Entrepreneurship and Rochester’s post-COVID recovery

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In a post-pandemic recovery, can a focus on entrepreneurship become an asset for the region? How can Rochester attract innovators to view this area as their home? 

Answers to these questions will be part of a discussion co-presented by the Rochester Beacon and NextCorps in a June 24 event titled “How Can Rochester Become a Hub for Entrepreneurs?”

Rochester’s bedrock of entrepreneurship and innovation has enabled its transition from a manufacturing-based economy dominated by the Big Three to a knowledge-based economy with a highly-educated workforce and research centers of excellence. 

The community also has long had an affordability edge. Now, with the migration of tech workers away from the nation’s largest cities—which began before the pandemic but has accelerated with the pivot to remote work—Rochester may have a unique opportunity to become a tech entrepreneurship hub.

In addition to supporting homegrown startups, the region can attract and retain tech startups and growth companies. Some models are already at work—like the Luminate NY accelerator that draws entrepreneurs in the fields of optics, photonics and imaging. Other efforts include R2i, which looks to connect Israeli startups with local organizations.

The June 24 event—from noon to 1 p.m., live on Zoom—is free to attend, but registration is required. Hear from three experts:

■ Sujatha Ramanujan is managing director of Luminate NY, a global accelerator for startups in optics, photonics and imaging technologies. Luminate has successfully attracted attention from fledgling companies from around the globe, which spend time in Rochester and establish relationships with local companies.

■ Rami Katz, chief operating officer of Excell Ventures, has been promoting the strengths of the region for several years. Most recently through a multi-stakeholder initiative called R2i, Katz and others worked to connect Israeli startups and local organizations. The virtual exchange was an effort to marry Israel’s strengths in digital health with Rochester’s expertise in health care. 

■ Nish Sonwalkar is CEO of SunDensity, which relocated to Rochester to expand manufacturing and operations. The photonics startup won the top prize—$1 million—and was named Company of the Year at the culminating event for Luminate NY’s third cohort.

The discussion will be moderated by Alex Zapesochny, Rochester Beacon publisher, who co-founded iCardiac Technologies and Clerio Vision.

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