New York Business Plan Competition

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2014 Statewide Final Competition Judges
The 2014 New York Business Plan Competition is pleased to introduce the investors that will be evaluating the top teams from each of the regions in the statewide final competition. The judges are a mix of investors and industry experts, including venture capitalists, angel investors, investment bankers, other sophisticated public and private investors, and seasoned entrepreneurs – all of whom have years of experience investing in their respective industries.
  • Michael Castellana, President & CEO, SEFCU
  • Peter Wohl, Chief Performance & Innovation Officer, SEFCU
  • Jennifer Amstutz, Investor, Eastern New York Angels
  • Stuart Angert, Founder & CEO (Retired), Remarketing Services of America
  • Alessandro Anzani, General Partner, Smartup Capital
  • Mark Austin, Venture Partner, Bright Capital
  • Martin Babinec, Founder & Chairman, Upstate Venture Connect
  • Clayton Besch, Director, Small Business Technology Investment Fund, Empire State Development
  • John Cococcia, Managing Partner, Terrapin Advisors
  • Donald Coolidge, Founder & CEO, Majestyk Apps
  • Mark Cox, Founder & CEO, New Energy Fund
  • Mark Dzwonczyk, CEO, Nicholville Telephone Company
  • David Hessler, Investor, Rochester Angel Network
  • Mary Howard, Principal, Design Technologies
  • Reid Hutchins, Principal, Advantage Capital Partners
  • Rami Katz, Chief Operating Officer, Excell Partners
  • Richard Kotlow, Investor, Eastern New York Angels
  • Michael Lasch, Managing Director, Pine Street Capital Partners
  • Steve Lobel, Investor, Eastern New York Angels
  • J. Peter Lynch, President, Salem Financial
  • Robert Manasier, CEO, In Focus Brands
  • Brian Model, Managing Partner, Stonehenge Growth Equity Partners
  • Les Neumann, Founder & CEO, iCANny
  • Robert Nichols, Senior Vice President & Upstate New York Regional Manager, Business Banking, First Niagara Financial Group
  • Frank Poore, Founder & CEO, CommerceHub
  • Walt Robb, President, Vantage Management
  • Peter Rothberg, Partner, Reitler Kailas & Rosenblatt
  • Ken Rother, Venture Partner, Cayuga Venture Fund
  • Christine Tate, Investor, ARC Angel Fund & FundingPost Angels
  • Joseph Visalli, Investor, Eastern New York Angels
  • Michael Wu, Founding Managing Partner, Blue Angel Partners
Michael Castellana
President & CEO

Michael Castellana is President and CEO of SEFCU, the largest credit union in the Capital Region and the seventh largest in the State of New York. Mr. Castellana joined SEFCU more than 23 years ago as a member of the executive management team. During his tenure he has overseen SEFCU's growth in Albany County and expansion into Saratoga, Rensselaer, Schenectady, Broome, Onondaga, and Erie Counties.

Mr. Castellana directs all functional areas of the credit union and is responsible for its business planning and asset management. In addition, he serves as chairman of the SECU Foundation, a non-profit affiliation he formed to pool the time, talent, and financial resources of SEFCU staff in support of children's causes.

He also sits on several advisory boards, including: Big Brothers Big Sisters, Little Sisters of the Poor, St. Anne Institute, the University at Albany MBA Advisory Council, the Dean's Council of the Lally School of Management of RPI and the President's Advisory Council of Hudson Valley Community College.

Mr. Castellana received his bachelor's degree in Accounting and his MBA from the University at Albany in 1984 and 1992, respectively.

Peter Wohl
Chief Performance & Innovation Officer

Wohl has held Senior Management positions in the public, private, and non-profit sectors during his more than 20-year career. At SEFCU, he is responsible for serving as the lead on projects that will improve organizational efficiency and leveraging creative ideas to move the credit union forward.

Before joining SEFCU, Wohl was a regional director at Empire State Development (ESD) Corporation where he was responsible for the performance of two ESD regional offices and the Harriman Research and Technology Development Corporation, managing state regional economic development investment portfolios, and coordinating the activities of the Capital Regional Economic Development Council.

Wohl earned a Bachelor of Science in human development and social policy from Northwestern University and a Master’s Degree in public policy from the University of California at Berkeley. He is currently a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council at the University at Albany School of Business and serves on the Board of the Center for Economic Growth.

