Buffalo Inno aims to connect an increasingly vibrant startup economy to a variety of new actors – from rising young professionals based here to expats to outside investors.
With that in mind, we are launching a series of columns penned by outside contributors, with each columnist-in-residence getting a half-year to tell their story, muse about doing business and to impart the lessons they are learning in real-time.
The first of those columnists is David Brown, managing partner of Impellent Ventures, a Rochester-based venture capital firm with a growing portfolio of startups in Buffalo. This is his introductory article.
At Impellent Ventures we know that entrepreneurship is the greatest tool toward a better tomorrow. Social mobility is driven by equity; in startups that is realized through stock ownership in growing ventures. City development is spurred by strong employment; small businesses are the greatest creators of new jobs. Economic development is driven by a rolling cycle of capital deployment; tech entrepreneurs are particularly adept at supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs after their own liquidity events or financial windfalls. At the end of the day, we believe that entrepreneurs solve some of the world’s most intractable issues — not just locally, but at scale.
Entrepreneurship can be a transformative tool, and we believe this is our opportunity. Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Ithaca and many other towns in New York can develop into some of the most interesting and prolific social centers in the country, if not the world, thanks to entrepreneurship.
We created Impellent Ventures to be a bridge, connecting entrepreneurs and ecosystems so that the resources of tier one tech hubs are accessible to those in Western New York, and so that the talent and resources of our communities are available to those leading hubs. We actively invest in companies in both tier one hubs (Boston, New York, San Francisco, etc.) and emerging technology hubs (Western New York), helping merge businesses, capital and talent sets. We believe that our communities grow stronger by working together, not in isolation. This system both drives resources to today’s entrepreneurs locally and offers job development skills so that the tomorrow’s entrepreneurs can build their skills locally before launching their businesses.
From an investment thesis, we are here as partners to top entrepreneurs from day one. We focus on pre-seed and seed investments, helping entrepreneurs build their teams, find product market fit and prepare for scale. We are technology-entric but sector-agnostic.
It’s important to note that our belief in the ability of our communities locally has been earned. I grew up in Rochester but was gone for 15 years, with the last eight in Boston’s tech ecosystem. When my mother developed a life-modifying ailment in 2017, my wife and I decided that we wanted our young children to be closer to their grandparents. Uncertain of what to expect in a city I had long ago left, we moved back with the hope of contributing to our community while growing a happy family.
Upon return I was a blank slate, intending to start a technology venture but not sure what type of help to expect locally. What I found is amazing people and cities amid change. The underlying values and energy I had watched transformed Boston’s tech scene just ten years ago were present everywhere I looked. Incubators and accelerators were growing, universities were encouraging entrepreneurship as a real career pathway, the stories of successful entrepreneurs were starting to be told, and cities were starting to reconsolidate around the core, leading to density and natural collisions.
However, one story kept coming up: that entrepreneurs still did not have enough access to capital resources and, as a result, were not growing their businesses quickly enough or were moving out of town for capital so they could grow quicker. With this lens, we launched Impellent truly to be a partner to our entrepreneurs from the earliest stages. The finance of venture capital is not particularly complex, but the dance of syndicating top investors to a cap table can be. We thought we could help manage these relationships while also being strategic growth partners for entrepreneurs and good stewards of capital for our investors.
Since launching our fund in February 2020, led by an investment from Tom Golisano’s family office and other local limited partners, we have gone on to make 14 investments, with four of them in Western New York or the Finger Lakes Region (Ognomy, 3AM Innovations, Innovation Semiconductor, Kickfurther and RealEats). We will close our first fund to new investors at the end of June, refocusing on deployment in up to 25 total companies from the fund, as well as efforts to help build the local ecosystem.
Impellent’s bet on Western New York is bullish on both the near term and long-term potential of the area, and we’re excited to help build alongside amazing founders well into the future. Businesses take time to build, and communities take time to develop. We are here to help in that continued evolution in any way we can. New funds, quicker access to capital, more collaboration and events, and interesting ties between local and national resources are all on the docket.
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