Article provided by the Allegany County Office of Development
Local leaders from Allegany County government, ACCORD Corporation, Alfred State College, Alfred University, Houghton College, IncubatorWorks and the Western New York Incubator Network (WIN), announced Monday that they will jointly host the inaugural Startup Allegany Collegiate Competition on April 3, 4, and 5. This innovative, collaborative event invites students from all three colleges, and all disciplines, to participate in an entrepreneurial-focused event that seeks to develop creative solutions to real-world challenges. The weekend will bring together students, local and regional government officials, and representatives from some of the region’s leading employers.
Kicking off on the evening of Friday, April 3, students will be welcomed to Alfred University’s Knight Club with an opening banquet dinner and addressed by higher education administrators. Following opening remarks, students will form cross-institutional, cross-disciplinary teams to work on solving a problem that faces them – this year’s challenge focuses on the issue of sustainability - meeting today’s needs without compromising tomorrow’s resources. For the next day and a half the students will work on teams, with guidance from mentors, to develop an entrepreneurial solution to the problem they identify and prepare a pitch presentation. The event will wrap up on Sunday, April 5, when the student teams pitch their ideas to a panel of judges and a winning team is selected.
Over the course of the past several months, local leaders from Allegany County, ACCORD, Alfred State College, Alfred University, Houghton College, IncubatorWorks, and WIN, have met frequently to discuss stimulating entrepreneurial activity and nurturing talent in Allegany County. The group has dubbed itself ‘Startup Allegany’ – a fitting moniker for a collaborative group that’s singularly focused on building a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem and supporting start-up businesses in Allegany County. The county-wide student business competition is an extension of those efforts and an enticing way to identify and encourage young entrepreneurs.
First-year Alfred University Assistant Professor of Finance, Dr. Jason Morrison, who is himself an entrepreneur, faculty advisor to the freshly re-started Entrepreneurs Club at the University, and member of Startup Allegany, believes competitions encourage students of all disciplines to think creatively.
"Entrepreneurship is a collaborative effort, and with the support and mentorship that we seek to provide our students, we believe that the potential growth and development of not only their own brands but that of the local community will be greatly improved,” said Morrison. “This competition is the first step towards empowering the students and the community together, and we hope to have many more successful events in the future.”
Dr. Craig Clark, Vice President of Economic Development at Alfred State College and Executive Director of the Allegany County IDA, thinks this competition is a good first step in identifying entrepreneurs of future startup businesses in Allegany County and getting them the support they need early on.
“Allegany County has had the pieces of a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem in place for a number of years – between the three colleges, IncubatorWorks, ACCORD, and the County – but with this collaboration through Startup Allegany, we’re able to harness the synergy of all the players working together,” said Clark. “Individually, we’ve all been thinking about this problem of how to identify entrepreneurial talent and business ideas among our significant student population; this cross- county competition is a good step to doing just that. The next step is then showing these students that might be inclined to start their own business the benefits, like low startup costs, and incentives available to them right here in Allegany County, so that they’ll consider staying here and starting their business here upon graduating.”
After obtaining grant funding to serve Allegany County from their Alfred facility, non-profit IncubatorWorks began reaching out to community groups to find entrepreneurs, encourage them, and help them launch or grow their new business. Clients can rent below market lab or office space or take advantage of the ‘virtual’ mentoring, as it is no longer necessary to be a tenant to benefit from this free service. Working with the Startup Allegany members, they began to work more closely with the County’s colleges to identify ways to engage student entrepreneurs. The efforts of IncubatorWorks staff have been the driving force behind the establishment of the Startup Allegany and the creation of the Startup Allegany Collegiate Competition.
Nancy Kirby, Executive Director of IncubatorWorks, believes the student pitch competition will be a great catalyst toward entrepreneurial development in the region. She stated, “We have numerous successful entrepreneurs in our region, many of them alumni of our three schools of higher education. We will pull from this pool of talent and expertise to serve as coaches and judges; which will help create mentor connections and will also drive home the point that you don’t have to be in Silicon Valley to be a successful Startup! Additionally, by bringing in some of our incubator network resources, we hope students realize that world-class assistance is in place and available to support them on their Startup journey.”
Organizers are hopeful that this year’s competition will attract some significant student interest, as they hope to develop the Startup Allegany Collegiate Competition into an annual event, with each college taking a turn at hosting the event.