The Innovate NY Fund has had a huge effect on the startup community in Buffalo, particularly the $5.1 million allocation that flows through Z80 Labs.
Innovate NY totals $45 million — $35 million from the state and $10 million from Goldman Sachs — and is a fund-of-funds model, where smaller portions are administered by individual incubators around the state.
So anticipation has been high on the structure of the state’s new $50 million venture capital fund, which in some ways is a successor to Innovate NY. Details were announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in December.
There will be a smaller tech commercialization piece, and Z80 will manage a $1.5 million chunk of that. But mostly, the new fund will be administered directly through Empire State Development Corp., using its broad statewide network to find companies and investment partners, said Steve Cohen, deputy commissioner for ESD’s Small Business Division.
The level of state control over the money has been closely watched by stakeholders in Buffalo’s startup community, who’d eyed the state’s fund as possibly having a widespread impact on the local venture capital pool. But the new fund has its merit in ESD’s broad statewide network and its multi-tiered goals of fostering startups and recruiting high-tech companies, Cohen said.
“Even though it’s a direct approach, it will have a pretty wide network of co-investment partners,” Cohen said. “That network of investors will bring us in to fill critical gaps, to focus on sectors that have been underserved like life sciences, advanced manufacturing, healthcare IT. We’re not acting on our own.”