Letter of appointmentI am pleased to announce that I have been offered and have accepted appointment to the “faculty development and technology transfer advisory board” that counsels the New York State Commissioner of Economic Development on aspects of the “research development program” administered by the Division of Science, Technology and Innovation at DED/Empire State Development Corporation.

The appointment stems from my work over the last decade with business incubators in New York State. Although the board is advisory only, because its work affects the allocation of public resources, I have been required to undergo a thorough background check and to file extensive financial disclosures with the state ethics commission. If, as, and when the board meets and deliberates, I will be rigorously disclosing any consulting assignments I have received from eligible NYS academic institutions. I may be required to recuse myself from advising on those applications that pose actual or perceived conflicts of interest and/or to turn down certain consulting assignments that pose undue risks of conflict.

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Effective at the start of this month, I have turned over management of the Business Incubator Association of New York State (BIA/NYS) to Marc Alessi, an attorney and startup entrepreneur. This concludes my decade-long adventure in social entrepreneurship, building a new trade association from scratch. It’s been a rewarding if challenging task, and I’m happy to place it now in the hands of capable, energetic, new leadership.

This was conceived initially as a part-time job I could do while continuing to consult, but it always seemed to take more time and resources than planned. To become sustainable, the association now must grow revenues enough to support both the executive and admin functions. Marc is a former state assemblyman who’s also been serving as the launch CEO of a biomedical-instrumentation startup, and he’s both well suited and fully committed to the challenge.

I warmly appreciate the support I’ve had throughout my tenure from the association board of directors and the membership at large. Several have become good friends over the years, and I thank all for the many kind thoughts expressed at this transition. This change frees me to reallocate more of my time back to consulting projects, and I intend to do so. I also have begun experimenting with angel investing, and I plan to continue to expand that effort insofar as I prudently can.

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In an important piece of research recently released, two smart analysts have put numbers to what many of us active in economic development in New York State have long been saying: there exists a deep, fundamental mismatch between the stylistic preferences of regionally based venture-capital firms and the kinds of innovation emerging from the state’s university R&D community.

The study by Judy Albers and Tom Moebus – both well known and respected players in the statewide innovation ecosystem1 – employs data from NVCA and other sources to nail the case that while the amount of venture capital under management in New York City is rising, it is specializing heavily in digital technologies (IT, software, media) and focusing on capital-efficient “quick hits,” often at the expansion phase, with high potential for fast liquidity and outsized returns. Almost none of that potential is available upstate, and consequently almost no regionally managed capital goes there.

The authors show that while the VC industry in California and Massachusetts is more eclectic in its tastes, only a very small share of that money comes to New York to begin with, and exceptionally little makes its way upstate. That leaves ventures in what Albers and Moebus call the hard sciences (subdivided into the engineering technologies and life sciences) a long, hard slog with few early-stage investors (and almost no seed investors) either based here or deploying money anywhere in the state.

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  1. Judy, now an entrepreneurship professor at SUNY Geneseo co-founded the Pre Seed Workshop program, and Tom runs several innovation programs for the SUNY Research Foundation []