Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Spotlight: Ithaca, NY

Cornell University in Ithaca, NY

Ithaca may be a small area, but it’s a robust environment for entrepreneurs with close proximity to Cornell University.

Ithaca, NY is located in the center of the state in the Finger Lakes region. Despite being a relatively small city (just the 20th-largest in New York), Ithaca has a somewhat robust environment for entrepreneurs. Back in 2016, the website Livability ranked the city 20th on their list of the Best Cities for Entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, a 2019 ranking of the best small cities to start a business done by WalletHub had Ithaca at 284th overall. That WalletHub list included a rank of 97 in the “Access to Resources” category and 168 in the “Business Costs” category. Ithaca also ranked well in a pair of lists of the most innovative cities: 13th in a 2018 ranking by USA Today and 14th in a 2019 study performed by Verizon.

Based on these rankings, FundingSage has reviewed the resources that make up Ithaca’s entrepreneurial ecosystem:

Entrepreneurial Meetups:

Ithaca Web People is a networking group that allows those who work with the internet to meet one another and make connections.

Startup Ithaca is a group that hosts networking events and educational workshops with the goal of supporting entrepreneurs.

Though it’s hosted well down the road, the Syracuse Tech Meetup is a group that aims to support technology developers and entrepreneurs throughout Central New York.


Regular Entrepreneurial Events:

Cornell hosts several events in entrepreneurship at Cornell Celebration. This is an annual two-day conference celebrating entrepreneurship in the area.

Rev: Ithaca Startup Works is a local startup incubator. The incubator hosts a number of events about entrepreneurship and small business that are open for the public to attend.

The Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce hosts a variety of events including networking opportunities, workshops and more.


Startup Competitions:

The 76West Clean Energy Competition rewards over $20 million in cash and services to winning startups throughout New York’s Southern Tier region.

Students at Cornell can compete in a number of startup competitions with different focuses held at the school throughout the year.

High-growth startups in the food and agriculture industries from around the Central New York, Finger Lakes and Southern Tier regions can compete in the Grow-NY competition.

Up to $5,000 are up for grabs by teams of Ithaca College students in the school’s annual Startup Idea Demo Day pitch competition.


Co-working Spaces:

Ithaca’s original co-working space, CoLab Hive offers an array of amenities and has a pair of membership plans for those needing to use the space on a part-time or full-time basis.

Those in need of working space can rent it by the hour, day, month and year through The CommonSpot’s flexible membership plans.

With two locations totaling over 15,000 square feet of space, Cornell’s eHub provides entrepreneurial students with a space to work.



The Cornell University Library offers students, faculty, and staff of the university access to the mannUfactory makerspace.

Ithaca Generator is a makerspace that provides a wide variety of tools and equipment to support small-scale manufacturing by members.

Located in Ithaca’s South Hill Business Campus, the Metal Smithery is a workshop that provides space and equipment as well as hosting classes on metalwork.

The Tompkins County Public Library offers its members a small makerspace and some one-on-one workshops about creating.



One of many startup programs run by Cornell University, Life Changing Labs is an incubator that works to support the school’s top entrepreneurially-minded students.

Cornell University’s McGovern Center is an incubator program that works to support startups in the life sciences industry.

Rev: Ithaca Startup Works is an incubator program created through a partnership between three local colleges that works to support area startups.



Cornell University runs eLab, an accelerator program for students that helps to launch between eight and 12 businesses every year.

Organized by the Rev: Ithaca Startup Works incubator, the Hardware Accelerator is an 11-week program that helps entrepreneurs who want to turn their product ideas into businesses.



Cornell University offers a wide variety of resources to student entrepreneurs, including majors. Minors, competitions and networking events.

Though Ithaca College’s School of Business doesn’t have a specific major in entrepreneurship, the school does have some programs designed to support student startups.

Just outside Ithaca in Dryden, Tompkins Cortland Community College offers an associate of applied sciences degree in entrepreneurship.


Angel Groups/VCs:

Run by a group of MBA students at Cornell University, the Big Red Venture Fund typically invests in early-stage startups and connects them with support resources from the school.

Based in Ithaca, the Cayuga Venture Fund invests in startups at any stage and any industry throughout New York State, with a particular focus on companies in the early stages.

Red Bear Angels is a group of angel investors that work exclusively with entrepreneurs from Cornell University to help them grow their startups.

One of many venture capital firms that supports the Cornell community, Triphammer Ventures invests in startups launched by alumni of the university.


Entrepreneurial Newsletter Coverage:

The Business Journal News Network offers newsletters about business around New York State as a whole as well as some focusing on Central New York.

Cornell University’s entrepreneurship program offers email updates on entrepreneurial news at the school and surrounding areas through a Listserv.

New York State offers a pair of newsletters. One focuses on general economic news around the state and the other about the Governor’s Office of Motion Picture & Television Development.

The Ithaca Times offers a few newsletters to subscribers, including one containing the top headlines from the city and surrounding region.


Are you familiar with the entrepreneurial ecosystem infrastructure in Ithaca, NY not included in the article above?  If so, let us know via a comment below and we will add it to the article. 

Interested in Ecosystem Spotlights of other cities in the USA?

Binghamton, NY, Syracuse, NY, Buffalo, NY

Quinn Pilkey

Quinn is a journalism major at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He also serves as a freelance author for Hashtag Basketball where he writes about the NBA's Charlotte Hornets and at FundingSage where he researches and writes about entrepreneurial ecosystems.