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Launch NY highlighting diverse founders with investment opportunity | Business Local

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Buffalo Next

Launch NY highlighting diverse founders in latest investment round

Startup investors will have the opportunity to support three local companies led by diverse founders for as little as $5,000.

During the month of June and into July, accredited investors can invest in AireXpert, Arbol and CaHill Tech through Launch NY’s online investor network.

Launch NY is a Buffalo-based startup incubator that supports early stage companies across Upstate New York by providing them with access to capital and free mentoring. The organization hosts an online platform for investors where they can research companies, review company pitches and invest, while Launch NY staff manages the investments.

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To join Launch NY’s network, investors must be accredited, meaning they need to have at least $1 million in assets, excluding their home, or have earned at least $200,000 annually for the past two years as a single person or $300,000 as a married couple.

Nationally, Black and women founders combined receive less than 3% of all venture capital. Launch NY is highlighting these companies in an effort to close that funding gap. 

“At a time when it’s so important to lift up our community, we know investors, just like our organization, want to connect with opportunities to support all startups, but especially those who are typically overlooked by the usual sources of venture capital in our region,” Launch NY President and CEO Marnie LaVigne said. 

Of the companies in Launch NY’s portfolio, more than 40% are led by a woman or have a Black person, Indigenous person or person of color as a founder. Many of those companies are part of Launch NY’s diversity, equity and inclusion program, Founders Go Big, which started in 2020. 

More about the featured companies:

AireXpert is a digital platform that enables airlines to manage unscheduled aircraft maintenance more efficiently by streamlining the process, leading to shorter passenger delays.  

The Buffalo-based company was founded by Andy Hakes, a Black man with more than three decades of experience in the aviation industry. 







AireXpert

Andy Hakes is the founder and CEO of AireXpert, and up-and-coming Buffalo-based startup that has created a digital platform to facilitate workflow and communications for the aircraft maintenance industry. The system enables airlines to control and manage unscheduled aircraft maintenance in a more efficient way, which significantly reduces potential for flight delays or cancellations.




Hakes describes his platform as “Slack on steroids,” and it can be used throughout the maintenance process, from the time the plane breaks to the time it is fixed and back in the air.

Mechanics on-site at the airport use AireXpert’s platform to communicate with the airline’s technical support center, which is usually located in another city. The mechanics have the AireXpert app on their phones or tablets, and the technical support center has the platform up on their computer screens. The different parties can then all work together to solve the problem and get the plane flying again. 

AireXpert received $125,000 in funding from Launch NY in February. Whatever money is raised from investors as a result of this opportunity will go toward hiring more employees, software development and marketing, Hakes said. 

“We’ve got very strong support from a few airlines, so the money that we raise is going directly into things that will get a return in a very short amount of time,” he said. 

Arbol was founded by two first-generation Latino college students who personally experienced how difficult it can be for those in school to cover their expenses. 

Arbol helps low-income students stay in school and graduate by providing them with microgrants to pay for non-tuition expenses. Arbol also helps students create a budget and connects them to a community of mentors and supporters. 

The student grants are funded through donations, of which Arbol takes 12% for operations costs. 

Arbol is part of Launch NY’s Founders Go Big program, and previously received $60,000 from the organization, co-founder David Gonzalez said.  

Gonzalez and co-founder Favio Osorio are working to raise $500,000 to keep growing their company and are hopeful this opportunity with Launch NY will help them get there. With the funds, they plan to hire more staff, especially on the student support side, and upgrade their platform. 

“We definitely believe that we have a great business that is leading with impact,” Osorio said. “We have a wonderful opportunity to continue to grow the business, especially if we continue to gather around more and more people that believe in our vision, and I think we’re going to find people that follow that vision within this group of investors.”

CaHill Tech is targeting the next generation of construction workers by offering skills and safety training through a smartphone app. 

CaHill Tech’s aQuiRe app contains thousands of videos on everything from how to read a tape measure correctly to how to pour concrete. The videos are shot on job sites and feature workers with years of experience sharing their knowledge with new workers.  

To continue growing CaHill Tech, founder Carley Hill – one of the few women leaders in the construction industry – wants to make her app as accessible as possible, especially to those in marginalized communities. 

Hill believes her app is the perfect platform to provide people with job readiness training, and is targeting populations such as immigrants and refugees, military veterans, people who were formerly incarcerated and young adults looking to start their careers. 

The funds raised from Launch NY investors will help her do that. 







CaHill Tech

CaHill Tech is a local startup company that has an app called aQuiRe, which is used by construction companies to help train workers and improve safety. CEO Carley Hill in her office shows the app’s home screen.




“The social impact agenda that we have as a company with our mission is something that (these investments are) going to help make possible,” Hill said. 

Hill also plans to hire a chief operating officer for CaHill Tech in the near future. 

CaHill Tech is part of Launch NY’s Founders Go Big program and has received investments previously from the organization. 

Want to know more? Two stories to catch you up:

• Wilson Foundation gives $3 million to Buffalo startup incubator Launch NY

• Buffalo angel investors want to see the region prosper – even if they never get their money back

Welcome to Buffalo Next. This newsletter from The Buffalo News will bring you the latest coverage on the changing Buffalo Niagara economy – from real estate to health care to startups. Read more at BuffaloNext.com.

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As Erie Community College works on its 2022-23 budget, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, in a letter to county legislators, warned that ECC has “one additional year of breathing room left” to make cost-cutting reforms or face dire consequences.

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Former 43North-winning housing startup Whose Your Landlord has pledged to donate $19,000 to Black-led nonprofit community organizations across the country in honor of Juneteenth.

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Five reads from Buffalo Next:

1. Nursing homes can’t retain caregivers. Could career ladder programs be a solution?Perhaps paid training programs, which help employees advance their careers, make more money and provide better care, can help chip away at the staffing crisis in the nursing home industry.

2. A new build for Tops on East Side would have taken ‘years’: Renovating the Jefferson Avenue store will allow Tops to reopen it by the end of July, while building a new store would take years. That timeline is a major reason behind the company’s decision to reopen, rather than rebuild, the location.

3. 43North aiming to attract high-growth companies to the region: Sam Eder moved to Buffalo from Austin, Texas, in January after his company Big Wheelbarrow won the 43North startup contest. Stipulating winning companies set up shop in Buffalo for at least a year is an important aspect of 43North’s mission.  

4. Rachel’s Mediterranean Grill expands beyond Buffalo home: Rachel’s has made it big in Western New York, and the family-owned business is now trying to expand the concept down the Thruway in New York and in larger markets such as Fort Worth, Texas.

5. Head of Delaware North restaurant group sees big changes unfolding: Dana Pellicano is stepping into the role amid challenges for the restaurant and catering industries.

The Buffalo Next team gives you the big picture on the region’s economic revitalization. Email tips to buffalonext@buffnews.com or reach technology and startups reporter Natalie Brophy at nbrophy@buffnews.com

Email tips to buffalonext@buffnews.com.

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