provides specialized resources for minority and women-led startups. Launch NY is building on its existing diverse portfolio comprising 45% minority and/or women-led businesses. They are doing this by offering tailored mentorship capabilities to attract and serve underrepresented entrepreneurs and providing access to a “Starter Funding Pool” that is set aside to provide $5,000 to $20,000 in initial funding as means to support completion of a business milestone before having to compete with other more resourced startups for larger amounts of investment capital from investors.
“We created Founders Go Big to expand the support we can give to women and minority founders,” said Dr. Marnie LaVigne, President and CEO of Launch NY. “According to an article from Entrepreneur, less than 2% of venture capital funding went to female and minority founders in 2017. By comparison to these alarming statistics, we are proud to say that at Launch NY we have a diverse portfolio of companies with 45% being minority and/or women-led businesses. We were so fortunate to reconnect with Crystal since she faced firsthand the challenges of creating a startup in Western New York as an underrepresented founder, so I have no doubt she will be invaluable in helping us empower entrepreneurs with a great business idea.”
Callahan joins Launch NY to provide mentorship and guidance to the emerging entrepreneurs in the program fueled from her own experience as founder and co-founder of her businesses. Born in Buffalo, she began The Worldwide App Inc. while living on the West Coast, then returned to Buffalo to build the business through assistance from Z80 Labs and others. Worldwide was a mobile app platform that helped rising filmmakers get discovered. As such, Crystal became recognized as one of the first women to own her own mobile app company – and the first woman of color to do so.
In 2016, she co-founded Makeur, a startup studio that helps entrepreneurs launch and grow. “I’ve said it before and I will say it again because it’s true: In all of my work across the globe, I have not met a finer group of entrepreneurs or EIRs than the folks Marnie has brought together here,” Callahan said. “Really SO much talent and work ethic and quality – it certainly makes me feel so proud. Every girl and boy wants to help put some wins on the scoreboard for their hometown. I feel so lucky and humble and grateful to have LNY be the place where I get to show up for work every week. It’s a gift!”