A decade ago, few could predict whether the efforts to make Buffalo a vibrant startup community would work. Many of us believed it could, but we knew there was a long way to go. We met in coffee shops and people’s kitchens. Places like Cowork Buffalo were just taking hold. There was optimism and hope that Buffalo had the foundation—and more importantly, the people—to create sustainable economic growth. I was lucky enough to stumble into this group and contribute to something I believed in deeply.

A decade ago, New York State and the Brookings Institute announced the “Buffalo Billion,” which included a small piece of funding for the largest business idea competition in the U.S.: “The Buffalo Breakthrough Business Challenge,” or B3C. We know it today as 43North.

A decade later, I’m now considered a “veteran” in our startup community, which seems a bit surreal. Colligan Law has, in many ways, grown alongside Buffalo’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. It’s impossible to reflect on our own growth and not see the parallels to our region’s startup culture.

By most accounts, it takes 20 years to turn around an economy like Buffalo’s, but 10 years seems like a good point to check our progress…

This year, Buffalo was named one of the five fastest-growing startup cities by York IE, with an increase in venture funding of 234% in Q4 of 2021. ACV Auctions now employs over 2,000 people—and it’s no longer our only significant success story. Companies like Kangarootime, Circuit Clinical, Helixintel and Verivend are raising millions of dollars and contributing to that growth and progress.

Meanwhile, our nonprofit and support organizations also continue to grow. UB’s iHUB launched a cultivator and accelerator program. “EforAll Buffalo” was formed to bring entrepreneurial training to area small businesses. 43North now has a foundation and, after ACV’s successful IPO, seems well-poised to continue its operations for the foreseeable future—an uncertainty even a few years ago. Seneca One has seen a complete transformation and is now the epicenter for much of our startup and tech scene; and, after a two-year COVID hiatus, events like Startup Weekend are happening again—in-person!

Add to all of this Buffalo’s recent addition of Bitwise, a firm which supports workers of diverse and low-income backgrounds as they gain the skills needed for high-paying tech jobs.

The investment community, a key piece of any startup ecosystem, is also growing. The Buffalo Angels are eyeing their third fund. LaunchNY continues to raise money and deploy capital. And perhaps the best indicator of all? WNY startup veterans are now investing in a whole new generation of companies and founders. Our successes to date are now supporting an entirely new wave of growth.

“Growth begets growth” is what many of us were told 10 years ago; that if Buffalo could get a few wins, those would exponentially impact the community and result in further progress. Looking back, this is clearly happening. The success of ACV Auctions alone has had a ripple effect, as founders and employees start their own companies and invest in new startups and innovators.

A decade ago, I could quickly rattle off the key players supporting Buffalo’s startup scene, along with the companies to keep an eye on. Now, I can barely keep up. There’s a certain amount of pride this brings—and should bring—to everyone who has contributed to this point.

Objectively, there’s a lot to be optimistic about. We’ve come so far, with so many people’s support. And sure, Buffalo still has a way to go. The successes we’ve seen to date cannot be taken for granted. But there’s no denying how far we’ve come. Colligan Law is proud to have been part of this and looks forward to continuing to help fuel this momentum. 

Our firm is built on a spirit of entrepreneurship. It embodies who we are.