June 17, 2016 | Dan Miner

Investor and mentors who are known to be involved in Buffalo’s startup scene have been noticing a trend for the past year.

The trend involves experienced business professionals who grew up in Western New York and are now seeking a return to an increasingly robust startup technology scene.

Whether it’s the publicity brought by 43North, a smattering of positive articles in places like the New York Times and USA Today or the visceral impression made by the various facilities around the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, people are taking notice and wanting to return home.

A few such anecdotes were on display at Wednesday’s Bright Buffalo Niagara forum. Two of the attendees included:

William Irvine

The 55-year-old Irvine grew up in Buffalo, where he founded his first startup in the late 1990s and went on to lead the digital and interactive department at the Wolf Group marketing agency.

He then for a larger market, New York City, from which he has based a varied career in data-driven marketing and advertising, working for the Cossette communications firm and founding several startup companies.

A few months ago, as Irvine and his wife were contemplating their next move, he decided to check in on his hometown. The news of 43North, the Rise of the Rest stop here last year and the general incidence of angel and venture capital deals made an impression.

“I said ‘Holy (crap)’ everything’s happening in Buffalo,” Irvine said.

He decided to come home, notably changing his website to feature a large picture of downtown Buffalo with the caption, “BRING ME BACK!”

Irvine is looking to lead a technology team for a scalable startup company and to become a regular member of the local startup culture, which features popular events such as the Bright forum, the Startup Grind lecture series and Buffalo Startup Weekend.

Lauren DeLuca

DeLuca grew up in Wilson, attending St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in political science form the University of Notre Dame in 2001 and, about 15 years later, an MBA from the prestigious Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

DeLuca cut his teeth as a day trader in Chicago, working his way up to being a senior equity trader at Group One Trading before founding Sumo Capital trading firm. See his LInkedIn account here.

He also has a long history in Chicago’s early-stage ecosystem as both a private investor and member of a large angel group associated with Notre Dame alumni. His portfolio includes nearly 20 investments.

After selling a portfolio business last year, DeLuca was contemplating his next step. He wanted to move closer to a family that is scattered throughout Western New York, and believes the startup investment scene has grown to a point that it can accommodate someone of his experience.

DeLuca is interested in a few potential roles in Buffalo, including helping the business side of a specific company and becoming an early-stage investor.

“Many investors here, as successful as they are in their core businesses, still seem to be warming up to the risks of startup investing: taking uncollateralized, illiquid equity stakes in unproven businesses,” he said. “As good deals are not geographically-limited, I want to invest here. I hope to be a tiny part of creating long-term sustainability by introducing new deals, advancing early stage businesses through leadership and advice, and connecting new investors to the community.”

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