By Christine Babin:
It’s no surprise that Keith Blakely, CEO of The InVentures Group (IVG), is busier than ever. As one of Buffalo’s most successful entrepreneurs, Blakely and his associates at IVG have been hard at work helping fellow entrepreneurs navigate the global business landscape.
When you walk into IVG’s offices on the fourth floor of the Innovation Center on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC), you see a wall of logos behind the reception counter. Each logo represents a company that IVG has assisted – and it’s quite full!
While not every company is located in Buffalo, or even in Western New York, there is no doubt that each one contributes significantly to the start-up ecosystem here in Buffalo. Of the more than two dozen companies, several do call the BNMC home – Ceno Technologies, the Jacobs Institute, Medical Acoustics and Advantage Home Telehealth.
Other companies are located across the state and around the globe, such as R3 Fusion, a water purification company in Troy, NY; Graphene Technologies, a nanomaterials company in San Francisco, CA; and Li3 Energy, a lithium-mining company in Chile. Nuenz, Ltd., one of IVG’s newest clients, is a ceramic fibers company based in New Zealand that is looking at WNY as a possible site for their manufacturing operations headquarters.
The global footprint of IVG’s clients speaks volumes about the challenges faced by technology companies in all regions of the world, according to Blakely. While the internet provides unprecedented access to information, customers and technology, the difficulties of transitioning a great idea from an academic setting, an incubator, or even the R&D department of a large corporation to a sustainable commercial enterprise requires more than just the web. A fair amount of business acumen is required, along with the right financial and human capital.
At Soft Bank Capital in NYC
“That was the reason that I decided to go beyond the traditional consulting approach and create an organization that could bring a diverse set of skills, experiences, and resources to each company we work with,” says Blakely. “Our team includes local experts in branding and marketing, engineering and technology, finance and accounting, operations, legal and business development, strategic planning, web and social media, and investment and venture financing. Our projects have been as simple as developing a new website to communicate a company’s message more effectively and as all-encompassing as developing a new manufacturing process and then organizing the complete package – facilities, personnel, investment capital, and customers – to launch a business.”
IVG’s team is comprised of skilled professionals who are also entrepreneurs in their own right, often creating new businesses within the IVG structure. One of the best examples is CrowdBouncer, LLC, headed by IVG’s General Counsel, Bob Carbone. Within a few months of joining IVG, Carbone observed some interesting trends developing in the crowdfunding market. At the time he was working with EquityNet, an IVG client that operates a fundraising platform which was one of the first crowdfunding sites in the US.
With his legal background, Carbone saw a potential problem with both issuers and investors staying in compliance with a new set of Security Exchange Commission (SEC) rules and regulations yet to be formalized. He envisioned a modern-day California Gold Rush, with investors and companies jumping into the crowdfunding approach hoping to score big and raise lots of capital. Seeing the future need for a company that could deliver the necessary regulatory compliance services, Carbone formed CrowdBouncer.
When the SEC approved new rules on July 11th, reference was made to a “third party verification service.” This validated the formation of CrowdBouncer and Carbone’s vision for the company. The challenge now is to raise enough capital to finance the accelerated growth expected for his new venture – a challenge for many companies in WNY and another area the IVG team will be focusing on in the coming months. The SEC’s new regs go into effect in September.
For Blakely, there’s no shortage of projects to work on! He is always looking for the next opportunity to expand IVG’s services and expertise and to help IVG’s clients achieve success. His vision for the entrepreneurial and investment community is expansive as well. No doubt he sees a lot more in store for Western New York!