Slivers Of Hope

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Fast Growth, Hiring Binges, Millions In Funding: Buffalo-Based Startups Offer Slivers Of Hope

By Dan Miner  | May 17, 2020

The economic shutdowns caused by Covid-19 have been devastating, but they’re also been a chance for resilient entrepreneurs to enact new strategies and continue pushing for growth.

Here are some examples from Buffalo.

Empodio begins to mature

Not even Covid-19 can slow the growth of Field Service Lightning, a Salesforce product that helps field workers track their schedules.

It’s a good thing Buffalo has a startup that specializes in Field Service consultation.

Launched last year by Buffalo residents David Longhini and Alex Scalzo, Empodio’s business has tripled since it launched in June 2019 to this May.

Their prescient decision to focus on medical testing equipment has kept them from industry-specific slowdowns, such as food service, Longhini said. Meanwhile, the Field Service industry in general is booming.

Empodio just hired its fourth employee and plans to add two more in the coming months. The company was also accepted into the Start-Up NY program and expects to move its office to the d!g space on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus when they’re allowed.

“We’re excited to be surrounded by a growing brain trust of startup talent in that corridor,” Longhini said. He added: “We’ll be using the next three months of planned business to onboard and train our new employees and really refine our processes before making plans to scale further through the end of the year.

Hiring binge continues at Conversion Monster

Conversion Monster is preparing to integrate with a large real estate brokerage and is anticipating prominent growth.

The Buffalo-based startup hired 10 people in the past month, anticipates another 10 before the end of May and will continue to staff up throughout the summer, co-founder Dave Carr said.

Conversion Monster uses software to manage internet-based real estate leads, nurturing that funnel until they are ready to start actively buying or selling a house, when it hands the process over to local agents.

Femi focused on Wegmans

Davielle Jackson continues her search for a production space in Buffalo.

But in the meantime, the founder and CEO of Femi Secrets has some good news to share on the retail front.

Femi Secrets’ signature Pretty Panty product – a disposable underwear/pad for women during their menstrual cycle – will be available in Wegmans’ stores.

The company is reentering retail after pivoting away from bricks-and-mortar sales to focus on e-commerce. Now Jackson says the business model has matured to the point that one channel can support another.

“When the pandemic hit our sales soared through the roof because people were looking for trusted feminine hygiene products,” Jackson said. “We believe that instead of just staying out of retail, we think it can work together with e-commerce.”

Femi Secrets came to Buffalo in 2018 after winning $500,000 in the 43North competition. Jackson said she now splits her time between Atlanta and Western New York.

CleanFiber raises more funding

CleanFiber raised $2.9 million in private funding in March to support expansion of its operations at its 60,000-square-foot factory in Lackawanna, where it turns recycled cardboard into building insulation.

The company is led by founder and CEO Jonathan Strimling. It came to Buffalo in 2017 after winning an award in the 43North business competition.

At full capacity, the company expects to produce about three million bags of insulation each year and have between 30 to 35 full-time employees.

CleanFiber is the fifth local startup to acknowledge a growth-oriented round of private capital this year. Others include CleanSlate ($7 million), SparkCharge ($3.3 million) and Circuit Clinical ($2.2 million) and Foodnerd ($2 million).

Buffalo Automation CEO thinks tech can help

Buffalo Automation is known for its nautical navigation software, which helps captains steer their ships and could someday power autonomous boats.

But the company’s deep bench of engineering talent has a coronavirus-related solution it is hoping to pilot with a local healthcare entity.

CEO Thiru Vikram says his company has developed thermal imaging software that can be used with off-the-shelf cameras, and can scan the skin temperature of multiple people at once.

“For now, we are looking for health-care providers who can help validate since temperature is taken using proven methods once the patient is inside the facility for diagnostics,” Vikram said. “We are looking for a pilot that can help us prove that Bifrost is as accurate as traditional temperature measurement in a clinical setting.”

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