By Clifford Hart
Photo: Courtesy of Hudson Valley Startup Fund
There’s no doubt that the Hudson Valley is an amazingly fertile place, but there are some who dream of a different kind of bounty for the region, one that goes well beyond agriculture. These people have visions for a Hudson Valley that also helps nurture the very best ideas.
The Hudson Valley Startup Fund (HVSF) is a member-managed seed capital fund made up of successful business and community leaders who invest their time and resources to help provide seed funding, mentorship and connections for local entrepreneurs while delivering investment returns to their members. The organization is a catalyst to strengthen the path for entrepreneurs in the region and support a vibrant, thriving local economy.
As big an idea as the HVSF certainly is, the visionaries behind it are surprisingly small in number. Tony DiMarco, a longtime Hudson Valley businessman, conceptualized the fund in 2014 and a year later officially brought it into being with four other founding members: Paul Hakim, a life-long entrepreneur and economic-development advocate; Noa Simons, the executive director of the nonprofit Upstate Capital; Chad Gomes, a management change consultant to global and Fortune 100 companies; and Johnny LeHane, the founder of CLUBWAKA, the industry-leading national social sports company. Together, their talents, experience and networks are the platform for a powerful investor membership of over 40 successful business professionals, executives and entrepreneurs.
Speaking with LeHane about HVSF, one cannot help but be impressed by his passion for the fund, and that would appear to stem more from his love for the Hudson Valley than it does from the potential to make robust returns on the fund’s investments.
“If you think about it, the Hudson Valley has been one of the key birthplaces of American civilization, from early technology like steamships to the art of the Hudson River School painters; it only makes sense that this region should continue to be a phenomenal place to build and grow a business.”
So much like the rich farmland of the region, Johnny and his partners want the Hudson Valley to be equally fertile ground for growing successful businesses. But like any truly healthy ecosystem, they also want those businesses to be as splendidly diverse as they are financially successful.
And to look at the HVSF’s portfolio, you see that diversity plainly: companies involved in everything from freshwater shrimp farming to smartphone applications to skin repair are all benefiting from the funding and advisory services provided by HVSF.
“If we can be a catalyst to making the Hudson Valley the place known for innovative moonshots taking off and soaring,” Johnny said brightly, “we will have fulfilled our mission.”
If you are an investor looking for new opportunities to diversify your portfolio, or you are an entrepreneur and have a business that you feel is scalable, authentic and would like to learn more about how the Hudson Valley Startup Fund can help you, go to HVStartupFund.com. █