Interim CEO due for Launch New York - The Buffalo News

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Interim CEO due for Launch New York

The board of directors of Launch New York, a nonprofit organization meant to boost startup companies throughout Upstate New York, expects to name an interim replacement for departing CEO John J. Seman within the next few weeks.

Seman is stepping down as president and CEO at the end of December after 15 months on the job. David J. Colligan, an attorney and member of Launch New York’s board, said that Seman’s contract was renewable each year and that it was not renewed for 2014.

“John’s done some good things in his tenure there. I would say his departure is more or less a mutual decision,” Colligan said in an interview.

Colligan said Launch New York, which has received $8 million in public and foundation funding, remains on track to host a large-scale business-plan competition next year.

Seman did not respond to requests for comment but said in an email to colleagues that he is proud of what the Launch New York team accomplished in getting the organization up and running.

“I remain a strong believer that uniting the abundant human capital resources and the outstanding academic heritage of Upstate New York will continue to evolve the region as a powerful innovation hub where startups flourish and significant new jobs are created,” Seman wrote.

Colligan praised Seman’s work in launching “a startup for startups” but said the board will conduct a search for a new president and CEO with a different set of management skills. An interim president and CEO will be hired soon to ensure organizational operations continue to run smoothly, Colligan said.

None of the $8 million has been paid out to startup companies, Colligan confirmed.

Launch New York was founded last year with $600,000 from the federal government – contributed through the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council – $638,000 from the John R. Oishei Foundation and $350,000 from the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation to support entrepreneurial efforts in 27 upstate counties. It was modeled after Ohio’s Jumpstart program and headquartered in Buffalo.

The organization also has received an additional $675,000 in federal aid, $250,000 from National Grid and $93,000 from the Western New York regional Economic Development Council, Colligan said, and has set up four “entrepreneurs-in-residence” across Upstate.

In May, the Western New York Power Proceeds Allocation Board awarded Launch New York $5.4 million, the bulk of which will be used to fund next year’s business-plan competition.

The contest, previously known as Build It Buffalo, is being rebranded. It promises a $1 million grand prize while requiring the top winners to stay in New York for at least one year.


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