The GE Theatre at Proctors was filled to overflowing Wednesday as the monthly Startup Tech Valley meeting came to Schenectady for the first time.
The meetings are a chance for entrepreneurs at all stages of the startup life cycle to get together to hear encouragement and updates on what’s going on around them.
Startups have a famously hard road to travel, as they struggle to develop their concepts into marketable ideas, or to find the money to bring the plan to market, or to gain market share, or all three.
Fittingly, Wednesday’s event was hosted by Transfinder, which is a local startup success story, and New York BizLab, an incubator that Transfinder created and is now home to several startups. Both are headquartered on State Street in downtown Schenectady.
Transfinder was founded in 1988 and took a while to break out of the starting gate. By 2001, it still had only a dozen employees, but today the fleet routing planner has more than 100 workers.
BizLab was founded 25 months ago with a single tenant and now hosts six; one other has graduated from the incubator.
Greeting some of the area’s newest startups was a representative of a company that was a startup 85 years ago and today is a 20,000-employee company headquartered in Schenectady: The Golub Corp., which runs Price Chopper and Market 32 supermarkets.
Schenectady Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen speaks to the Startup Tech Valley meeting at GE Theatre at Proctors on Wednesday, April 5, 2017. (John Cropley)
Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy and Schenectady Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen gave their own pitches to the crowd, offering the city as a place to set up shop, and Empire State Development Regional Director Michael Yevoli pitched the entire Capital Region.
Leaders of six companies gave short presentations on their operations and progress during Wednesday’s event:
— Haileb Samuel, CEO of [s]Cube, said his company has grown from five to 106 employees in 15 months, most of them in India, about a dozen in Schenectady at the BizLab. The company provides technology services that cut costs, boost return on investment and improve efficiency for clients. A recent project was an effort to increase minority participation in the Schenectady police exam, a long-running goal of the city.
— Kirsh Helmets founder Jason Kirshon and President Donald DeVito II described progress in bringing to market the motorcycle helmet Kirshon has developed. Kirsh headgear is light enough to be comfortable and reduce the chance of neck injuries in a crash but strong enough to provide impact protection and will be manufactured entirely in the United States they said.
— Dumbstruck’s pitch was wrapped in events unfolding that day — the costly and embarrassing failure of a Pepsi ad featuring Kendall Jenner. CEO Peter Allegretti said Dumbstruck helps advertisers avoid such situations by analyzing test audience reaction to ads before they are rolled out to the public. “We help these marketers see the future,” he said.
— Founder Dan DeMarco said Fundabilities is competing against larger, more established crowdsourcing by occupying a niche. Crowdfunding — the practice of asking strangers for money through social media — works best when the pitch tugs at the heartstrings. Fundabilities’ specialty is the campaigns that don’t have heartstrings, especially recurring expenses such as school programs.
— Buzz Media Solutions’ Jeff Goronkin provided an overview of his Update Captain, a service that provides a platform for an entire team to keep each other and their clients or supervisors apprised on the progress of a project. It provides a quicker, less expensive way to compile and present updates, he said, and differs from competing platforms by its collaborative nature.
— CEO Keith Algozzine gave an update on United Concierge Medicine, which until very recently was Upstate Concierge Medicine. It’s growing so quickly, he said, that it needed to not be defined by a specific geographic area. The online telemedicine service connects patients with providers who can provide services up to and including writing prescriptions and ordering X-rays, with a far less expensive model than emergency rooms.
Wednesday’s event was bracketed before and after by open-house events at BizLab and Transfinder.