Jennifer Amstutz
Eastern New York Angels

Jennifer Amstutz is currently Interim Executive Director of the Albany Symphony Orchestra. Jennifer founded J.A. Strategies in June 2006. Her 15 years of experience working in government and nonprofit organizations includes positions with the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Human Resources, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Family Service America (now Alliance for Children and Families), and the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. In New York and the Capital Region, she has spent more than 10 years in nonprofit management positions, overseeing fund development, budgets and programs, and supervising and training more than 30 staff; first as Executive Director of the Albany Girls Club, and then as V.P. for Program Development at Girls Incorporated of the Greater Capital Region after helping to facilitate the merger of the two organizations, and most recently as Interim President and CEO of Girls Inc.

Stuart Angert
Founder & CEO (Retired)
Remarketing Services of America

Stuart H. Angert is the co-founder and retired Chief Executive Officer of Remarketing Services of America, the nation’s largest independent provider of lease services to the automotive finance industry. Prior to the formation of RSA, he served as Vice President of Marketing for Marine Midland Bank (HSBC), and held the position of President of Angert Auto Parts, a multi-store retail and warehouse operation located in Western New York.

Currently, Mr. Angert serves on the boards of directors/trustees for several for-profit and not-for-profit organizations with a concentration in academia, entrepreneurship, healthcare, and environmental initiatives. He was recently appointed as a Commissioner, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Mr. Angert holds a BA from Colgate University and an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business.

Alessandro Anzani
General Partner
Smartup Capital

Alessandro was born in Milan, Italy. He founded his first venture, now the Italian market leader in the quality certification of construction companies, at the age of 19. He launched seven companies (four of them in the United States) and worked at several start-ups. He spent four years as Investment Manager in private equity, managing over $2B in transactions.

He received his Master’s of Business Administration from Cornell University; before that he earned a Master’s in Real Estate Finance and a Master’s of Science in Economics.

Mark Austin
Venture Partner
Bright Capital

Mark Austin is a Venture Partner with Bright Capital, an international venture firm investing broadly in the energy, materials, cleantech, nanotech and advanced technologies sectors. Mr. Austin serves on the Board of Directors of two portfolio companies, Ener-G-Rotors, Inc. and QM Power. In addition, he serves as an Entrepreneur-In-Residence for NYSERDA, and a Board Advisor with iCLEAN. Mr. Austin is a graduate of Williams College.

Mr. Austin has over 25 years experience as a serial entrepreneur, a venture investor, and a strategic development advisor with Chandler Reed LLC. In his roles as Venture Partner, Board member and Advisor, he combines the talents of a creative strategic thinker and a hands-on executive, with deep cross-functional expertise and breadth of industry experience to deliver practical insights, strategies, plans and follow-through. His work in the cleantech and alternative energy sector has encompassed a broad range including energy storage, fuel cells, solar, nanotech, energy efficiency, green building, composites / advanced materials, hydrokinetic, biomass, biofuels, waste to energy, gasification, water, hazardous waste detoxification, and sustainability. Mr. Austin has worked with enterprises ranging from start-ups and VC-funded ventures, to public and private growth companies, to divisions of global multinationals and UN agencies such as the Sustainable Energy and Environment Division of UNDP.

Martin Babinec
Founder & Chairman
Upstate Venture Connect

A native and current resident of Little Falls, Martin Babinec founded and serves as a Director with San Leandro, California based TriNet Group, Inc. (NYSE: TNET), a provider of bundled HR products, strategic services and software for growing companies. The company's 2000 employees operate 60 offices around the U.S., serving about 8,000 customers and generating annual revenues of $1.6 billion. Martin served as CEO from the company's inception in 1988 until 2008, and also Chairman till 2010. He raised more than $130 million in 5 rounds of equity financing, completed 6 acquisitions and led development of TriNet's sales and marketing organization.

In 2010 Martin founded Upstate Venture Connect, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that is building a high growth entrepreneurial ecosystem across Upstate New York by creating scaleable infrastructure that helps connect first time entrepreneurs in new industries with the resources that can help them. UVC's effort to help create new startup companies and jobs that retain our best and brightest talent today encompass a network extending across all the major Upstate metro areas. Martin also co-founded and serves as Chairman of the Syracuse based StartFast Venture Accelerator; and is Founder/Chairman of IntroNet Corporation. As Principal of UpVentures, he is one of Upstate's most active startup investors and serves as a director or advisor to several emerging growth technology companies, seed capital funds and venture capital firms.

