State launches women-focused investment fund

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New York State is unwrapping a $2 million investment fund to support minority- and women-owned business enterprises.

The MWBE Investment Fund, managed by Rochester-based venture capital firm Excell Partners, will provide early-stage financing to certified minority- and women-owned startups, with a particular focus on high-tech ventures, according to a statement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

The “first-of-its-kind investment fund” will be a big help to a “vitally important part of the state’s economy,” the governor said, noting his administration has long emphasized private-sector diversity.

“This fund will go a long way toward making those gains permanent,” Cuomo said in the statement.

Under the auspices of Empire State Development, Excell Partners will use the equity investment fund to make seed and pre-seed investments that support innovation, job creation and “high-growth entrepreneurship” throughout New York, the release noted, primarily at firms working with advanced materials, clean technologies, life sciences and medical devices.

Buffalo businessman Howard Zemsky, whom Cuomo appointed commissioner of Empire State Development in January, said Excell Partners was an excellent choice to manage a fund that will provide “targeted assistance” to minority- and women-owned businesses.

“Excell Partners has proven track record of investing in pre-seed stage, high-tech startup companies to help them grow and succeed,” Zemsky said.

Theresa Mazzullo, Excell Partners’ chief executive, said her VC firm was “proud to have been chosen to manage this important fund.”

“I applaud Gov. Cuomo for establishing an investment fund focused on minority and women owners of high-tech growth companies,” Mazzullo said in a separate statement.

The MWBE Investment Fund is a part of the $100 million New York State Innovation Venture Capital Fund, which Cuomo established in December to help entrepreneurs transition from research to marketplace and to incentivize them to keep their businesses in the Empire State.

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