When Paul Singh stepped out of his RV into the parking lot of the Koffman Southern Tier Incubator, he definitely wasn’t out of his element. The traveling entrepreneur has visited 107 cities since March 2016, mentoring new businesses and investing in and advising startups.
Singh delivered one of two keynote addresses at the incubator’s inaugural Startup Summit, a celebration of entrepreneurship within the Southern Tier that attracted more than 200 people on May 4. Attendees included local business owners, investors, students and anyone interested in learning about starting a business.
He encouraged the assembled crowd to recognize the role of entrepreneurship in shaping history.
“Technology and entrepreneurship have always been the fundamental drivers of growth,” Singh says. “Five hundred years ago, tech was a printing press and a thousand years ago, tech was a pencil. It’s the job of entrepreneurs to figure out what that next advancement will be and how to package it in a way that impacts peoples’ lives.”
Singh’s speech was just one of myriad events during the Summit, including demonstrations from incubator companies and panels on topics like social entrepreneurship and the personality traits of entrepreneurs.
In the first-floor co-working space, Matt Gill ‘18, founder of Enhance VR, enthusiastically gave demonstrations of his virtual reality simulators to guests. Right next to him, Casey Coolbaugh ‘13 performed live screen printing of T-shirts from his company, Muckles’ Ink. Just one floor above, Brianna Cea ‘18 and Garrett Shor ‘18 presented on Generation Vote, their nonpartisan organization that works to facilitate relationship between young people and the political process.
Also included were two pitch events, where young entrepreneurs and students were invited to test their ideas on a panel of potential investors.
“It was very exciting getting to talk to the investors and present our pitch to them,” says Bar Stern ‘17, whose startup aims to develop and sell specialized pads that prevent ulcers in nursing home populations. “After some people came up to us and showed real interest in what we are doing, it felt very good and validating.”
Dan Mori, director of business incubation at the incubator, said the Summit was a great chance to bring together community members and show them the progress that’s been made at the incubator over the last year.
“For every company that has touched our program in the past year, we [were] trying to highlight them in a way that was most appropriate for them,” Mori says. “The purpose of the event was to inspire entrepreneurship, and also showcase the successes we’ve had and highlight the companies within our program.”
Mori moderated a number of sessions, including the crowded “Fundamentals of Funding” discussion in which investors explained their reasoning when choosing a startup to fund.
Robert Murphy, director of economic development for the city of Binghamton, said the event was just what the Southern Tier needed to continue growing.
“The Startup Summit was definitely a major milestone in igniting the entrepreneurial spirit in this area,” Murphy said.