Winners of HUSTLE competition holding prize check

Empire State Development Announces ThermoAI Winner Of The Hustle Defense Accelerator “Demo Day” Competition

Empire State Development today announced ThermoAI as the winner of the Helping Upstate Science & Technology Leaders & Entrepreneurs (HUSTLE) Defense Accelerator “Demo Day” at the Griffiss Institute in Rome, Oneida County. The HUSTLE Defense Accelerator is an elite and immersive 12-week training academy for seed stage startups pushing Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), cyber, quantum, and UAS solutions with potential to elevate the United States’ national security and economic competitiveness. CyberSpara was the runner up in the competition.

ESD President, CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight said, "The Griffiss Institute’s HUSTLE Defense Accelerator draws the best and brightest startup talent to help further build the Mohawk Valley’s defense industry ecosystem. I would like to congratulate ThermoAI and CyberSpara for their successful pitches tonight. ESD is proud to support companies that will create solutions for real world issues and increase New York State’s economic competitiveness in national security."  

"Innovare Advancement Center is home to the first and only startup incubator in New York State aiming at the nexus of national security and economic competitiveness for our region, our state, and our nation," said Heather Hage, President and CEO of Griffiss Institute. "With thanks to New York State, ThermoAI and CyberSpara now have the opportunity to bring their innovative technologies to life right here in the Mohawk Valley. Our community is highly motivated to give them a runway to the world of defense innovation."

The HUSTLE Defense Accelerator culminates in a Demo Day where qualifying HUSTLE teams have the opportunity to pitch for up to $300,000 to scale their ventures in the Mohawk Valley made possible by a $2 million Upstate Revitalization Initiative grant from Empire State Development, recommended by the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council (MVREDC).

ThermoAI, the first-place winner, will receive $200,000 and will locate their business in the Mohawk Valley for 12 months. ThermoAI, from Binghamton in Broome county, develops artificial intelligence to optimize combustion- directly reducing high-risk refueling missions, cutting operational costs, and reducing emissions. Founded by a machine-learning Ph.D. from Oxford, a chemical engineer, and a published applied AI expert. Backed by NSF, NYSERDA, Creative Destruction Labs, and Techstars AI.

CyberSpara, the second-place winner, will receive $100,000 and will locate their business in the Mohawk Valley for 12 months. CyberSpara, hailing from Canton in St. Lawrence county, helps business owners, educational institutions, and government agencies  such as the Department of Defense and the Air Force to equip themselves with proper tools and empower individuals to reduce cyber threats and mitigate such national security challenges.

The other two teams competing during Demo Day included:

McGuirk USA (Westerbrook, ME)

The Team of McGuirk USA (MUSA), Datalytica, and Quanterion Solutions Incorporated (QSI) provide consultants for engineering, data analysis, cyber, and counterintelligence support to industry, defense, and government programs globally.

Secwins (Syracuse, NY)

Secwins, LLC designs, develops, and deploys tailored and secure digital twins to provide a single view of truth across fragmented data sources. Secwins digital twins includes data mapping and normalization, system operation and security risk assessment, and any training, monitoring, and maintenance needed.

MVREDC Co-Chairs Lawrence T. Gilroy III, President of Gilroy, Kernan & Gilroy, Inc. and Dr. Marion Terenzio, SUNY Cobleskill President, said, "The MVREDC recommended funding for the Hustle Defense Accelerator because it has strong history of attracting companies that are fueling innovation in the Mohawk Valley Region and giving them a leg up to succeed. We are pleased to welcome these two new start-ups to the region and can’t wait to see them become a part of the ecosystem that helps continue to move the Mohawk Valley economy forward."

Senator Joseph Griffo said, "Congratulations to all those who participated in the Helping Upstate Science & Technology Leaders & Entrepreneurs Defense Accelerator ‘Demo Day’ and training academy at the Griffiss Institute in Rome. This event provided participants with an important opportunity to develop, pitch and grow innovative ideas and ventures in a variety of high-tech industries. These new enterprises will build upon the significant research and development that takes place every day in Oneida County and the Mohawk Valley."

