Ecosystem investment helps propel new startup creation

Yesterday morning I had several unsolicited requests for funding from Mohawk Valley entrepreneurs. It seemed odd, since a bunch came in at the same time from the local area.

Then someone pointed out an article in the Utica OD profiling my donor advisory fund at the Herkimer and Oneida County Community Foundation.

While the article wasn’t inaccurate, I can see now that when people think of entrepreneurs helping startups and the word funding is included, than conclusions gravitate towards this being about investment dollars going directly into startups.

It’s true that I’m one of Upstate’s most active startup investors. I’ve touched more than 70 companies through both direct investments and LP relationships in seed and private equity funds. My portfolio and investing interests are profiled on my site.

But the High Growth Entrepreneur fund at HOC Community Foundation is different. That fund is not about my investing directly in companies, but instead towards supporting infrastructure that helps build our local and regional startup ecosystem.

Startup Ecosystem Infrastructure

For me, startup ecosystem infrastructure includes things like programs, activities, events, online assets and other resources that help bring the right parties together.

Building such infrastructure is my full time volunteer role as I created and help run Upstate Venture Connect, a 501c3 non profit now in our fifth year of operations. (Visit to see some of our program initiatives and resources that bring entrepreneurs into contact with others who can help.)

Among the initiatives brewing locally is the thINCubator – a college student startup accelerator program housed at Baggs Square, the Commercialization Academy at AFRL’s Rome Labs and accelerated curation of a startup ecosystem map and events calendar that will bring more visibility to our local startup resources and activities.

Also being worked on is launch of a Mohawk Valley seed capital fund comprised of high net worth individuals qualifying as accredited investors who work together to invest as a group, as well as help mentor and support the startups they come into contact with.

With the Community Foundation donor advisory fund I’m interested in supporting leaders with similar ecosystem building aims – likely to include some new ideas on what could bring the right people together such as experienced entrepreneurs, technical talent, investors, service providers even academics and community leaders. The common denominator is a personal passion for being committed to help startups.

Who knows? Maybe a Startup Weekend, Tech Meetup group, Hackathon, 1 Million Cups chapter or something else not even on our current menu will percolate up.

I’m looking forward to seeing proposals and helping support leaders who are ready to put themselves out there to get something going that helps entrepreneurs and startups.

Whether you’re a startup seeking investment or you see an opportunity to help contribute to building the ecosystem, you can message me through the web site. And consider commenting right on this post below and/or sharing the link with others you know who might have interest.

This is a fun journey with big time impact in helping our best and brightest talent – join us!

2 Responses to “Ecosystem investment helps propel new startup creation”

  1. David Hochman

    Martin, your donor-advised fund is exactly the kind of initiative I’ve been urging for some time, including in discussions with mutual friends in Albany, discussions that so far have gone nowhere. It needs to be replicated in many communities. In cities or regions that don’t have a natural “Martin” stepping up to take the initiative, the community foundation needs to search them out itself and give them this platform. I am happy to speak more about this with you at any time.

    • David – No doubt there are many successful entrepreneurs on the sidelines who just need a little nudging to jump into the fray and discover themselves how much fun and rewarding it is put what and who they know to work in helping 1st time startup entrepreneurs. Our path at Upstate Venture Connect is to nurture that along through personal interactions as we continue to grow the network organically. Some of these relationships will bubble up into local community foundations and spread from there. We won’t start getting true scale advantages till our efficiency grows in connecting these dispersed nodes on the network – but I’m optimistic that day will arrive. Appreciate your thoughtful comment and all that you personally do to support startup ecosystem throughout NY State.


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