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Buffalo forum aims to stimulate venture capital investing

It’s an ongoing challenge for the Buffalo-area economy: matching entrepreneurs with venture capitalists, to help emerging businesses attract the funds they need to grow.

The Buffalo Niagara region might not be known as a Silicon Valley-like hotbed for venture capital activity, but the Bright Buffalo Niagara forum on Oct. 1 at Statler City aims to make progress on that front.

Thirty-five early-stage companies from across New York state and Southern Ontario will make pitches to an audience of potential investors during the forum, which runs from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. There will also be guest speakers, panel discussions and networking opportunities.

An event like Tuesday’s forum might be where an entrepreneur and a investor first connect, forming a relationship that can lead to a future investment.

“It’s really about relationship building,” said Kerry Jones Waring, a spokeswoman for the University at Buffalo’s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences. “It’s sort of a long-term goal we’re going after.” UB is one of a number of sponsors of the forum.

Twenty companies were chosen by a committee to make 10-minute presentations to the audience of investors. Fifteen others will have one minute each to make their pitches. The companies are developing products and services in areas such as energy, software and life sciences.

The 10-minute presenters will automatically make the first cut in Launch NY’s business plan competition, which will take place next year. That competition offers $5 million in prizes, including a $1 million first prize.

Companies not selected to make pitches will still have a chance to connect with investors during the networking and exhibition segments of the forum.

Tuesday’s keynote speaker will be Victor W. Hwang, author of “The Rainforest: The Secret to Building the Next Silicon Valley.” Hwang is also the chief executive officer of T2 Venture Capital, a Silicon Valley firm. He will talk about how a region like Buffalo Niagara can develop its own “innovative ecosystem.”

About 100 venture capitalists, mostly from Western New York, are expected to attend the forum, Waring said. Total attendance at the forum is expected to be 300 to 400 people.

About 100 early-stage companies have made presentations at Bright Buffalo Niagara since it began in 2009, Waring said. Organizers say participants in Bright Buffalo Niagara have gone on to raise more than $23 million in funding.

For more information on the forum, visit