Sentient Blue Wins GENIUS NY $1 Million Grand Prize; Four Other Finalists Receive $500,000 Investments as Part of $3 Million Awarded to Innovative Companies that will Now Operate in Syracuse
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the winner of the $1 million grand prize from Round Three of the GENIUS NY accelerator is Sentient Blue, a team from Italy. The GENIUS NY program is the world’s largest business competition focused on unmanned systems, cross-connected platforms and other technology-based sectors. EagleHawk from Buffalo, Vermeer from Brooklyn, Resilienx from Syracuse and Civdrone from Israel each were awarded investments of $500,000. Resilienx was also named the crowd favorite in a live poll taken during the event. New York State has now invested $15 million in Genius NY over three rounds of the competition.
“The GENIUS NY competition is transforming the economic landscape of Central New York by attracting the next generation of innovative entrepreneurs,” Governor Cuomo said. “By investing in the unmanned aerial system businesses, we are ensuring that New York continues to establish itself as the leader in this burgeoning industry that is bringing jobs and economic growth to the Central New York region.”
“Business plan competitions like GENIUS NY are changing the game across the state with innovative new start-ups and good-paying jobs,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “Central New York is being recognized worldwide as a leader in the unmanned aerial systems industry because of unprecedented state support and investments. I congratulate the winner and finalists of this year’s competition, and I look forward to seeing more of the groundbreaking ideas that allow this advanced technology to revitalize and transform New York State.”
Sentient Blue develops efficient, more environmentally friendly micro gas turbine based power plants for use in unmanned aerial vehicles to increase flight endurance.
The year-long business accelerator awarded five finalist teams a total of $3 million at its Finals event tonight, including prizes and investments of $1 million and four $500,000, awards. The program, which is administered by The Tech Garden and CenterState CEO in Syracuse, also offers incubator space, company resources, programming and mentoring. Participants are required to operate their business in Central New York for at least one year. The advancement of the GENIUS NY program builds on the progress of CNY Rising, the region’s award-winning strategic plan to revitalize communities and grow the economy.
During the event held at the Marriott Syracuse Downtown, the five teams pitched their business plans to a panel of judges and to a live audience. Following the pitches, all five competitors were awarded one of five investments. Additionally, the teams will use these investments to continue to accelerate their growth and expand their presence in the region.
Saif Akanni, CEO and CTO of Sentient Blue said, “We at Sentient Blue are honored to have been selected as the winner of GENIUS NY 2019. We would like to thank everyone at GENIUS NY for sharing our vision of revolutionizing the drone industry with our hybrid technology. We are thrilled to be a part of the GENIUS NY ecosystem. This award is a real milestone for Sentient Blue; it will allow us to establish the company in Central New York and accelerate our growth and development.”
Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, “GENIUS NY’s business accelerator competition continues to grow the Unmanned Aerial Systems Industry in Central New York, bringing more entrepreneurial ideas and innovators to the region and drawing top companies that recognize the area’s unmatched UAS assets and infrastructure.”
Rob Simpson, President of CenterState CEO said, “The GENIUS NY program is proud to make this significant investment in these high potential UAS companies. In the coming months we will provide even more targeted business development support and acceleration programming so these companies can further leverage these investments and advance their technologies and platforms. As these teams grow and thrive so too does our region’s position as a global hub for the UAS industry.”
Rick Clonan, Vice President of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at CenterState CEO said, “Finals Night, and the $3 million awarded to the five teams, marks the beginning of the second phase of the GENIUS NY program. Tomorrow our teams will get right back to work utilizing the input received from judges to refine their business plans to accelerate their growth. We look forward to several more months of helping these teams make connections. As we learned from the program’s first two rounds, the coming months will be incredibly productive for these teams and we look forward to seeing their incredible progress.”
In addition to the GENIUS NY competition, New York State is focused on making major investments in the unmanned aircraft systems industry in Central New York. In 2016, Empire State Development invested $30 million to develop a 50-mile drone test corridor between Syracuse and Rome in the form of a CNY Rising Upstate Revitalization Initiative (URI) grant. Later this year, the world’s first 50-mile Unmanned Traffic Management Corridor will be completed and significant progress toward the formal establishment of NUSTAR will be advanced creating the most comprehensive UAS test facility in the nation.
The GENIUS NY teams’ business plans and pitches were judged by Colonel Anthony Basile, vice president of operations for the NUAIR Alliance; Somak Chattopadhyay, managing partner at Armory Square Ventures; Jim Fayle, regional director for Empire State Development Corporation; Craig Marcinkowski, vice president of strategy and corporate development at SRC; Noa Simons, executive director for Upstate Capital Association of NY; David Montanaro, president and founder of Strategic Advisory Associates; and Marc Viggiano, former head of Saab’s Traffic Management business and founder of Niteopark.
Senator Rachel May said, “I applaud all of the winners and participants in the GENIUS NY competition and look forward to the investments they will make in our region and economy. The energy and innovation they represent is vital to continuing to build a thriving entrepreneurship economy in Central New York. By funding business incubators and nourishing the best talent in our region, we are building a platform from which our local economy can prosper and we retain the talent we need to make our region stronger.”
Assemblymember William B. Magnarelli said, “The GENIUS NY program is an effective and innovative approach to securing Central New York’s continuing investment in Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). Investing in the advancement of UAS technologies and these pioneering companies is a proactive move by the Central New York region to continue making the necessary connections in establishing the Unmanned Aerial Systems Industry.”
Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said, “It is incredibly exciting to see the innovative work being done in the emerging UAS industry right here in downtown Syracuse. We are proud that these companies will put down roots in Central New York as they are continuing to play an important role in advancing the UAS industry in our region and are overall economic success.”
City of Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh said, “The five teams participating in this round of the GENIUS NY program represent an exciting opportunity for the continued growth of our unmanned systems industry and we are proud to celebrate and support them. The investments they receive tonight are important as they advance their technologies and create jobs in our community. We look forward to seeing their progress over the next year and are committed to providing them with ongoing support and connections.”
Central New York Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chairs Randy Wolken, President & CEO of the Manufacturers Association of Central New York (MACNY), and Deborah Stanley, President of the State University of New York at Oswego said, “Supporting the growing UAS industry is central to the regionally designed CNY Rising plan. Through our continued support for the GENIUS NY competition, we will ensure that New York remains at the forefront of this innovative industry, creating new opportunities and jobs for residents in the region for decades to come.”
Learn more about GENIUS NY here.
Accelerating CNY Rising
Today’s announcement complements “CNY Rising,” the region’s comprehensive blueprint to generate robust economic growth and community development. The State has already invested more than $4.7 billion in the region since 2012 to lay the groundwork for the plan – capitalizing on global market opportunities, strengthening entrepreneurship and creating an inclusive economy. Today, unemployment is down to the lowest levels since before the Great Recession; personal and corporate income taxes are down; and businesses are choosing places like Syracuse, Oswego and Auburn as a destination to grow and invest in.
Now, the region is accelerating CNY Rising with a $500 million State investment through the Upstate Revitalization Initiative, announced by Governor Cuomo in December 2015. The State’s $500 million investment will incentivize private business to invest well over $2.5 billion – and the region’s plan, as submitted, projects up to 5,900 new jobs.