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Technology is great and all. But creating technology for technology’s sake doesn’t cut it. Buffalo’s tech-centric companies are leveraging technology to solve real-world problems—and turning the Queen City into a tech hub.

We’ve all heard the stories that come out of A Certain Other American Tech Hub (which shall remain nameless).

Stories like a $400 juicer, the inventors of which somehow managed to raise nearly $120 million in investment dollars. Stories like the smartphone for “high net worth individuals” that retails for more than $10,000. Models range in price up to almost $22,000, and each phone comes with access to a personal assistant. And we’re not talking about Cortana or Siri—we’re talking about an actual human being.

One could argue that these products—and others like them—are hard to swallow when there’s so much inequality in our communities, across our country, and around the world. One could also argue that companies ought to be able to make and bring to market whatever they can successfully fund and sell.

So where’s the sweet spot? Let’s answer that question by thinking about the answer to another, larger question.

 

What should it mean to be tech-centric?

The companies I mentioned before, and others like them, could arguably be considered “tech-centric.” But then again, so could any company that gives its employees access to a computer, a smartphone, Wi-Fi, and the like. After all, technology is at the heart of their operations—and isn’t that what “tech-centric” means?

Technically, yes… but it shouldn’t be. That’s a shallow definition that stops at the technology itself and fails to consider the human application of that technology. Worse, it’s not values-based. I keep coming back to something that J.P. Bak, our Chairman & CEO, has said:

In order to shape your character, and thereby your ethical integrity, you have to face other people’s problems. You’re not just living in your own little bubble… What is more right than to treat other people in a way that makes them grow and have a better life?”

I think any company, organization, or startup that considers itself “tech centric” should be looking for ways to leverage its product and expertise to solve real-world problems that enable others to have better lives.

In other words, companies, organizations, and startups shouldn’t be tech-centric without also being people-centric.

 

What about Bak USA?

We’re on a mission to build computers, empower people, and change lives. Sure, we’re a technology company. But everything we do is people-centric first, and we actively seek ways to bring our computers to bear on solving real-world problems for people.

Here are three ways we’re doing it:

  • Bak USA is one of Buffalo's technology companies.
    We know that talent, passion, and ingenuity spring from people of all genders, ethnicities, and countries of origin. When hiring for open positions, we deliberately look outside traditional talent pools as a way of opening technology to everyone, even—and especially—those who are typically overlooked by the tech industry.
  • Bak USA is one of Buffalo's technology companies.
    We combine human talent, automation, and collaborative robotics to build computers on American soil and create opportunities right here in Buffalo. And soon, we’ll be working with local partners in communities across the country and around the world to establish advanced manufacturing hubs in their own backyards. The result? A level playing field and equalized access to the prosperity created by technology.
  • Bak USA is one of Buffalo's technology companies.
    Our Atlas 2-in-1 laptop and our rugged tablet, the Seal, were both purpose-built to give people—in this case, students and workers—a leg up. Because whether it’s access to high-tech learning opportunities or a way to stand out in an increasingly competitive world, we think it’s important to build technology that creates possibilities and enables success.

 

Buffalo as a technology hub.

One of the great things—and there are many—about being a tech-centric, people-centric company in Buffalo is that we aren’t alone. Buffalo is swiftly emerging as an East Coast technology hub, thanks to that famous blue-collar work ethic and the combined efforts of organizations like 43Northand Invest Buffalo Niagara, along with the pipeline of talent from institutions like the University at Buffalo.

Buffalo is an ideal place for values-based tech companies—but don’t take my word for it:

Buffalo is a place where people can make a huge difference. The passion with which Buffalonians approach problems and coalesce around a common goal is infectious. Values-based tech companies solving real societal problems will find a region stocked with people who are well-educated and seeking opportunities to impact the world and their community. We talk a lot about ‘The City of Good Neighbors’ and it’s amazing to see that spirit manifest in values-driven tech companies.”

Alan Rosenhoch
Director, Business Development, Domestic
Invest Buffalo Niagara

As a region that is actively reinventing its economy while at the same time in need of addressing many pressing challenges, Buffalo is a perfect place for values-based companies to apply technology to solve real world problems. This points to a new and promising business model where Buffalo can serve as a launch pad for companies like Bak USA.”

Paul Tesluk, PhD
Dean and Professor in the School of Management
University at Buffalo, State University of New York

Want a list of Buffalo’s tech-centric companies, organizations, and startups? Click here.

It’s tough in today’s world to be a values-based company—especially in the tech industry. Get to know the tech-centric, people-centric businesses that are taking root in your own backyard and, if you’re so inclined, find ways to support them. When companies feel pressure to solve real-world problems and make life better for others, we’ll have more opportunities to effect positive change—and fewer $400 juicers.

Buffalo’s tech-centric companies.

Check out this list of Buffalo companies that are leveraging technology to solve real-world problems. Have I missed one? Let me know here!

  • 3AM Innovations, making wearable devices for firefighters that allows first responders to track and locate firefighters inside buildings in real-time
  • Bounce Imaging, developing 360-degree throwable cameras for first-responders, giving them critical information about dangerous spaces before they risk lives and enter those spaces
  • Buffalo Automation Group, a University at Buffalo initiative that’s developing self-driving technology for cargo ships, which will revolutionize the shipping industry and lower costs
  • CleanFiber, which uses recycled cardboard to create cleaner cellulose insulation
  • Clean Slate UV, developing a way to sanitize mobile devices like smartphones and tablets for use in healthcare and food processing, reducing the possibility of infection or contamination
  • Energy Intelligence, developing technology that generates energy from vehicle trips, adding clean energy sources to the grid
  • First Wave Technologies, developing a machine that will expand use of anesthesia in developing countries, enabling safer surgeries
  • HigherMe, making software tools that improve hiring efficiency for retail and hourly employers, streamlining access to job opportunities
  • LegWorks, making rugged prosthetics for active amputees around the world
  • POP Biotechnologies Inc., developing a precision radiation solution for hard-to-treat cancers, reducing the damage done to healthy tissue
  • Qidni Labs, making implantable, palm-sized artificial kidneys for patients with kidney failure, reducing costs and increasing accessibility
  • Sentient Science, making software to predict short-term and long-term failure rates of mechanical systems like wind turbines, helping advance clean energy technologies
  • SomaDetect, developing a sensor that provides dairy farmers with real-time access to key milk quality indicators, ensuring a better, healthier product
  • Voiceitt, making speech recognition technology that understands non-standard speech, enabling communication for millions

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