Launch NY crowdfunding campaign scheduled for mid-October; aims to back WNY and CNY startups

If you’re looking to provide financial backing to scalable startups in Western and Central New York, but don’t have the net worth to be considered an accredited investor, an opportunity is on the way.

Launch NY plans to launch a crowdfunding campaign by mid-October that will raise money to support its early-stage venture capital fund.

231-lavignemarnie-power250-2015-750xx600-338-0-131The goal is eventually to raise a $5 million fund, though its nonprofit structure means Launch NY can make investments before that amount is fully raised. The John R. Oishei Foundation got things started with a $200,000 contribution to the fund earlier this year and Launch NY leader Marnie LaVigne said more commitments have been made since that time.

The idea is to provide “first money in” for startups that are still proving out their concept, with investments of between $25,000 to $100,000. Launch NY investments will be styled as equity investments using convertible debt notes.
LaVigne believes that seed money is a huge need in Western and Central New York, where equity financing sources do exist for more mature technology companies. She said Launch NY hasn’t identified how much it is specifically looking to raise in the campaign.
Launch NY is still considering where to host the crowd funding campaign, including possibly an Ithaca-based nonprofit giving platform. Marketing is being handled by Syracuse-based Good Monster, which is currently conducting a widespread survey with potential contributors to the fund.

LaVigne said the October timeframe coincides with an extremely active time in Buffalo’s start-up community, on the heels of the Rise of the Rest visit on Sept. 30 and in the ramp-up to the 43North finale, which will include, among other things, a Buffalo Startup Weekend and the Buffalo Bright Niagara forum.
She also said that Launch NY is strongly considering a for-profit fund as a natural extension to the “first money in” fund, which is designed to prepare companies for their first substantial investments.
Dan Miner is Business First’s enterprise reporter. He also covers education and public companies.