The Value of Startup Weekends

Couldn’t make this past weekend’s Start-Up Weekend at Sage? Here’s a bird’s eye view of the value of these opportunities for entrepreneurs from Innovate 518’s EIR, Bob Manasier.

Day 1: Open Pitches

The kick-off to the 54-hour event began with open pitches.

One key takeaway from this session is the need for entrepreneurs to have public speaking experience. A critical skill that should be a part of every entrepreneur’s portfolio, there are classes and improve-style training sessions available locally to help gain confidence talking in front of crowds. Speaking clearly with a smile and good energy covers many mistakes.

At this year’s event, there was a strong focus on hardware coupled with software companies. Food establishments, especially mobile food businesses, continue to be a mainstay, mirroring a mobile franchising rise in the economy.  Additional focus on security and cybersecurity remained another steady trend. Real products being pitched now more than ever!

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Day 2: There’s No “i” in Team

The second day of these weekends are typically the most stressful for participants. The dynamics shift as teams change members, ideas and businesses while trying to agree on a new direction. Great team dynamics are integral here. True leaders display no ego while others get lost in an idea load under the stress of the deadline.

One thing is also clear: Change is difficult. Ideas that have no chance of progress or completion are kept even when 10 coach mentors, opposing teams and your own cohort can't see a way to succeed or to make the idea work in the real world.  Building a culture of no fail and true open dialogue was demonstrated in certain teams of strangers.

The importance of teambuilding is clearly evident, as groups broke bread together and worked through problems in a different setting than the workplace.

Day 3: Collaboration is Key

The key to success is always collaboration and the successful integration of teams. Our region is lucky to have so many universities, colleges, and entrepreneurial resources within our grasp. When we all come together, great results follow.

The weekend showed us how strangers from area schools can come together to create an idea and execute to a presentation in three days. Showing up and getting the job done were seen in some while others succumbed to stress, poor management, bad team dynamics and poor leadership. Execution is the hardest part, but the only way to succeed: bring an idea, focus and a true team together and it can be done especially with all the support that the Capital Region has to offer.

And the Winners are…..

The winners of Startup Weekend 6 are French Toastary, a mobile food business, a collaboration of RPI, Clarkson and Sage students, and runner-up Aspect: Vanguard, a crowdsourced security solution, a collaboration of students from RPI and Sage.

A Startup Weekend “alum” made a special appearance to share his experience. A former 3rd place winner, everyone pushed him to go into banking. He credits Startup Weekend with giving him the courage to follow his dream to be in the airline business and reports that he is now in the Delta Airline Management Program.

Kudos to the judging panel: Kristen Hislop, Lou Cirelli and Jean Dahlgren, as well as the prize packages from Sage's incubator INVEST, InFocus Brands and IgniteU NY.

Whether you need feedback on an idea, a co-founder, a specific skill sets, or a team to help you execute your concept, don’t miss the next opportunity to participate in Startup Weekend. They provide the perfect environment to test your idea and take the first steps towards launching your own startup.

And lean on Innovate 518 who aligns its affiliated partner resources to drive economic development, workforce development, innovation and opportunity.

In Support of Our Veterans

Veterans Day is an important time to thank and remember those who have served our country and helped defend our freedoms. And in honor of Veterans Day, Innovate 518 reaffirms its commitment to support veterans as they engage in entrepreneurial activities and leverage the tangible skills they developed during their military service.

Why do Veterans Bring to the Start-Up Equation?

Innovate518 is designed to commercialize and fund certified companies, while forming executive teams that perform. Veterans are an excellent add to a founder or entrepreneurial team because they bring the project mindset to act -- not just to brainstorm and research.

Veterans also bring balance to the idea stage helping to move the company to commercialization. Normal to start-up stage is an ad hoc approach to business and a veteran’s structured experience bring a system mindset and order to potential chaos. This systems approach is key to scaling and presenting a unified team to funders.  

Nicolas Campbell, president of Stonewall Defense, a leading area startup, recently shared with Open Forum, a web resource for entrepreneurs, his thoughts on what military service teaches business owners. He offered the following insight, “A veteran's greatest skill is an uncanny and nearly unparalleled ability to independently solve complex tasks with little to no guidance. Service members are entrusted with missions of the utmost importance to national security and with the lives of their subordinates. They're given tasks and told to 'make it work.' As such, veterans are accustomed to performing independently at the highest levels while under stress.” Check out the full piece here.

How Can Innovate 518 Help?

Our affiliated partner network offers access to funding sources, facilities, industry expertise and tax incentives and connects veterans with the critical resources needed to successfully launch new businesses in our region.

From incubators and accelerators, to co-working spaces and community and entrepreneurial service providers, Innovate 518 is a rich resource for veterans. One of our affiliate partners, the Michael R. McNulty Center for Entrepreneurial Activity, is a shared space of resources exclusively for veteran entrepreneurs with access to the Arsenal Partnership’s strategic partners and the services they can provide for a growing new business.

While all of Innovate 518’s services are available to veterans, here are a few special upcoming opportunities:

Innovate 518 wishes all veterans happiness, good health and prosperity this 2017 Veterans Day.



Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership and The Stack Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Join Innovate 518

Resources for the Start-Up Community Expand with Addition of New Affiliate Partners

ALBANY, N.Y. (November 9, 2017) – The Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership and The Stack Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Siena College have been named affiliate partners with Innovate 518, the Capital Region’s Innovation Hotspot. Both organizations will work closelywith Innovate 518 and nearly two-dozen regional partners to fulfill a mission of driving commercialization within the Capital Region.