Clayton Besch
Director, Small Business Technology Investment Fund
Empire State Development

Clayton is currently the Director of the Small Business Technology Investment Fund of New York State’s Empire State Development Corp. Raised in the Capital Region, he did his undergraduate at Hamilton College in Central NY. After years of advance education in Asia, earning a Masters at Nagasaki University and a PhD at Tokyo University, Clayton's focus turned to finance and investment. Experiencing the growth and evolution in Japan's bubble market and later in the Emerging markets he crossed from equity research to sales to the global investment community. He then moved to the Venture Capital world working with SOFTBANK's worldwide VC network for a number of years. After consulting for funds in the US, Japan and the UK, he most recently ran the Asian office for NYS’s ESDC in Tokyo introducing NYS companies to sales opportunities in Japan and Korea and introducing Japanese companies to strategic opportunities in NYS.

John Cococcia
Managing Partner
Terrapin Advisors

John has spent the last 15 years working with early and growth stage companies as an investor, board member, advisor and advocate. He is involved in various initiatives within each of the companies he works with, including strategy development and execution, C-level recruiting and coaching, venture and growth financings, strategic positioning, partnerships, restructurings, exits and turn-arounds. John is a trusted advisor to his companies, and has extensive Board-level experience spanning several high-tech industry categories, with active participation on compensation, audit, recruitment and M&A Board Committees.

John is a co-founder and Managing Partner of Terrapin Advisors, a strategic consulting firm serving high-growth technology companies. Prior to his founding of Terrapin, John was COO at DHA Energy, a growth stage specialty manufacturer of precision components for the global energy industry. Prior to DHA, John was a Co-Founder and Partner at FA Technology Ventures, a $100 million early stage venture capital fund, where he was responsible for 9 early stage investments covering the Software, Internet and Cleantech sectors. Prior to FA, John held operations positions at Amphenol Corporation and Ford Motor Company. John is also currently an Adjunct Professor at Union Graduate College of Business, a position he previously held at University at Albany and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Donald Coolidge
Founder & CEO
Majestyk Apps

Donald Coolidge is the founder and CEO of Majestyk Apps, a premiere software development agency specializing in massively scalable mobile applications.

Majestyk has thrived under his leadership. He has strategically nurtured a growing Majestyk portfolio of seed investments in hardware, software and luxury brands. The agency was honored this year to assist the R/GA TechStars Accelerator to augment the cutting edge high tech work of their member companies, who raised millions in funding following their demo day.

Donald is passionate about social responsibility and service. He spent more than 8-years in the US Marine Corps serving in Iraq and Africa, and has spearheaded initiatives for NYC-based nonprofits for several years. He is currently facilitating the growth of the NYC chapter of Vets in Tech.

Mark Cox
Founder & CEO
New Energy Fund

Mark Townsend Cox is the founder and CEO of New Energy Fund LP, the longest serving pure-play sustainability hedge fund. His first steps toward sustainability came as a teacher in Nigeria in 1979 when he was involved with solar ovens made from found materials by his class of 8 year olds. In 1982, he was a parachute infantry platoon commander in the British Army and was awarded a Mention in Dispatches (MID) in the Falklands conflict for his role in the battle of Mt. Longdon. Mark came to the US in 1987 and worked in Wall Street as an institutional equity salesman, analyst and head of desk for French and German equities at ABD Securities, Credit Agricole, Swiss Bank, and Bankhaus Metzler. In 1998, he became a portfolio manager at Pinnacle International Management LLC, an employee owned money manager based in New York, where he introduced companies such as Vestas Wind Systems, Gamesa and Solon to the Pinnacle portfolio. The investment team held the number 1 position for 5 year returns in both Nelson’s “Worlds Best Money Managers” and in Money Manager Review’s rankings up to the third quarter of 2002. Mark also raised $78 million in new assets for Pinnacle during the significant 2001 bear market.

