A banner year for UB-related startups
Companies tied to UB help cement the Buffalo Niagara region’s growing reputation for business talent
Release Date: December 21, 2015
BUFFALO, N.Y. – It was a good year for University at Buffalo-connected businesses.
UB incubator companies were acquired by industry heavyweights in Manhattan and Chicago. Businesses founded by graduates were praised – and funded – by entrepreneurial kingpins. And startups created by professors received financial backing from federal agencies and others.
“The University at Buffalo’s commitment to supporting and nurturing business-savvy students, faculty and entrepreneurs who are creating exciting new products to boost economic development and improve quality of life in Western New York and beyond is exemplified by the many successes our related companies had in 2015,” said Venu Govindaraju, UB interim vice president for research and economic development.
Here are six highlights:
Refulgent Software’s Ambur
Ansar Khan, a UB alumnus who grew up in Williamsville, and James O’Leary, a former UB student, founded Refulgent Software in 2010. Their product: an app called Ambur that acts as a digital cash register for bars, restaurants and other businesses. Ambur caught the eye of ShopKeep, a larger Manhattan-based competitor, which in September agreed to buy the app. Refulgent got its start in UB’s Technology Incubator and has remained connected to the university by supporting aspiring entrepreneurs in UB’s Academies.
Cloud62 is a Salesforce.com-certified implementation partner that helps companies of all sizes successfully use Salesforce.com’s customer relationship management (CRM) platform. Like Refulgent, it can trace its roots to UB’s Technology Incubator, which is operated by the Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach. Founded in 2011 by Raj Suchak, it was acquired in October by Chicago-based Huron Consulting Group, a rapidly-growing global management firm. Cloud62 continues to work with UB via Start-Up NY.
Venture capitalists and angel investors
Winner of the $1 million grand prize from this year’s 43North business idea competition in October, ACV Auctions created a mobile platform that allows automotive dealers to sell cars during 20-minute online auctions, as opposed to conventional physical auctions that run once a week. Previously, the company had raised $1 million from local angel investors, including Z80 Lab’s state-backed Innovate NY seed fund. Two of ACV Auctions’ co-founders – Dan Magnuszewski and Joe Neiman – are UB graduates. Founded in 2014, ACV Auctions works with UB via Start-Up NY.
One of two startups to pocket $100,000 from America Online co-founder Steve Case’s Rise of the Rest business plan contest in September, POP Biotechnologies sprouted from the Bonner Hall laboratory of biomedical engineering researcher Jonathan Lovell. The company has optioned UB technology – dubbed nanoballoons – that promises a safer, more effective way to deliver anti-cancer drugs to tumors. POP Biotechnologies’ co-founders include Lovell, UB alumnus Jonathan Smyth and UB graduate student Kevin Carter. The company, formerly known as PhotoZyne, also won the 2015 Henry A. Panasci Jr. Technology Entrepreneurship Competition at UB in April.
Founded in 2013 by UB researchers Glenna Bett and Randall Rasmusson, Cytocybernetics’ method for replicating heart cells promises to bring pharmaceuticals to market quicker and make them more affordable. The company received a huge boost in July when it was awarded a $242,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health. A $50,000 investment from the State University of New York Technology Accelerator Fund followed. Cytocybernetics, which works with UB via Start-Up NY, capped the year by winning $500,000 in the 43North contest.
Founded in 2012 by UB researcher Kate Rittenhouse-Olson, For-Robin received a $2 million grant in May from the National Cancer Institute to study and develop a promising potential treatment — an antibody therapy — for breast and other types of cancer. That’s on top of the more than $360,000 in support from the National Institutes of Health and regional programs that the company received previously. For-Robin works with UB via Start-Up NY.