Assemblywoman Maryann Buttenschon said, "I want to thank the Empire State Development team, the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council, The Griffiss Institute, and Innovare Advancement Center for their leadership and involvement with the Hustle Defense Accelerator Competition. This training academy is vital to the future of technological innovation."                                                                                                   

Oneida County Executive Anthony J Picente, Jr. said, "The Griffiss Institute is a tremendous partner to Oneida County and the HUSTLE program that it operates at our Innovare Advancement Center is a prime example of how together we are shaping the future of the high-tech defense industry. I would like to congratulate all of the HUSTLE teams for displaying such innovative approaches to elevating our national security and I wish the winners the best of luck as they reinvest their prize money in the Mohawk Valley."

Rome Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo said, "HUSTLE Defense Accelerator is an important component of our economic development strategy to grow new entrepreneurial businesses supporting artificial intelligence (AI), cybersecurity, quantum computing, machine learning (ML) and UAS. The teams who participated in Demo Day presented new business solutions to continue building new hardware and software infrastructure to compliment the R&D efforts of Rome Lab and their contractors. We are hopeful these companies will grow and prosper right here in the Mohawk Valley as a result of their collaborative experiences nurturing new product ideas through the 12-week HUSTLE experience. ESD has led the way with funding supporting HUSTLE through the REDC process because they recognize with assets like AFRL, Skydome, Innovare and the Griffiss Institute programs like HUSTLE are vital to continue growing the region’s technology-based workforce to support our national defense."

About Empire State Development

Empire State Development (ESD) is New York’s chief economic development agency. The mission of ESD is to promote a vigorous and growing economy, encourage the creation of new job and economic opportunities, increase revenues to the State and its municipalities, and achieve stable and diversified local economies. Through loans, grants, tax credits and other forms of financial assistance, ESD strives to enhance private business investment and growth to spur job creation and support prosperous communities across New York State. ESD is also the primary administrative agency overseeing the Regional Economic Development Councils and the marketing of “I LOVE NY,” the State’s iconic tourism brand. For more information on Regional Councils and Empire State Development, visit and

About the Griffiss Institute

The Griffiss Institute (GI) is a nonprofit STEM talent and technology accelerator for the United States Department of Defense and an international network of academic, government and industry partners. Since 2002, the GI has served the Air Force, the Mohawk Valley region, and the United States, empowering diverse teams with talent and technology development programs that lead the nation in technical and economic impact. In the past five years, the GI has partnered with Rome Lab to host 271 visiting scientists, employ 823 interns, support 508 local K-12 students with tuition-free STEM Camps during school breaks, and trained 63 startups in defense tech commercialization with 47 graduates of its incubator. Devoted to converging teams and technologies to solve complex national challenges, the GI is proud to enable its international network from its home at Innovare Advancement Center in New York’s picturesque Mohawk Valley.

About the Innovare Advancement Center

The Innovare Advancement Center is a 150,000 square foot open innovation hub that converges world-class scientific, engineering, and entrepreneurial talent from universities, government, and industry to tackle new challenges in artificial intelligence, machine learning, cybersecurity, quantum, and unmanned aerial systems. Innovare’s unique capabilities include highly specialized laboratories for experimentation in quantum communications and neuromorphic computing, 40,000 square feet of high-tech and high-speed communications-enabled collaboration spaces, an auditorium with capacity for over 250 people, an access point to the NY UAS Test Site, and coming in spring 2022 – an indoor unmanned aerial system (UAS) research and testing facility with 110,000 square foot indoor flight testing area - the largest in the United States.


Kristin Devoe (ESD): [email protected] | (518) 414-1087

ESD Press Office: [email protected] | (800) 260-7313