Recognizing the macro energy opportunity he formed New Energy Fund LP in 2003 to capture the expected worldwide growth of renewable energy. The fund had its first full year of asset management in 2005 and today is in the ninth year of its track record. His interest has been in helping critical, disruptive clean technologies cross the ‘valley of death’ between concept, prototype towards commercial demonstration. The fund has taken lead investment positions in new concept technologies, such as base load, ‘on demand’ solar power that works at night and during cloud cover and cheap hydrogen generation which comes without infrastructural challenges. He has developed a record of selecting new effective, disruptive and economic clean technologies.

Mark is 56 years old and has 30 years of investment experience in global equity markets. He has a Master’s degree in French and English from the University of Dundee in Scotland and an Executive MBA from Columbia University in New York. He has held the Series 7, 24, 63, and 65 NASD securities licenses and is fluent in French. He is a judge at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory forums that are held annually in October/November and also earlier in the year at the New York Science Academy Forum as well as the Clean Equity Monaco Conference.

Mark Dzwonczyk
Nicholville Telephone Company

Mark Dzwonczyk lives in Silicon Valley, commuting to New York's North Country for about 50% of his time in his role as CEO of Nicholville Telephone Company, a 110-year-old local incumbent carrier that is installing the fastest broadband in the nation to sections of otherwise-unserved rural NY. Mark has 20 years of prior experience building technology businesses, in various roles as founder, CEO, and in Board or advisory seats. With a focus on communications technologies, Mark has grown companies from scratch using conventional angel and venture capital investments, although though he bootstrapped his first company from his garage using customer revenues to build a voice-over-IP product company with operations in China for North American customers. Mark received a BS in Electrical Engineering summa cum laude from Tufts University and an MS in Aeronautical Engineering from MIT. Mark also spent time at Stanford University's Information Systems Lab in the early days of what was to become the World Wide Web. A summer resident of Adirondacks, Mark is active in NY's North Country economic development, including angel funds in the region.

David Hessler
Rochester Angel Network

David Hessler is an entrepreneurial business executive experienced in both operating management and in private equity financing. David has management experience in both large and small technology businesses, and has been a serial “CXO” for several technology companies. In addition, he has financing transactional experience as a Principal of a small venture capital fund, as Managing Director of two middle market investment banking firms, and as an Angel investor.

High Tech Rochester since 2003; “CXO” on an interim basis to build and grow early stage technology companies:
  • 2011 – 2012: Starting new clean tech company in Fort Collis, CO and NYSERDA Entrepreneur-In-Residence.
  • 2010 – 2011: Chief Executive Officer of MicroGen Systems, an early stage technology company developing a vibrational energy harvester with NYSERDA funding at the Cornell Nanofabrication Facility.
  • 2007 – 2010: CFO of PharmaNova, Inc. (specialty pharma), raised $1.5MM in angel capital.
  • 1997 – 1998: Interim CEO of a privately-held manufacturer of products for Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
  • 1986 – 1996: Chairman, CEO, and owner of Information Transfer Inc. (ITI), a privately-held manufacturer of defense electronic equipment.
Previously: Venture Capitalist and Investment Banker. Twelve “fast track” years at Xerox Corporation

David holds an MBA (with honors) from the University of Michigan; an MS in Engineering from the University of Michigan, and a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering from Clarkson University. He received additional training at the NASBIC Venture Capital Training Institute, and the Xerox/Harvard Executive Program (Exeter). He has held National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) Series 63, Series 7, and Series 24 securities licenses.

Mary Howard
Design Technologies

Mary Howard is an angel investor, serial entrepreneur and expert start up trainer and coach to IP based ventures in cleantech, life sciences and software. She serves as a Board member for iClean, as well as MIT Enterprise Forum, NYC Chapter. She is an Entrepreneur-in-Residence for NYSERDA as well as NJIT and her firm provides training and coaching for NJ TechLaunch software accelerator program as well as the Clean Energy Alliance and is program manager for NYCEDC's Bio & Health Tech Entrepreneurship Lab NYC, an entrepreneur startup program.

Mary is a graduate of Harvard College and worked at Bain & Co. before joining Eastman Kodak's publishing system company Atex. After launching three startups for Kodak, Mary founded an imaging and CAD system software company, including raising VC funding and securing patents.

Reid Hutchins
Advantage Capital Partners

Reid Hutchins manages Advantage Capital Partners’ New York investment portfolio. His responsibilities include sourcing and structuring new investments, as well as working with current portfolio companies.

