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Ventures program combines $147 million for small New York businesses

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo with Howard Zemsky, president

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo with Howard Zemsky, president and CEO of Empire State Development, on Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015 in Rochester. Credit: AP

New York State has combined three of its investment funds into a new program called New York Ventures.

Empire State Development, the state's primary business-aid agency, Monday announced the establishment of New York Ventures. It will consist of three existing programs: the New York State Innovation Venture Capital Fund, the Innovate NY Fund, and the Minority- and Women-Owned Business Investment Fund.

Together, the three have $147 million in federal, state and private money to invest in promising small businesses, including technology startups.

The oldest of the funds, Innovate NY, is the subject of an investigation by the U.S. Treasury Department into possible conflicts of interest with investments of federal money by Canrock Ventures of Brookville in four local startups.

The federal probe was launched in November 2013 after Newsday began seeking information from Canrock, New York State and the U.S. Treasury Department about $500,000 in Innovate NY funds that were invested in information technology startup General Sentiment Inc. The Brookville-based startup already was partially owned by Canrock, and a Canrock managing director served as chairman of the board of General Sentiment.

General Sentiment ceased operations earlier this year.

Innovate NY has since suspended new investments in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Funds earmarked for the Innovation Venture Capital Fund were recently doubled to $100 million. It has invested in two software businesses so far: the health care communications company Cureatr and coordinator of veterans services Unite US, both based in Manhattan.

"New York Ventures will organize the state's innovation investment funds under one single roof, and will enable innovators to access the funding required to cultivate their product and turn big ideas into big businesses," said Howard Zemsky, chief executive of Empire State Development and a Buffalo real estate developer.


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