Upstate Venture Connect

Upstate NY’s Top Honors for Community Leaders Presented Before Sold Out Crowd

Upstate Venture Connect (UVC) hosted over 450 entrepreneurs, investors and community leaders at the 2018 Upstate Unleashed Conference and Venture Ecosystem Awards. Guests traveled from Albany, Buffalo, Binghamton, Ithaca, Syracuse, Rochester and Utica to learn, celebrate and connect. This annual event aligns with Upstate Venture Connect’s mission to create a region-wide startup ecosystem by connecting entrepreneurs to the people and resources needed to build great companies in Upstate NY. We were honored to welcome Netflix Co-founder Marc Randolph back to Upstate NY as our 2018 keynote. Randolph is an alumnus of Hamilton College.

Four awards to Albany area builders for growing Upstate NY through entrepreneurship

– Upstate Venture Connect (UVC) hosted 350 entrepreneurs, founders, mentors and investors at the 3rd Annual Upstate Unleashed Conference and 2017 Venture Ecosystem Awards.  Startup community members were in attendance from Albany, Buffalo, Binghamton, Syracuse, Rochester and the Hudson Valley.

This year several of the awards went to Albany area ecosystem leaders who actively mentor startup founders, create opportunities to retain entrepreneurial students, produce wealth that sustains our local economy, and support startup activity across multiple Upstate NY communities.

Nasir Ali, UVC Cofounder and CEO remarked, “The strength and cohesiveness of the capital region startup community was evident to all last week. We are incredibly proud of the many leaders that are contributing to building the next generation of companies in the Capital Region, and helping entrepreneurs across all Upstate communities.”

Award winners and finalists in five categories were announced from more than 100 nominees.

Receiving the Ecosystem Champion award for catalyzing and supporting startup activity across multiple Upstate communities is the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). NYSERDA works with stakeholders throughout Upstate New York including business owners, community leaders, university researchers, investors and entrepreneurs. NYSERDA partners with them to advance energy solutions in ways that improve New York’s economy and environment.

This was the first year an organization and not an individual has received the Community Catalyst award. The decision was made by an independent panel of judges, who recognized many of the nominees of organizations or businesses benefitting from NYSERDA support. The decision was unanimous to award Ecosystem Champion to NYSERDA for advancing innovation through its 76West Clean Energy Competition, Clean Energy Fund, incubators, proof-of-concept centers and mentorship programs across the region.

Alicia Barton, President and CEO, NYSERDA said, “I’m extremely proud of NYSERDA’s innovation team for their tireless work to drive energy innovation and support growing businesses in upstate New York, and thank Upstate Venture Connect for recognizing their incredible work. Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership NYSERDA and New York State are committed to investing in new businesses that will help us achieve our nation-leading clean energy goals.”

Matthew Cusack, Executive Director of the Stack Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Siena College received the Campus Connector award. This honor recognizes his efforts to leverage on and off-campus resources and connections to spin-out research startups, and create opportunities to retain entrepreneurial students. Cusack is also a mentor of the StartFast Venture Accelerator and IgniteU NY, as well as an organizer for Accelerate 518, an initiative that connects Capital Region colleges and universities.

Receiving the 2017 Magical Mentor award is Richard Honen. Honen is Partner at Phillips Lytle LLP. He leads up the firm’s Venture Capital Practice. For more than 20 years, Honen has been mentoring startup founders, which has led to a transformative impact on the trajectory of hundreds of startup companies.

The final award was presented to CommerceHub for Deal of Year. CommerceHub is a distributed commerce networked based in Albany, NY. The company completed a successful IPO in July 2016, which created wealth for investors, founders and employees, as well as made the company a stronger contributor to the local economy. Frank Poore is the President and CEO of CommerceHub. Other Deal of the Year finalists include Etransmedia (Troy, NY) and CFO for Hire (Albany, NY).

Awards were presented to ecosystem leaders who are building Upstate NY through entrepreneurship. View all winners and finalists here:


About UVC
UVC is a 501c3 public benefit non-profit creating an entrepreneur-led startup ecosystem for Upstate NY. Since 2010, UVC has helped launch six angel funds and three startup accelerators. UVC also hosts a region-wide events calendar, online startup map and a communications platform that reaches thousands. In 2014, UVC launched UNY50, an invitation only network of individuals who have experienced the startup world roller coaster and are committed to helping build the next great Upstate company. In 2015, UVC received the Global Innovation Ecosystem Award. For more information on how you can help support UNY’s startup ecosystem, go to