April 23, 2015

University resources are boon for alum's Ithaca business

Kwame Amponsah and Tom Schryver
Jason Koski/University Photography
Kwame Amponsah ’06, M.Eng. ’08, M.S. ’12, Ph.D. ’13, foreground, and Tom Schryver ’93, MBA ’02, executive director of the Center for Regional Economic Advancement, participate in a panel discussion during Entrepreneurship at Cornell’s Celebration conference April 17.

Choosing Ithaca as a location to build a business after graduation was the natural choice, said Kwame Amponsah ’06, M.Eng. ’08, M.S. ’12, Ph.D. ’13, at Entrepreneurship at Cornell’s Celebration conference April 16-17.

Amponsah founded Xallent Inc. while doing postdoctoral research at Cornell in 2013. Xallent is a semiconductor device and test equipment manufacturing startup based in Ithaca. Many of its products help the semiconductor industry identify faults in the early stages of fabrication, ultimately saving companies millions.

“The Cornell NanoScale Science and Technology Facility and Cornell Center for Materials Research offer state-of-the-art nanofabrication equipment and resources that are instrumental to the development of our products,” Amponsah said.

The Cornell NanoScale Science and Technology Facility includes lab equipment used in nanoscale fabrication, synthesis, computation and more. The facility attracts more than 800 users per year, 50 percent of whom come from outside of Cornell.

In addition to brick-and-mortar resources, tax incentive programs played a critical role in forming Amponsah’s decision to base his company in the region. “Another major driver for locating Xallent in New York state is the tax incentives that we enjoy through the START-UP NY program,” Amponsah said. “Under this program, we will be operating tax-free in New York state for the next 10 years.”

Launched in 2014, START-UP NY offers tax exemptions to qualifying businesses based in New York state that align with a college or university’s academic mission and commit to create jobs. Qualified businesses do not pay business taxes or sales tax, and employees can be exempted from state income taxes for up to 10 years, among other tax benefits.

To date, two companies have come into START-UP NY, and the program continues to generate interest from local and out-of-state firms who wish to partner with Cornell and other universities.

With these regional advantages, Amponsah said, “Locating Xallent in Ithaca, New York, was a simple decision for us.”

Amponsah joins entrepreneurial Ithaca alumni including Greg Galvin, M.S. ’82, Ph.D. ’84, MBA ’93, chairman and CEO of Rheonix Inc. and Mezmeriz Inc. and co-founder and former CEO of Kionix Inc.; Charlie Mulligan, MBA ’11, CEO and co-founder of GiveGab; and Scott Allen, Ph.D. ’04, co-founder of Novomer.

Derek J. Moretz is a Master of Public Administration candidate at the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs.