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2013 Capital Region Semifinal Competition Judges
The 2013 New York Business Plan Competition is pleased to introduce the investors that will be evaluating the 29 teams competing in the Capital Region Semifinal 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.
  • Mark Austin, Venture Partner, Bright Capital
  • Clayton Besch, Director, Small Business Technology Investment Fund, Empire State Development
  • Peter Cosgrove, Upstate New York Regional President & Senior Director, Commercial Banking, First Niagara Financial Group
  • James Groelinger, Managing Director, Bellegrove Associates
  • David Hessler, Investor, Rochester Angel Network
  • Reid Hutchins, Senior Vice President, Advantage Capital Partners
  • J. Peter Lynch, President, Salem Financial
  • Robert Manasier, Managing Director, Diamond Point Advisory Group
  • Walt Robb, President, Vantage Management
  • Michael Shimazu, Senior Project Manager, Innovation and Business Development, NYSERDA
  • Christine Tate, Investor, ARC Angel Fund
Mark Austin
Venture Partner
Bright Capital

Mark Austin is a senior venture advisor, strategic development consultant, serial entrepreneur and seasoned executive with over 25 years of experience. For the last 15 years, as Managing Director of Chandler Reed LLC, he has provided insight with implementation to the CEOs, Boards and Senior Management of his clients. 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. He serves as a Venture Partner with Bright Capital, a Board Advisor with iCLEAN, and an Entrepreneur-In-Residence with NYSERDA.

Mr. Austin creates impact to accelerate growth, boost profitability and realize value for cleantech, alternative energy and technology-based companies. Focusing on core drivers of strategy, marketing, finance, business planning, technology commercialization and intellectual property, he helps ventures and growth companies get traction, build momentum and secure sustainable competitive advantage. 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. Clients have ranged 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.

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

Raised in the Capital Region, Clayton 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. Clayton is currently the Director of New York State’s Small Business Technology Investment Fund.

Peter Cosgrove
Upstate New York Regional President & Senior Director, Commercial Banking
First Niagara Financial Group

Peter K. Cosgrove serves as First Niagara Financial Group’s Upstate New York Regional President, leading the company’s commercial bankers across Upstate New York. In this role, Peter leads both Middle Market and Business Banking teams across the upstate footprint with teams located in Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo. Peter has led the C&I lending teams since 2006, and in 2011 was also named the Regional President for First Niagara’s Upstate New York market. Peter serves on the bank’s senior loan committee and is also a board member of the First Niagara Charitable Foundation.

Peter has experience across a wide range of C&I businesses, including small, medium and large business segments. Peter has past and current experience with small business financing given his past and current board memberships with the Empire State Certified Development Company (ESCDC) and the New York Business Development Company (NYBDC). Peter has worked in commercial banking in Upstate New York for over 30 years and is currently responsible for a commercial portfolio of over $2.8 Billion spread across Upstate New York.

Peter received his B.A. in Economics from St. Lawrence University and his MBA from the University at Albany. He has been active in community and business groups his entire career, and was recently named to the board of the New York Business Development Corporation.

James Groelinger
Managing Director
Bellegrove Associates

Mr. James F. Groelinger is an international energy expert who focuses on business and technology development and commercialization. Currently, he is:
  • Executive Director of the Clean Energy Alliance, a national association of clean energy business incubators and related companies focused on providing practices and resources to its members;
  • Managing Director of Bellegrove Associates, a consulting firm providing strategy and transaction advisory services in the clean and renewable energy arenas; and
  • Director, InterCore Energy, Inc., a publicly-traded company focused on operations and investments in the area of automotive technology development.

Previously, he was CEO and President of EPV Solar, Inc., a solar energy technology company that designed, manufactured, and sold amorphous silicon (“a-Si”) thin-film photovoltaic (“PV”) modules and manufacturing facilities for power and BIPV applications. Earlier, he was Senior Vice President for business development for CHI Energy, Inc., a renewable energy company operating in hydroelectricity, biomass cogeneration, wind, and solar. Earlier he was a director of Putnam, Hayes & Bartlett, Inc., an international energy strategy firm at which he was involved in numerous activities related to energy and electric industry strategy and restructuring around the world.

Mr. Groelinger started his career as a process engineer for Monsanto Company. He has a BChE from City College of New York and an MBA-Finance from Temple University.

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.

Reid Hutchins
Senior Vice President
Advantage Capital Partners

Mr. Hutchins manages Advantage Capital's New York investment portfolio. His responsibilities include sourcing and structuring new investments, as well as working with current portfolio companies. He currently sits on the Board of the Upstate Venture Association of New York (UVANY).

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

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.

J. Peter Lynch
Salem Financial

Mr. Lynch has worked, for 36 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
Managing Director
Diamond Point Advisory Group

Robert Manasier is currently Founder and President of a suite of firms focused on creating and providing solutions for finance/capital raises (Diamond Point Advisory Group), media creation (IFP Films), and branded business development (In Focus Brands) for businesses and entrepreneurs. With involvement in over 80 startups internationally and numerous Fortune 500 engagements, Mr. Manasier has developed a collaborative culture of doing that is focused on Ideas to Action; Action to Revenue. To be of service to his clients while building great teams and brands that do the right thing for their clients, themselves, and their communities is the guiding principle of all these initiatives.

Mr. Manasier has been recognized with multiple awards for marketing excellence, media programming and brand building while being heavily involved with youth sports programs including: Saratoga American Little League (President), Jr. NBA (Coach of the Year), Saratoga Miss Softball and League of Dreams, and as an organizer/sponsor/coach for StartUp Weekend Saratoga.

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.

Michael Shimazu
Senior Project Manager, Innovation and Business Development

Michael Shimazu manages several Innovation and Business Development programs at the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, including NYSERDA’s clean energy business incubators, entrepreneurs-in-residence, and investor outreach programs. He has more than 25 years experience in technology commercialization at the intersection of startup companies, universities and government. Before arriving at NYSERDA four years ago, he advised several technology startups as a consultant with Industrial Physics Group and as Business Development Director at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Prior to this, he was a co-founder and corporate officer at Molecular OptoElectronics Corp., a venture-backed optical components company where he launched several profitable new products. He holds the S.B. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and M.S. from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Christine Tate
ARC Angel Fund

Christine Tate is an Angel Investor in the ARC Angel Fund, which is actively involved in early stage and seed investing. She is CFO of the GrandSlam Alley business accelerator based in Troy, NY as well as GP in the GrandSlam Accelerator Fund. She serves on the due diligence committee of the NYC-based ARC Angel Fund and is active in the Upstate New York startup community. She serves as a judge for several pitch events in Upstate NY. Christine is an organizer of Startup Weekend Tech Valley. She is also in the early stages of her own start-up based in the Capital District. Prior to becoming involved in early stage investing, 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.
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