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.
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.
“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.
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