Prior to joining Advantage Capital in 2006, Mr. Hutchins served as a product development engineer for Advanced Micro Devices and as an engineer and manager with IBM Microelectronics. He brings operational experience in semiconductor design, manufacturing, test and production to the firm.

Mr. Hutchins currently sits on the Board of Directors for the Upstate Venture Association of New York (UVANY). He also serves as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Make-A-Wish Foundation® of Northeast New York.

Mr. Hutchins holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from St. Lawrence University. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a master’s in engineering management from Dartmouth College.

Rami Katz
Chief Operating Officer
Excell Partners

Rami Katz is the Chief Operating Officer for Excell Partners, managing Excell's due-diligence and investment processes. Prior to joining Excell, Rami served as the Director of Technology Commercialization at High Tech Rochester where he worked closely with entrepreneurs, researchers and startups to evaluate the commercial potential of new technologies. Rami managed the creation of over 50 business plans that led to raising over $40M in funding from VCs, angels as well as grants.

Rami is an attorney that led a litigation, banking and corporate law practice in Israel, managing a legal team that directed the restructure of over $14M in corporate and asset backed debt annually, while growing the group’s revenues by over 300%.

After launching his own legal and management consulting practice in Israel, Rami was one the founding members of a seed-stage investment group, investing and assuming leadership roles in seed stage, technology, ventures to provide financial and business development management. The group launched 12 high-tech startups that were focused on advanced materials, internet technologies, consumer electronics and medical devices.

Rami earned his MBA from the University of Rochester and his law degree from the Tel-Aviv University in Israel.

Richard Kotlow
Eastern New York Angels

Dick is the retired CEO of UHY Advisors NY, Inc and is currently a Senior Consultant. He is a licensed CPA in the States of New York and Massachusetts and is a retired Partner with UHY LLP.

Dick is a retired member of the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of UHY Advisors, Inc., a top 20 professional services firm.

Prior to his retirement Dick lead the firm’s New York practice, which is comprised of offices in Albany, New York City, and Westchester.

He served as a board member UHY International Ltd, a top 25 global network of professional services firms.

Currently, Dick is Chairman of UKW Advisors China, a full service Chinese business consulting company whose office is in Beijing.

Michael Lasch
Managing Director
Pine Street Capital Partners

Michael Lasch is a Managing Director and co-founder of Pine Street Capital Partners (PSCP), a private debt and equity fund founded in 2004 and based in Albany, NY. PSCP is currently investing out of its second fund, PSCP II, which was launched in 2011. From 1997-2004, Mike was a Director in the corporate and investment banking group at FleetBoston Financial in Boston, MA. Before starting his finance career, he served as a congressional aide in Washington, DC. Mike earned his MBA from Emory University and his BA from Holy Cross College. He is a 2007 recipient of the New York Capital District Business Review’s “40 under 40” award. Mike serves as a board member of three PSCP portfolio companies and is also involved with several regional non-profit groups including serving as a board member and past president of the Upstate Venture Association of New York and as Chairman of the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Northeastern New York.

Mike resides in Loudonville with his wife, Alicia, and their three children.

Steve Lobel
Eastern New York Angels

Steve Lobel is known as a serial entrepreneur. Since 1997 he has been responsible for sales & marketing at Anchor Agency, Inc. where he is now Vice President. Previously, he served as the University at Albany’s Director or Marketing after which he became Assistant Vice President for Alumni Affairs. He has also served as an adjunct professor, teaching marketing in the MBA programs at Union Graduate College and University at Albany’s School of Business where he still serves as a guest lecturer. Mr. Lobel’s Capital Region entrepreneurial activities span over four decades. He is best known as the founder of The Cheese Connection, which had its start in 1980. The business grew and moved to Stuyvesant Plaza where it expanded and was renamed Cowan & Lobel, a gourmet marketplace which became a landmark business.

