Startup Raises Hopes For High-Tech Growth In Buffalo

By Emma Sapong
The Buffalo News, N.Y.

BAK USA, the manufacturer of low-cost tablet PCs and cellphones opening a factory in Buffalo, has its eyes on the fertile African market.

And the attraction appears to be mutual — continent-wide.

The Republic of Chad in Central Africa wants 60,000 tablets for its high school and university students.

In West Africa, the Senegalese government has tapped BAK to fulfill its tablet needs.

Djibouti, the East African nation, is sending representatives to Buffalo in coming weeks to check out samples of BAK’s models.

But the startup, located in the Compass East building on Michigan Avenue, hasn’t even opened yet. Construction of its factory in the former Sheehan Memorial Hospital is nearing completion, and 10 workers are already onboard, but BAK won’t start making devices until December.

“The word has gotten out, and there’s a lot of interest,” said JP Bak, chairman of BAK USA. “It seems we’ve hit the right niche for the educational and government markets in Africa.”

While Africa will be its first port of call, the company’s sleek BAK Carbon, an unlocked 3G Android smartphone with dual SIM card capacity, will also retail in New York State exclusively in the U.S. for $155. But Android tablets will dominate the new business, accounting for 75 percent of production, including the BAK JET, an eight-inch Wi-Fi tablet PC that they are expecting will be available locally for $119 in time for Christmas.

Once production commences, BAK USA will give Buffalo bragging rights as a tech trailblazer, making it one of the first U.S. cities to manufacture tablet PCs and cellphones. And a year from now, plans call for it to employ more than 100 people making up to 40,000 devices that will be sold nationwide as well.

“Who said tablets have to be made in China?” JP Bak said. “We’re going to prove that it can be done here successfully, producing quality devices that are affordable.”

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