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43North's Inaugural Alumni Summit: Building Bonds Beyond Buffalo

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At the end of October, 43North hosted its inaugural Alumni Summit in Buffalo, NY. The two-day event gathered over 35 alumni founders from nearly 30 of 43North’s portfolio companies for multiple days of programming, networking, and of course, Buffalo football.

How does a startup accelerator engage and support its portfolio companies after they leave the program and potentially the area? Mentorship, connections, and community. Knowing the pain points of our founders, we strategically delivered programming and speakers to offer valuable insights and takeaways for both the current cohort founders and those who graduated nearly a decade ago.  Here’s a peek into the programming and speakers we had lined up for these alumni and why we felt it was important:

Welcome Remarks and Lunch

We kicked the summit off with programming designed to welcome everyone and give them time to reconnect with each other. 43North President Colleen Heidinger, who has been with the organization since its inception, joined in the reunion as we welcomed alumni to 43North’s new office space in the Seneca One tower.

Guest Speakers

Due to the size of the event, we leaned on our partners at M&T Bank to host our panel series in the M&T Tech Academy here in the tower. Our first speaker was Prab Singh of Armory Square Ventures. Prab shared insights and frameworks around building effective teams, dove into the current VC psychology, and answered questions regarding what investors are looking for in the current VC landscape.

To build upon this momentum, we also asked four of our alumni to speak. From former founders of exited portfolio companies to those now on the investor side – in Buffalo and beyond – these informal conversations led to a greater understanding and rapport among our alumni. 

A Break for Buffalo Wings

As anyone will tell you – no trip to Buffalo is complete without some of our namesake wings. As we took a quick intermission, we made sure everyone got a taste of home. Besides, nothing bonds a group faster than making eye contact while your face is covered in delicious wing sauce.

43North Remarks & Reminders

As we wrapped up the formal daytime programming, the 43North team took a moment to remind our alumni that we’re still available as an extension of their teams.. Christian Gaddis, Director of Forge Buffalo, spoke to the alumni about how Forge is still very much a tool they can utilize for their hiring and recruiting needs. Dominic Costanzo, 43North’s VP of Portfolio, reminded everyone that our team is still here to help (and not just here to request quarterly reporting!) We believe that with any good accelerator program, your relationship with the organization and its staff shouldn’t end at the conclusion of your cohort year. 

Let’s Go Buffalo!

To round out this day, we took the alumni to an unforgettable experience at a Buffalo Bills home game. From tailgating in a parking lot to watching the team bring home the win, it was an unforgettable experience and gave everyone a chance to really let their guard down. Have you really experienced (or re-experienced) a city until you’ve immersed yourself in stadium bench seating, surrounded by locals, screaming football chants and cheers? We were thrilled to share with folks just what makes this city so special and the “city of good neighbors.”

Farewell Brunch

On our final morning, we branched out from Seneca One Towers to show alumni the new office space of Y4 portfolio company Kangarootime. Founder Scott Wayman welcomed everyone to a farewell brunch, and local investor and former ACV Auctions (Y2) co-founder Jack Greco spoke with alumni about his work as an operator-turned-investor focusing on the local ecosystem.

We wrapped up the day with a tour of the newly renovated Buffalo AKG Art Museum, where we heard about the space’s new focus on innovation and community building. Then, everyone was off to their respective home bases – Buffalo or otherwise. 

Looking Forward to 2024

It was an incredible two days of reconnecting with alumni and reiterating that we at 43North – as well as the city of Buffalo – are still here as resources for their companies. Some founders have already reached out wanting to host their company off-sites back in Buffalo, and we’re looking forward to finding new ways to stay in touch with our alumni through LinkedIn groups, Slack channels, and more!

We look forward to seeing everyone back in Buffalo for 43North Finals in 2024 and to celebrate the program’s 10th Anniversary!


Tags: Alumni Summit

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