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May 14, 2012

 

DiNapoli Tours WhoSay, Albany's Link to Hollywood

State Pension Fund's In-State Program Hits Investment Returns and Provides Funds for Entrepreneur to Keep Local Talent in Capital Region

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today toured the office of WhoSay, an Albany-based technology startup that manages social and mainstream media platforms for famous artists, athletes and other personalities. WhoSay received funding through the New York State Common Retirement Fund's (Fund) In-State Private Equity Program. The Fund has invested $52.6 million in 13 capital region companies through the program.

"WhoSay is an exciting young company that is capitalizing on the technology of today and adding some Hollywood glitz to the Capital Region," DiNapoli said. "This business is a great example of how the Common Retirement Fund can contribute to the economic strength of New York while earning significant investment returns. In addition, by drawing upon the top talent emerging from individuals who have been educated in this area, WhoSay and the Fund are contributing to Albany's burgeoning reputation as a technology hub."

The In-State Private Equity Program, which was founded in 2000 and made its first investment in 2001, partners with private equity managers who seek to invest in New York state companies that require capital for growth or to refinance ownership. The program provides investment returns consistent with the risk of private equity while also expanding the availability of capital for New York businesses.

Highlights of the In-State Private Equity Program (as of March 2012) include:

  • Of the nearly $1 billion committed to the program since 2001, $608 million has been invested in 218 companies. The program currently has significant additional capital available for investment in New York-based companies.
  • The program has returned $322 million to the Fund on $206 million invested in 75 exited companies.
  • DiNapoli has committed $534 million to the program since he took office in 2007.
  • More than 3,000 employees have been added.
  • Companies invested in through the program have raised nearly $4 billion in additional capital.

The Fund has invested a total of $1.2 million over two rounds of funding in WhoSay with High Peaks Ventures. WhoSay was founded by Steve Ellis and Creative Artists Agency in March 2010 with three employees. It now employs 32. The company has created a media management platform for famous artists, athletes and other personalities to manage their interactions with fans in a direct and authentic way via social and mainstream media. The company has more than a thousand active celebrity clients with more than one billion social media fan connections.

"I'm a committed believer in the talent and opportunity that is unique to New York - both in New York City and the Capital region that I call home," said Steve Ellis, CEO of WhoSay. "One of the reasons WhoSay has thrived in Albany is because we can draw upon the pool of smart young workers being educated in this area's colleges and universities. My previous company, Pump Audio, was also a recipient of investment in 2005 from the In-State Private Equity Program via High Peaks Ventures. That was a great success for us all, and I am excited that we have the opportunity to work with our partners at the Fund and High Peaks again."

"High Peaks Venture Partners has been working with the Common Retirement Fund for 8 years and it has been an ideal partnership," said Brad Svrluga, Co-Founder and General Partner of High Peaks Venture Partners. "Through their investment with us, we have been able to jointly support some of the most innovative entrepreneurs in New York. WhoSay represents an especially exciting opportunity as it brings us back into business with Steve Ellis, a uniquely talented entrepreneur with whom we had a big win previously at Pump Audio. We couldn't be happier about our partnership with the Common Retirement Fund and Steve to build WhoSay."

According to the TechAmerica Foundation's CyberCities 2010 report, 21,274 people worked at 1,042 high-tech companies in the capital region in 2009. This breaks down to 67 of every 1,000 individuals employed in the private sector in the area. Average wages at these companies were $78,300  87 percent higher than wages in the private sector overall. High-tech job growth in Albany was the third fastest in the country.

The Capital Region is home to some of the world's leading technology companies and institutions of higher learning. The University of Albany College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering is the first college in the world dedicated to education, research and development of nanoscience, nanoengineering, nanobioscience and nanoeconomics.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations is the result of a partnership between RPI, IBM, and New York State. Together, the three partners have created one of the world's most powerful university-based supercomputers.

In addition, GlobalFoundries has 1,000 employees and is growing as it constructs a $4.6 billion computer chip factory called Fab 8 in Saratoga County's Luther Forest Technology Campus.

DiNapoli will be touring several other investments made through the Fund's In-State Program in the coming weeks, with stops already completed in New York City and future tours scheduled for Long Island and Rochester. For more information on the program or company eligibility, visit: www.osc.state.ny.us/pension/instate/


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