At Anchor Agency, Mr. Lobel established a technology division to provide risk management and insurance services for emerging technology companies. He has developed specialties in Employment Practices Liability, Life Insurance, Professional Liability, Alternative Energy and other niche markets. He has attained the professional designation CIC (Certified Insurance Counselor). Steve has also been active in community affairs serving as director on the boards numerous organizations in leadership positions, including the Albany Symphony Orchestra where he currently is Chairman of the Board, The Community Foundation, Jewish Family Services (Chairman 1991-1992), Albany Center Galleries, Senior Services of Albany Foundation and too many others to mention. He was the founding President of Tech Valley Healthy Kids, an organization formed to bring mobile dental care to needy children in the Capital Region. In 2009 Steve has been the recipient of numerous awards acknowledging his civic activities including the Edward H. Pattison Citizenship Award for “his exemplary commitment to improving the lives of individuals through community involvement” by the Rensselaer County Chamber of Commerce.

J. Peter Lynch
Salem Financial

Mr. Lynch has worked, for 37 years as a Wall Street security analyst, an investment banker and a private investor in small emerging technology companies. He has been actively involved in following developments in the renewable energy sector since 1977 and is regarded as an expert in this field. During this time he assisted a number of renewable energy companies with private placements and public offerings in the 1980’s, 1990’s and 2000’s and has raised over $600MM for renewable energy companies in the Photovoltaics, Solar Thermal, Wind and Biomass areas.

He was the contributing editor for 18 years to the Photovoltaic Insider Report, the first publication in Photovoltaics (PV) that was directed at industrial subscribers, such as major energy companies, utilities and governments around the world.

He is currently a private investor and has from time to time been a financial/technology consultant to a number of emerging technology and renewable energy companies. He can be reached via email at or at his website for the promotion of solar,

Robert Manasier
In Focus Brands

Robert Manasier is currently CEO of In Focus Brands, a branded go-to-market firm, and President of IFP Films, a multimedia, multiple award-winning content creation firm. As a serial entrepreneur, Mr. Manasier has been involved in and part of over 80 startups and turnarounds. He created and developed the Diamond Point Co-Development Fund to assist intellectual property, services, products and new ideas to prove concept and/or get to market.

As a frequent speaker, consultant and player in the growing economic need for a stronger public-private synergy for startups and the economy in general, he has been a judge, investor and strategic/tactical partner in numerous nonprofits, launches, incubators, accelerators, university entrepreneur programs and business plan competitions. Mr. Manasier is heavily involved with regional economic development and recreation programs. He serves as a Saratoga Springs Recreation Commissioner, was recently named to the Saratoga Sports Tourism Commission as Chairman, is President of Saratoga American Little League, a StartUp Weekend organizer and facilitator, NYS Business Plan Competition Judge, a League of Dreams member who in his spare time volunteers as a coach for Saratoga Miss Softball, SALL, Jr. NBA and on multiple Lake Ave BLT PTSO Committees and school board initiatives.

Brian Model
Managing Partner
Stonehenge Growth Equity Partners

Mr. Model is responsible for the overall operations of Stonehenge Growth Equity Partners, including sourcing, underwriting and executing the firm’s growth equity investments. Mr. Model has made investments in twelve growth stage businesses located in New York. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of eHealth Technologies, Lumetrics, iCardiac Technologies (Observer) and Critical Media (Observer). He previously served on the Board of Directors of Knovel Corporation (Observer) (sold to Reed Elsevier) and Medidata Solutions (observer) (NASDAQ: MDSO), Lorica Solutions (Acquired by Xeta Technologies (NASDAQ: PAET) and PixFusion. Mr. Model currently serves as the President of the Upstate Venture Association of New York (UVANY).

Prior to Stonehenge Mr. Model spent twelve years as a retail executive and entrepreneur responsible for both online and physical retail locations throughout the country. He earned a B.A. in Economics from Duke University and an MBA with honors from Columbia Business School.

Les Neumann
Founder & CEO

Les has been intimately engaged with technology based incubation, acceleration, and commercialization since 2005 as the founder and Managing Director of the Hudson Valley Center for Innovation, which is also known as iCANny. iCANny is a partner along with the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering and Saratoga Technology + Energy Park in iCLEAN, the NYSERDA-supported incubator for energy focused technological development and commercialization.

A lifelong entrepreneur, Les has a passion for assisting entrepreneurs and innovators fulfill their entrepreneurial dreams.

Robert Nichols
Senior Vice President & Upstate New York Regional Manager, Business Banking
First Niagara Financial Group

Robert Nichols serves as First Niagara Financial Group’s Upstate New York Regional Manager for Business Banking, the division responsible for managing small and mid-sized commercial client relationships. In this role, Nichols oversees teams in Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo.

