Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Spotlight: Rochester, NY


Known as America’s first boomtown, Rochester is home to a number of well-known businesses, including Kodak and Western Union. More recently, Rochester has become known as a place for new ventures and entrepreneurship.

Rochester, NY, originally known as the Flour City due to its numerous flour mills, was later called the Flower City to honor its seed businesses, among the largest in the world at the time. Known as America’s first boomtown, Rochester is home to a number of well-known businesses, including Kodak and Western Union. More recently, Rochester has become known as a place for new ventures and entrepreneurship: in 2018, Rochester ranked 63rd overall in WalletHub’s list of the best large cities to start a business, including a number three rank in the “business costs” category. In 2016, the city was ranked as one of the best for women entrepreneurs, by both WalletHub and Merchant Cash USA. Additionally, WalletHub ranked Rochester 39th on their 2018 list of the best metro areas for STEM professionals.

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

Entrepreneurial Meetups:

One of many branches around the country, Girl Develop It is a group dedicated to supporting and educating women in technology and coding.

RocDev is a networking group aimed at supporting people in the area interested in software creation and development.

Through monthly networking meetings over breakfast, the Breakfast & Happy Hour Networking group helps its members grow their businesses.

One of the largest networking groups in the area, the Rochester Entrepreneurship Network holds regular meetings to allow their members to connect with one another.

A networking group for people interested in or involved in the area’s technology entrepreneurship scene.


Regular Entrepreneurial Events:

The Inclusive Prosperity Conference is an annual conference dedicated to building inclusive economic growth and entrepreneurship.

Held annually by the Rochester Institute of Technology, the RIT Entrepreneurs Conference is a day-long conference that helps educate people interested in starting a business.

The ROC Tech Conference is an annual event designed to promote and increase awareness of new and emerging technologies in the area.


Startup Competitions:

The Rochester Institute of Technology hosts several annual competitions on a school- and state-wide level.

The University of Rochester has a program to compete in the Hult Prize, a large worldwide social entrepreneurship competition.

Open to people from around the nine-county Finger Lakes region, the grand prize is $25,000 and rent credit for a local incubator and accelerator.


Co-working Spaces:

Offered by Office Evolution, Brighton Henrietta Rochester has fully-furnished office space and more traditional co-working spaces available for members.

Offering only monthly membership plans, Carlson Cowork is specifically focused on fostering a sense of community and collaboration in their co-working space.

In addition to several other resources, Grid offers co-working space with several available membership plans and fresh coffee available.

Metro CoWork offers several membership plans and a number of amenities, including 24/7 access for members with less traditional schedules.

Refinery Co-Work is a co-working option in The Refinery, a group of redeveloped historic buildings located in downtown.

With a variety of membership options available and a second location in Victor, NY, SPOT Cowork is one of the area’s most flexible co-working spaces.



The Rochester Institute of Technology offers students access to The Construct, its maker space with tools and equipment as well as learning resources available.

As a hackerspace, Interlock Rochester is focused primarily on technology- and electronics-based tools and equipment.

One of many resources offered by NextCorps, the FabLab (or fabrication lab) has tools and equipment to help its members with prototyping.

The makerspace, which has a wide array of available equipment, hosts regular classes, open houses, and other events.

The University of Rochester’s website has a list of fabrication facilities and resources located both on and off campus.



Planned to open in mid-2019, The Commissary is a food business incubator that connects food-based startups with commercial kitchen space.

In addition to hosting incubators and accelerators, NextCorps in-house business incubator helps grow early-stage startups.

RIT Venture Creations is a business incubator for early-stage technology startups with ties to the Rochester Institute of Technology.

The university is a partner in the state’s START-UP NY plan, which provides building space, tax exemptions, and other benefits to help small businesses grow.

Hosted at NextCorps, the Student Incubator is a program designed to help grow a wide variety of student-led startups.



Known as TEN, The Entrepreneurs Network runs an accelerator program for entrepreneurs in upstate New York, with a program focused on women entrepreneurs being launched.

Run by NextCorps, Hardware Scaleup is an 18-month accelerator program that works with clean energy hardware products.

Luminate is a 6-month accelerator program that works with optics, photonics, and imaging-enabled startups and provides a $100,000 investment.

NEXUS-NY is a seed-stage accelerator program that works with 10 clean energy companies from throughout New York State every year.



Students can earn an associate’s degree in entrepreneurial and applied business studies.

Nazareth College’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation organizes resources and events to support entrepreneurship in its students.

Through the Simone Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, RIT supports its students’ entrepreneurship both inside and outside of the classroom.

The University of Rochester’s Ain Center for Entrepreneurship organizes a wide variety of opportunities and resources for entrepreneurial-minded students.


Angel Groups/VCs:

Cranberry Capital aims to invest in early-stage technology companies with the potential to be globally important.

Excell Partners is a venture capital fund that invests in seed- and early-stage technology startups in New York State, especially Upstate New York.

Launched in 2016, Impact Capital primarily focuses on revenue-positive companies in the Upstate New York area.

RIT Venture Fund is an evergreen fund that invests in technology companies that have a “meaningful connection” to the Rochester Institute of Technology.

They aim to invest in early-stage startups with high-growth potential, preferably those doing business in Western New York.


Entrepreneurial Newsletter Coverage:

One of the newsletters offered by the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper contains business news and is sent Monday through Friday.

NextCorps’ newsletter sends updates about entrepreneurship events and news in the area as well as updates about NextCorps itself.

The Rochester Business Journal offers a variety of e-newsletters with different focuses and topics.

Are you familiar with entrepreneurial ecosystem infrastructure in Rochester 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?

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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.