Launch NY’s seed fund passes $5M mark, and local startups stand to benefit

By Dan Miner
Buffalo Business First

Marnie LaVigne
Marnie LaVigne, Launch NY president and CEO

Launch NY has officially stopped raising money for its limited-partner seed fund, closing the investment vehicle in late September after contributions surpassed $5.4 million.

The money will be spent over the next decade seeding startups in western and central New York. It also solidifies Launch NY’s place as a formidable startup investor throughout New York state, where its scope and spending power has few rivals.

“The real impact here is to grow the investment community to be a natural resource just like any other asset in the region,” said Marnie LaVigne, Launch NY president and CEO. “We have a dearth of people right now who are risk tolerant to go into these real seed-stage companies.”

Launch NY also has a nonprofit fund capitalized by philanthropy and grants, and it runs an investor network that gives accredited individuals a chance to contribute to its deals.

The firm’s LP fund included contributions from more than 70 people, the majority of whom are from Western New York. Its lead investor is LISC WNY.

The first close of the fund happened in February 2019, and Launch NY has already invested nearly $900,000 out of its LP fund.

To qualify for an investment, companies must engage with Launch NY’s mentoring for at least three months. LaVigne said the company has more than 200 clients in its pipeline, part of a general maturation in startup investment activities in the region.

“We see the quality of deals going up as entrepreneurship has come to the forefront,” LaVigne said. In the meantime, "the pandemic has created more desire among those with the means to use their money in a way where they can see the evidence in their own backyard.”

This article originally appeared in Buffalo Business First.