Rob began his commercial banking career in 1987, when he completed an 18 month comprehensive management training program in Washington, DC. Rob proceeded with a banking career that has included both line and management positions in Commercial and Industrial Lending, Commercial Real Estate and Municipal and Not-for-Profit Investment Banking. Rob joined First Niagara Bank in 2012, with his first responsibilities including managing the integration of business banking assets related to First Niagara’s acquisition of HSBC’s Upstate NY retail franchise.

Nichols received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University at Albany and his Masters Degree from Union Graduate College. He has also completed employer-sponsored Advanced Leadership and Commercial Lending programs through Babson College and Harvard University.

Rob lives in Voorheesville, New York with his wife Theresa, son Kyle and daughter Alyssa.

Frank Poore
Founder & CEO

Frank is responsible for the company's overall vision, strategy and execution. After founding CommerceHub in 1997, Frank led the company from initial concept through its establishment as an industry leader, selling CommerceHub to Liberty Interactive in 2006. In 2013, Frank returned as CEO to transform CommerceHub from a data logistics company to a merchandising and fulfillment platform. In between, Frank pioneered the use of mobile technology in the music industry, launching successful apps for Kenny Chesney and major music festivals. Prior to CommerceHub, Frank developed one of the first corporate intranets for Nike's World Finance Division. He served as a combat radioman in the U.S. Army, and earned an MBA from the University at Albany. Frank is an avid hockey fan.

Walt Robb
Vantage Management

Walt Robb spent 42 years at GE, one-third as a research engineer, one-third as a research manager, and another third in charge of GE Medical Systems, just as the CT Scanner and MRI systems were revolutionizing the medical x-ray equipment business. While leading the Medical Systems business to world leadership, he was Chairman of National Imaging Industry Council, active on a Wisconsin political finance committee, Vice Chair of the Milwaukee Symphony, on the city’s business council, and a board member of the Milwaukee School of Engineering. Coming back to Schenectady in 1986, to head Corporate Research & Development in no way reduced his community activities, it simply shifted their location.

Retirement in 1993 did make one change; Walt was now free to be active as a mentor, board member, and investor in start-up companies, and over the last 18 years he has helped fund at least 20 new endeavors, with five going public, some acquired, and a few going belly-up, and the others still hoping commercial success is just around the corner. Along with Roger Hull, he co-founded U-Start, Schenectady’s high-tech incubator, and today Walt is a strong proponent of Tech Valley.

Peter Rothberg
Reitler Kailas & Rosenblatt

Peter handles a wide variety of corporate matters, including private equity, venture capital, mergers & acquisitions, capital markets, joint venture and technology commercialization transactions. Peter has represented several merchant banks, buy out and venture funds, as well as their portfolio companies, in these matters, including Dillon Read, D.H. Blair, NeoNet A.B., National Securities Corporation, Enhanced Capital, Adirondack Ventures, Advantage Capital, Stonehenge Capital, HighPeaks Ventures, Edison Ventures, Rho Ventures, Osage Partners, SJF Ventures, Tribeca Venture Partners, First Round Capital, Borealis Ventures and Village Ventures.

During his legal career, Peter has also worked at the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, both in Washington, D.C., and at several of the largest law firms in the United States. He joined the firm in 2011.

Peter is a frequent speaker and panelist on issues related to the venture capital markets and is a frequent guest lecturer on venture capital finance and business organization issues at New York University Stern School of Business and the New York University ITP Program.

Ken Rother
Venture Partner
Cayuga Venture Fund

Ken Rother is a senior executive with more than 30 years of experience. He has a deep understanding of technology, business operations and client management. He has worked in sectors including media, financial services, computer graphics, and telecom. Having successfully been a part of several exits on both the acquired and acquiring side, Ken knows how to grow and manage a company through a successful transition.

Currently, Ken is Entrepreneur in Residence at Launch NY, he is a Venture Partner at Cayuga Venture Fund, works with Wicked Device to expand their business, and is a member of the eLab teaching team at Cornell.

Most recently Ken was Senior Vice President of technology for digital media at Discovery Communications. There he was responsible for all aspects of design and development for the platforms required to support 17 high traffic web sites and several mobile applications.

