43north.org to give $5 million to startup busineses

As part of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s $1 billion high-profile bid to turn the Buffalo Niagara region’s economy around, 43North business launched a global business plan competition that is going to give out $5 million in prizes to attract entrepreneurs with the best ideas for starting a new business.

America’s richest and most ambitious business idea competition offers a grand prize of $1 million, plus free office space and support services for a year, to the entrepreneur with the best idea. The winning business must locate in Buffalo for at least a year.

Winners also receive free incubator space for a year, mentorship from experts in their fields and access to many incentive programs, like Start-Up NY, which allows businesses to operate tax-free for 10 years.

Overall, 11 promising new businesses will get free money; ranging from $250,000 to $1 million.

Here is how the 11 prizes totaling $5 million break down:

  • top award of $1 million;
  • six $500,000 awards; and
  • four $250,000 awards.

David Robinson reported in the Buffalo News that, “All too often, we have been on the outside looking in when it comes to innovation,” said John R. Koelmel, the local executive and chairman of the New York Power Authority, which is providing the $5 million in funding for the competition. “This is going to attract an even more scarce asset that we desperately need: intellectual capital.” This year’s competition is just the start.

The plan is for similar contests to be held during each of the next four years, said Howard Zemsky, the Buffalo developer who serves as the co-chairman of the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council.

James Fink, Buffalo Business First, Reporter said “The $5 million was made following a recommendation last May by the Western New York Power Proceeds Allocation Board, who help oversee where New York Power Authority excess power proceeds funds are spent in the region.”

“If you had an idea as an entrepreneur, what would you do with $1 million? It truly is a lot,” said Andrew Pulkrabek, the executive director of the 43North initiative.

43North is looking for the best new business ideas from anywhere in the world to come to Buffalo. To promote the competition, organizers plan to make presentations in a dozen U.S. cities, from California to New York City, as well as in southern Ontario, India, China and Israel.

43North’s steering committee includes Howard A. Zemsky, Jordan Levy, Buffalo attorney Scott Friedman, local venture capitalist Ronald Schreiber, David Zebro of Buffalo private-equity firm Strategic Investments & Holdings and Sharon Randaccio of Performance Management Partners in Williamsville.

It is hoped the contest will attract 1,000’s of ideas for new businesses.

Round 1 (February 5 – May 31): applications will accepted from prospective businesses through the group’s website, www.43north.org.

The purpose of Round 1 is for applicants to provide a vision for their venture, including their business concept, target customers, industry overview, competitive landscape and revenue potential. This submission is not intended to be as comprehensive as a detailed business plan, but should provide the judges with a summary of the major elements of the venture.

The final stage in the competition will take place Oct. 27 to 31, finalists will pitch their business to a panel of local judges through a 10-minute presentation, followed by 10 minutes of questions.