Buffalo, N.Y. – Launch NY, the first and only nonprofit Venture Development Organization to provide pro bono mentoring and seed capital access to early-stage startups in the 27 westernmost counties of New York State, and 43North, Buffalo’s startup business competition and accelerator, are collaborating in new ways to support the growth of emerging startup companies – and the entire startup ecosystem – in Western New York.


Through this new collaboration, Launch NY announced that its Investor Network has raised  $220,000, including funding for 2021 43North winner ShearShare, 2021 43North finalist and Launch NY portfolio company Ognomy, and Launch NY portfolio company EMPEQ.


The 43North companies were featured during the first two quarters of 2023 on Launch NY’s Investor Network as part of a collaboration between 43North and Launch NY announced earlier this year. The Investor Network, one of Launch NY’s for profit InvestLocal Financing Programs, is the only online investor platform dedicated to hosting exclusively Upstate NY startup investment opportunities. More than 280 accredited investors have joined the network, and can invest as little as $10,000 per deal. Since its first investments in 2020, Launch NY’s Investor Network has provided more than $1.69 million in funding and commitments to 16 Upstate New York startup companies in 19 transactions.


“Seed capital is the lifeblood of a healthy startup ecosystem, and in combination with strong mentorship, is vital to the success of the startup companies we’re growing here in Western New York. This new collaborative effort between Launch NY and 43North not only helped support the growth of two high-potential local startups from the 43North competition, but also helped engage accredited investors in supporting other ecosystem businesses,” said Marnie LaVigne Ph.D., President and CEO of Launch NY. “Through collaboration, the rising tides are lifting all boats!”

“A robust startup ecosystem has the potential to transform a community through innovation, job creation, and economic development. We’re thrilled about the tremendous collaboration with partner organizations like Launch NY, and to see the community getting involved in Buffalo’s startup ecosystem as mentors, customers, employees, and investors,” said 43North President Colleen E. Heidinger.


The 43North companies funded by this round include:

  • Ognomy, a 2021 43North finalist, enables the world’s easiest way to get tested, diagnosed, and treated for sleep apnea from the comfort of home. Ognomy offers a complete care vertical for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), including telemedicine, coordination of home sleep tests, facilitation of sleep therapy devices like positive airway pressure (nPAP) machines and dental appliances, and all other services and referral options necessary to treat OSA.


Dr. Daniel Rifkin started the development of this HIPAA-compliant technology from within his bustling sleep medicine practice in Western NY in 2019. Ognomy Inc. was formed in February of 2021 to further develop and commercialize the solution.


“We’re fortunate to be part of a growing startup ecosystem in Buffalo, with all the resources available to new founders and growing companies. Our experience as a 43North finalist helped us hone our pitch and strengthen our business plan. Launch NY has provided capital from their seed funds and mentorship that helped us grow. Now, with this support from Launch NY’s Investor Network, we’re ready to tackle enhancing our technology platform for new sleep medicine partners, and expanding our patient coverage into 39 states covering 83% of the US population,” said Rifkin.


  • ShearShare, a 2021 43North winner and 43North portfolio company, is a B2B mobile marketplace that allows licensed beauty and barbering professionals to access business-building resources on demand, starting with space to work. ShearShare has the largest database of salon and barbershop space rentals, along with the most affordable liability insurance, and mobile payment processing plans. ShearShare enables stylists and barbers to access and pay for B2B resources when and where they need them, allowing them to maximize their earnings potential and create self-sufficiency at scale.

A Black-owned company based in Buffalo, ShearShare was founded by husband-and-wife team Dr. Tye Caldwell, a 28-year industry veteran who holds a Doctorate in Professional Barbering and Cosmetology, and Courtney Caldwell, MBA, an award-winning former salon owner who also has 20+ years’ experience in B2B marketing.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the support we’ve received since moving to Buffalo after winning the 43North competition in 2021 – not just from the team at 43North, but from the entire community. Now Launch NY is helping us reach our fundraising goals through its Investor Network, which will enable us to launch our first distribution partnership, expand our product with a Web application, and more,” said Courtney Caldwell.


“Launch NY has been steadily adding to its Investor Network by spreading the word through outreach and partnerships, such as 43North. By offering accredited investors who want to support startups, the region, and/or innovation the chance to access online due diligence information, Meet the Founder webinars, and other virtual and in person investor and founder meetups, Launch NY has made it easy to invest locally compared to traditional fragmented methods of pitches to individual or small groups of investors,” said LaVigne.


In the same period, Launch NY’s Investor Network members also rallied to fund Launch NY portfolio company EMPEQ.


EMPEQ’s cloud-based, AI-enabled platform automates building energy surveys, digitizes HVAC equipment inventories, and even arranges financing options—all through a smartphone app. EMPEQ’s tech eliminates the need for time-wasting, labor-intensive, and error-prone manual reports and proposals, and provides a 99.7% reduction of errors, 74% increase in employee bandwidth, 10% increase in close rate, and 25% increase in project size.


Before starting EMPEQ, underrepresented founders Herbert Dwyer and Derek LaClair did over 300 energy audits and built energy models on $250 million in commercial energy efficiency projects, respectively. Dwyer gained his devotion to efficiency during his time in the NSA and US Marines, and LeClair formed a profound respect for the environment during his childhood summers on the Six Nations Indian Reservation.


“Launch NY has proven once again that they are the beating heart of the Upstate NY early-stage startup ecosystem. EMPEQ has benefitted greatly from LNY’s continued commitment to our company – not only through their Investor Network and monetary contributions, but also from their incredible mentor network. We are fortunate to have an organization like Launch here in Western and Central New York,” said Dwyer.


About Launch NY:


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 and one of the top 5 nonprofit seed funds in the country 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 1,508 companies, has more than 30 experienced local entrepreneurs-in-residence and its National Mentor Network of 2,000 industry, business, and investment experts. Launch NY has mentored companies, including 29% women-led and 29% minority-led startups, which have created 4,977 jobs, attracted nearly $1.3 billion in co-investment and follow-on capital after joining Launch NY and generated nearly $220 million in annual revenues.


Launch NY’s #InvestLocal Financing Programs include a nonprofit fund and for-profit limited partner funds. To date, Launch NY has invested over $9 million in 88 startup companies that have created more than 500 jobs, attracted nearly $198 million in follow-on funding, and generated nearly $60 million in annual revenues. Additionally, Launch NY’s Investor Network Network has provided more than $1.69 million in funding and commitments to 16 Upstate New York startup companies in 19 transactions.


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.


For more information about Launch NY, its programs, and other entrepreneurial opportunities, visit, and follow Launch NY on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.



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