Bullish on Upstate New York

If there was a person perfectly suited to keynote Upstate Capital’s Buffalo Private Equity Summit later this month, it is veteran entrepreneur and unabashed Upstate New York cheerleader Ashok Subramanian.

Subramanian is no stranger to either private equity or the city of Buffalo. The die-hard Buffalo Bills and Sabres fan is the CEO of Centivo, an innovative health plan for self-funded employers headquartered in Buffalo. While his current firm is making its presence felt in the city, it was back in 2007 that he first made a name for himself locally when he founded Liazon, operator of the nation’s industry-leading private benefits exchange. In 2013, Liazon was sold to global professional services firm, Willis Towers Watson, in a deal valued at $215 million. 

After the sale, Subramanian served as Managing Director there before launching Centivo in 2017. He decided to start the business after observing more inefficiencies in healthcare systems. Centivo has its headquarters in Buffalo and offices in New York City.

In addition to his role at Centivo, the Western New York native is a senior advisor to Silversmith Capital, a growth equity firm. Prior to becoming a successful entrepreneur, he received his undergraduate degree from Princeton University, a Master’s degree from Stanford University, and an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Subramanian, 47, who grew up in Buffalo and has lived in New York State almost his entire life, says he is committed to Upstate New York. He said, “This (Centivo) is my second company and I am going on 16 years of work in and around Upstate New York. I firmly believe it is one of the best-kept secrets.” 

Among Western New York’s key attributes that are attractive is the lower cost of doing business.“Cost matters a lot,” he noted. Subramanian pointed out that the region offers lower costs in such areas as real estate, technology, workforce, and healthcare. 

The second key attribute is its available workforce. “One of the greatest assets of Upstate New York is the education system, the public education, the work ethic. You just have a good base of strong motivated folks,” he said.

The third key factor that sets Upstate New York apart from other regions and is often overlooked is “the need for friendly early adopters to take a shot on new products.” Subramanian has noticed that “there is a lot of openness to wanting to see…businesses succeed. We want to see growth …[and] dynamism.” He continued, “We don’t want to keep seeing generations leaving for greener pastures.”

In closing, Subramanian said that his experience with building companies demonstrates one thing: “It takes a village and what we have proven is that you can create these connections that can help the business and help other businesses and they create a culture that fosters more successful businesses over time.”

The Buffalo Private Equity Summit will be held on May 23 in Buffalo. For more information and registration, go to: