IDEAcuse | February 4, 2014

An Entrepreneurial Revolution in Upstate New York


Author’s Note: This is a guest post by Sinclair Schuller, the CEO of Apprenda, the Upstate New York startup that has been all over the news lately for their latest funding round. Sinclair will also be a guest on the February 12th #IDEAchatCNY. After reading this post, I can’t wait to hear what he has to say in his #IDEAchatCNY.

So, you want to launch a startup? Maybe you’re fascinated by the David v. Goliathnarrative, or you heard about a major corporation buying a small vendor for hundreds of millions of dollars and think to yourself “that sounds cool!” Or maybe you see a problem and want to solve it. Regardless, you have the drive, and you want to hit the road.

The first step to creating a startup is realizing the advantage it offers you — a topic I don’t see discussed often enough. Startups are never held hostage by legacyanything. A startup has a vision for the future, with an eye to what will be needed rather than an embrace for the status quo. You realize this; otherwise you wouldn’t be doing what you are doing. And you know what? The best thing you can do is look around at where you are, because upstate New York is a perfect location to take the next step.

Upstate New York is no stranger to innovation and disruption

In upstate New York you are surrounded by vestiges of the industrial revolution. A quick Google search will turn up industrial roots in most major cities around you.Troy was once the second-largest producer of iron in the country behind Pittsburg, and Lansingburg was the first village in the state to have been incorporated.Syracuse is thick in innovation, too. Look no further than this statement from historian Franklin Chase, “In truth, Syracuse manufactured more different articles numerically than even NYC itself.”  Does this speak to a startup? No, but it speaks to history, and that’s what we want to make, isn’t it?

There’s a perception that you can only build a company in NYC, Silicon Valley or Boston. But, like I told Forbes in December, being an enterprise software company outside of those areas gives us the advantage of forcing investors to focus on the viability of our business, not the vanity of our location. It was hard in the beginning to raise money, but it wasn’t impossible; ultimately, this makes us more diligent about presenting the facts and how successful we can be.

Everything you need at your doorstep

The quality of life and cost of living are amazing in upstate New York, and there are fewer distractions. When you go to the Valley, you can go to any Starbucks and hear about the next big thing, causing you to lose focus and patience for what you’re working on today. Being in Troy and not having all that noise enables you to focus on the opportunity.

You need the right team around you, too. In business partners and employees, I most value raw intelligence and work ethic. People can come from totally different backgrounds, but if they’re smart and willing to learn, they will excel. I talked to Inc.not too long ago and the advice I shared still holds true — it’s important to find out what people like outside of work. Look for people who enjoy doing things off the beaten path, because that’s an indication of their interests and how their minds work.

Leaders offer vision and passion

The most effective leaders have the ability to get people to want to follow them, and I can’t stress that enough. When you get people excited about what they do, they want to go where you’re going and the quality of their work is much better. This is what fueled the original industrial revolution — a vision of the future. Upstate has it, so don’t be afraid to take advantage of it.

About Sinclair

Sinclair Schuller is the CEO of Apprenda. With his two co-founders, Apprenda has secured $32 million in venture capital from funds NEA, Ignition Partners, High Peak Ventures and Safeguard Scientifics to deliver private and public Platform as a Service (PaaS) to enterprise developers. Apprenda is the best way for enterprises to develop and deliver next-generation applications or modernize existing applications for the cloud. Sinclair serves on multiple venture networks and speaks nationally on the topics of enterprise IT efficiency, cloud computing and next generation enterprise architectures. Before Apprenda, Sinclair held positions at Morgan Stanley, Eden Communications, and consulted for the State University of New York’s (SUNY) vast IT systems. Sinclair holds dual Bachelor of Science degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.