“Innovate 518 works collaboratively to create robust workforce development and sustainable revenue for the regional economy,” said Matt Grattan, director of community and economic development, University at Albany. “The addition of Saratoga Partnership and The Stack Center at Siena College helps us expand our mission of fostering a supportive innovation infrastructure that connects entrepreneurs to the start-up ecosystem.”

The Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership is the County’s designated economic development organization, designed to lead the public and private sectors in achieving economic success for its businesses and residents. As the first point of contact for business retention, expansion, and attraction, the Saratoga Partnership provides a seamless delivery of economic development and workforce development assistance for businesses seeking to expand.

“The mission of the Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership is to secure sustainable jobs and capital investment by attracting new business to Saratoga County and retaining existing businesses by assisting them to grow,” said Marty Vanags, president, SCPP. “We look forward to leveraging our expertise, events and services to help Innovate 518 support our burgeoning start-up environment in this region.”

The Saratoga Partnership hosts a variety of programs beneficial to entrepreneurs and startups seeking to expand in the County, including a business retention and expansion program, a small business workshop series, mentoring opportunities and workforce trainings. They also have a number of new programs and alliances in the pipeline for launch in the New Year.

“The Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership is laser-focused on building a vibrant economy in Saratoga County, working aggressively to attract sustainable jobs and capital investment, and providing resources to help existing businesses grow and prosper,” said Marty Vanags, president of the Saratoga Partnership. “We look forward to lending our expertise and services in supporting Innovate 518’s effort to strengthen the burgeoning start-up environment in this region.”

The Stack Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Siena College engages students through high-impact learning practices designed to develop critical thinking, innovation and entrepreneurial skills. Their “Innovate-Create-Accelerate” process allows students to apply these skills to develop and implement successful business ventures.

Each year the Center hosts two Spark Tank competitions and the Stocchetti Summer Accelerator Program providing students opportunities to build their ideas and present them to panel of successful business leaders. Advisors also help student teams prepare for national competitions such as the New York State Business Plan Competition, Entrepreneurial Roundtable Accelerator and the Y Combinator.

The Center also seeks to highlight entrepreneurial-minded alumni who have successfully launched their own businesses to inspire the Center's current students. The Maddalone Entrepreneurship Wall of Success features the various logos of companies launched by Siena alumni in fields ranging from technology to traditional services and physical products. The Center also hosts an Entrepreneur of the Year program which recognizes Siena alumni that have gone on to become successful entrepreneurs.

"A partnership among The Stack Center, Innovate 518 and the Saratoga County Partnership is a right fit for encouraging entrepreneurship and promoting economic development in the Capital Region and beyond,” said Chuck Seifert, dean, Siena School of Business. “Siena's faculty, students and alumni are eager to commit their ideas and their drive to this network, to support business growth and job creation." 

Visit our partners page to learn more about the Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership  and the Stack Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Siena College.

 About Innovate 518

Innovate 518 is a collaborative effort of incubators, accelerators, and entrepreneurial service providers from New York’s Capital Region including Albany, Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Warren and Washington counties. It is designed to turn New York’s Capital Region into a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity by providing best practices, networking and mentoring, as well as educational and financial resources to start-up companies. Designated at the Capital Region Innovation Hot Spot and managed by the University at Albany, Innovate 518 is a NYSTAR-initiative enabling funding and a unique set of tax incentives for companies in their earliest stages.

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Ready for Primetime

Nancy Min has always been surrounded by science. Her father Qilong Min serves as a professor in the University at Albany’s Atmospheric Sciences Research Center (ASRC). So when her dad developed weather prediction technology to drive solar productivity, she wanted to bring it to market to improve people’s lives.

With support from the University at Albany Innovation Center, an affiliate partner of Innovate 518, Min founded the startup, ecoLong LLC. Collaborating with UAlbany’s entrepreneur-in residence Bob Manasier, the ecoLong team has refined their investors’ pitch, conducted market outreach and qualified commercial partners. Min has also worked with Innovate 518 operational partners Center for Economic Growth (CEG) and RPI’s iSite. Michael Lobsinger from CEG has served as a valued mentor and advisor to Min.

ecoLong also works closely ASRC and the University’s New York State Mesonet, a network of 125 advanced weather detection stations across New York State.

What they have lined up in the coming weeks could bring in critical funding for the startup.

Min has been selected to pitch ecoLong at the Blackstone Launchpad TechStars' Presentation in NYC on October 16 and 17. You can watch Min’s Techstars’ pitch video here.

Then on October 19, she will have an opportunity to present among area start-ups in a showcase at UAlbany’s Weather Solutions for Ground Transportation Workshop. In addition, ecoLong was chosen as a finalist in the FuzeHub Commercialization Competition on November 15 and 16.

“Nancy and her team are focused and ready to demonstrate to investors and potential partners how ecoLong’s technology helps make the unpredictable, predictable when it comes to weather forecasting and solar farms,” said Manasier.

Changing Course for Success

After starting her career with Deloitte Consulting, Min decided to launch ecoLong LLC. Since 2015, Min and the ecoLong team have devoted their careers to developing environmental and renewable energy products that provide more accurate weather and solar radiation forecasting and air quality monitoring.

Transitioning from a corporate position to a startup was a risk – but Min believes in ecoLong’s potential to change the world and improve people’s lives. Deloitte has also been supportive of her decision, asking her to say on as a part-time consultant.

“I never thought I would start my own company and leave my positon at Deloitte,” Min said. “But, sometimes life leads you in unexpected directions. I am passionate about ecoLong and believe in our products’ ability to make a sustainable impact on weather forecasting.”

A native of the Capital District, Min earned her bachelor’s and master’s degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI).