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Buffalo's roster of incubators grows by one

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Buffalo’s latest business incubator is on the hunt for small tech companies who are long on ideas, but perhaps short on cash, office space and personnel. 

Calling itself Buffalo’s first Internet-focused incubator, Z80 Labs launched Monday with a well-orchestrated launch party featuring the region’s tech elite, as well as Forbes CEO Mike Perlis, and prominent venture capitalist Fred Wilson.

Z80 is the brainchild of some of Buffalo’s richest entrepreneurs who are promising to use their business connections and access to capital to nurture hand-selected startups.

Like most incubators, Z80 offers free perks to its tenets – with a catch.

“For five percent stake in the company, you can come into the incubator. You have access to the facilities, food, coffee, legal, accounting,” says Dan Magnuszewski, the "chief principal innovationist" at Z80. “We’re trying to allow them to focus on building their products and not have to worry.”

New York taxpayers are also kicking in $4 million in the form of an Innovate NY grant. Z80 will use the public funds to boost its most promising clients – but will require a private investment match.

In and out

Once a month, Z80 will invite new tenets. Startups apply by simply submitting a two page executive summary detailing strategy, revenue sources and growth projections. Each company granted access to Z80 will be given a year of residency.

The incubator’s inaugural client, AppVue, has already moved into the sleek red and black upholstered office space. The young company has built software that provides application (app) recommendations based on the suggestions of friends, family and celebrities.

“We think within a year [our clients] should know whether this is going to make it or maybe we need to rethink what we’re doing,” says Magnuszewski.

AppVue aims to create a distinct online service by cutting through the clutter of the hundreds of thousands of apps available.

These lofty goals will apparently be the norm at Z80.

“We’re expecting these companies to come in and not just do well for the Buffalo area but expect to come build companies that can go up on the world stage and take on the best companies and the biggest companies and create new industries,” says Magnuszewski.

All-inclusive incubators give fragile-but-promising new businesses advantages over the competition, which is global, asserts Magnuszewski.

By milking Buffalo’s inherent business advantages, like cheap office space and a thirsty economic climate, the city becomes a player on the startup stage, believe Z80 founders – especially because the venture is backed by deep pockets and not just taxpayer funds, a rarity in the Queen City.

You can follow reporter Daniel Robison on Twitter @robisonrobison.

WBFO/Western New York reporter for the Innovation Trail.
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