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Z80 Labs tech incubator eyeing move to Medical Campus

The Z80 Labs technology incubator is eyeing a move from its home near Canalside into space on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus that it would share with the 43North business plan competition.

Z80 Labs, which hosts entrepreneurs and early-stage digital media companies, would move from The Buffalo News building downtown to space in the Medical Campus’ Innovation Center that soon will host the 43North winners.

No contract has been signed and the various parties still are exploring their options, but the Medical Campus site is the location preferred by officials from Empire State Development, Z80 Labs and 43North, said Jordan A. Levy, general partner at SoftBank Capital, who is co-founder of Z80 Labs and chairman of the 43North steering committee.

“It would make a lot of sense,” Levy said Wednesday.

Z80 Labs is one of a number of technology and biotechnology incubators that have sprung up in Buffalo and Amherst in recent years to provide a support system for fledgling companies.

Levy and fellow venture capitalist Ronald M. Schreiber started Z80 Labs in 2012 with an assist from a $4 million Innovate New York state grant.

About a dozen companies call the space at Washington and Scott streets home today, and several already have moved on to dedicated office space elsewhere.

Z80 Labs pays a nominal rent to The News, Levy said, and he knows the newspaper is looking at a number of other uses for the first-floor space.

The organizers of the 43North business plan competition, which distributed $5 million to 11 companies, have worked rent-free in Z80’s offices for about a year.

The winners were promised rent-free space in a local incubator as part of the competition, and 43North in August announced it was moving from Z80 Labs into the Innovation Center.

Work crews are renovating that space to prepare for the move of the 43North companies beginning in mid-January.

Levy said Z80 Labs isn’t under a deadline to leave The News but he said officials would like to make a decision by early next month on where to go. Z80 Labs would pay rent in its new location.

If all of the potential hurdles can be worked out, the Innovation Center site makes the most sense because Z80 Labs and 43North can better coordinate their activities in the shared space, Levy said. “Clustering is critical. I’m trying to create this ecosystem of momentum,” he said.

Officials from Empire State Development and the Medical Campus did not respond to requests for comment, and 43North spokesman Peter Burakowski referred questions to Levy.

Levy said Z80 Labs is making progress in its search for a new managing director to replace Dan Magnuszewski, who stepped down from the job to take a job as chief technology officer with ACV Auctions.