Previously at Discovery, Ken was responsible for the business and content strategy, programming and operations for a number of Discovery’s key web properties, including; Animal Planet, TreeHugger, Investigation Discovery, Planet Green, and Military Channel. While he lead, the site received a Webby Award for the original video series Dog Park.

Ken came to Discovery in 2007 through the acquisition of the award-winning website,, where he was COO. In that role, Ken oversaw revenue, technology, product, and legal for the fast-growing site.

Prior to this, Ken was CIO/CTO for Bowne Global Solutions (now part of LionBridge), BGS was a US-based company that helped technology companies around the world customize their products for local markets. In this role Ken oversaw two teams - the IT team who developed and managed the infrastructure required to support the business, and the R&D team who developed both client facing solutions and internal tools to streamline business processes and drive down costs.

Ken came to Bowne Global Solutions when Mountain Lake Software, a Toronto-based company he co-founded with two partners, was acquired by New York based Bowne. Mountain Lake helped some of Canada’s largest banks get started on the Internet. There, Ken was responsible for business planning and operations as well as lead partner on a number of key client engagements.

With a deep passion for disruptive technology, early in his career, Ken held various roles as both a developer and manager at Reuters, Toronto Stock Exchange, Alias, and Matrox Electronics.

Ken studied Computer Science at Concordia University in Montreal, but like a few others of that time never completed his degree and just started developing software for a living.

Ken is based in Ithaca with his wife and 2 dogs. His outside interests include skiing, canoeing, and digital electronics. He holds a private pilot license and enjoys flying whenever he can.

Christine Tate
ARC Angel Fund & FundingPost Angels

Christine Tate is an Angel Investor actively involved in early stage/seed investing in the Northeast. She serves on the due diligence committee of the NYC-based ARC Angel Fund and is a member of FundingPost Angels. Christine is active in the Upstate New York startup community as a mentor and event judge and serves as an EIR for RPI. She is involved in the NYC and Philly startup communities in events such as Funding Post, FashInvest and Early Stage East. Christine was an organizer of Startupweekend Tech Valley and a principle in a gaming accelerator and fund based in Troy NY.

Prior to becoming involved in startups, Christine worked for Cargill, Inc. in a variety of executive level positions, including Overseas Business Development based in Asia, Worldwide Audit, Tech and IT Development, and corporate level system and strategic efficiencies. She managed the financial and sales service departments of a $1B telecommunications company and served as Business Development Manager for an Asian manufacturing sourcing company.

Joseph Visalli
Eastern New York Angels

Joe retired from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) in 2007 as a Director of R&D. His overall responsibilities included responsible oversight for technology development and commercialization investments in the areas of renewable energy, transportation, power systems, environmental technology, environmental quality research, and for investments in utility scale projects under the New York Renewable Portfolio Standard.

Joe has a B.S and M.S in Mechanical Engineering from Clarkson University and a PhD in Environmental Engineering from Purdue University. He was a licensed Professional Engineer and a Diplomate in the American Academy of Environmental Engineers.

Michael Wu
Founding Managing Partner
Blue Angel Partners

Michael Wu brings 11 years of experience in venture capital and venture advisory as well as eight years of technology and product management experience in Mobile & Communications. Prior to founding Blue Angel Partners, a seed fund focusing on enabling technologies for “Internet of Things” applications, Michael was a Principal at Chart Venture Partners, a New York-based, early-stage venture fund focusing on dual-use technologies (with both commercial and government applications) in the areas of Mobile & Communications, Energy & Clean Tech, Sensors, Software & Cyber Security, and Advanced Materials. Michael is also a Board Member of Long Island Angel Network, Advisory Board Member of Clean Energy Business Incubator Program at Stony Brook, and mentor for The Cleantech Open, NEXUS-NY, R/GA Connected Devices Accelerator, and PowerBridge NY. Prior to that, Michael founded Blue Angel Ventures, a seed funding and venture advisory firm based in Research Triangle Park, NC and partnered with entrepreneurs in co-founding or turnaround management roles. Prior to entering venture capital, Michael held technology and product management roles at Nortel Networks, Ericsson and Nextel. Michael earned his MBA from Duke University-Fuqua, M.S. in Electrical Engineering and Management of Technology from Georgia Tech, and B.S. with high distinction in Electrical Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Michael is also a registered patent agent.

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