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'43North': Cuomo announces record number of applicants for world's largest business idea competition

by jmaloni

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Mon, Jun 2nd 2014 05:15 pm

"43North" attracts entrepreneurs and startups from around the globe looking to win seed funding and relocate to Western New York

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a record number of applicants for the "43North" global business idea competition, which concluded its application round May 31. A total of 6,932 applications were received for the competition during the four-month entry period, with 2,603 qualified submissions advancing to the first round of judging. The applicant pool included business ideas hailing from all 50 U.S. states and 96 countries, representing various sectors such as information technology, software development, Web and mobile technology, business services, media and entertainment, e-commerce, health care and biotechnology, green and clean technology, advanced manufacturing, sports and fitness, agri-business and others.

The "43North" competition - named after the latitudinal line that runs through Western New York - features $5 million in cash prizes, with a top prize of $1 million, and is part of Cuomo's "Buffalo Billion" initiative, intended to drive new economic opportunities throughout the City of Buffalo and the Western New York region.

"The '43North' competition is an important part of our 'Buffalo Billion' initiative, designed to attract talented entrepreneurs and startup ventures from all over the world and bring them here to Western New York," Cuomo said. "We are proud to announce the first round has gone global big way with applications coming in from over 90 countries. This another sign that Buffalo is on the radar of entrepreneurs worldwide."

"We set out to attract 1,000 applicants for the competition, and we blew that number right out of the water," said "43North" steering committee chairman Jordan Levy. "I think the huge response '43North' has received demonstrates the viability of our strategy to build a local entrepreneurial ecosystem, and what we have to offer startups in terms of support, talent, mentorship and services, and a low-cost environment to help get businesses started."

In May 2013, the New York Power Authority trustees approved $5.4 million in funding for the "43North" global business idea competition. The award came from a recommendation by the WNY Power Proceeds Allocation Board to apply the revenues from the sale of unutilized hydropower toward the concept of a competition. These funds were subsequently committed to the nonprofit Launch NY for management of the competition and eventual distribution of funds.

"The tremendous response from startup entrepreneurs to the '43North' business competition is great news for Western New York and reflects another way that New York state is partnering with new highly innovative firms, under Gov. Cuomo's leadership, to diversify the Buffalo-Niagara region's job base and provide a shot in the arm for its economy," said John. R. Koelmel, NYPA chairman and an Erie County resident. "The Power Authority is pleased to be providing the funding for the business competition awards, and is looking forward to significant economic developments resulting from this seed money."

The NYPA proceeds funding for "43North" stems from net earnings obtained from its sale into the wholesale electricity marketplace of unutilized hydropower designated under state law for Western New York businesses. In addition to the $5.4 million for "43North," NYPA has made proceeds funding awards of more than $8 million to more than 20 Western New York enterprises as part of its multidimensional efforts to spur job creation and capital investments in the region. 

To spread the word about the business idea competition and attract applicants from across the country and around the world, "43North" embarked on an aggressive social media, public relations, minority engagement, and roadshow outreach campaign. This effort resulted in more than 14 million online impressions, roughly 100 earned media placements, thousands of personal conversations and individual meetings, participation in several high-profile national minority and women business enterprise conferences and events, and over 75 outreach presentation stops in two-dozen North American cities and the international startup hotbeds of Israel and India.

"From its inception, '43North' has been about shattering the traditional business plan competition model and offering entrepreneurs the level of funding and support necessary to not only get their ideas off the ground, but also to position them for long-term viability," said Western New York Regional Economic Development Council Co-chair and Managing Partner at Larkin Development Group Howard Zemsky. "That is how we can attract top startup talent to our region, and thanks to Gov. Cuomo and the New York Power Authority, we were able to make that happen with an amazing amount of initial interest from applicants."

"Above all, the success of this competition lies in the story being told about the great assets Buffalo has to offer entrepreneurs, and the new way of doing business in our region, as well as the unprecedented commitment from Gov. Cuomo and state government to spur innovation and job creation in Western New York," said Western New York Regional Economic Development Council Co-chair and President of the University at Buffalo Satish K. Tripathi. "The competition has certainly captured the attention of many in the global startup community, and people are truly starting to take note of what is happening with both '43North' and Western New York as a whole."

In addition to the top cash prize of $1 million, "43North" will award six $500,000 prizes and four $250,000 prizes. Winners also receive free incubator space for a year, guidance from mentors related to their field and access to other incentive programs, like Start-Up NY.

" '43North' is one of Gov. Cuomo's 'Buffalo Billion' initiatives that is designed to spark new businesses for Buffalo, but we never dreamed that spark would turn into a fire," said Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Kenneth Adams. "This competition is attracting promising start-up ventures from around the world. '43North' will provide capital, mentoring and support services to winners, and create new economic opportunities for Western New York."

Here is a breakdown of the application and judging process:

Feb. 5 - May 31: 6,932 applications were received via the competition's website, 43North.org. The purpose of round one was for applicants to provide a vision for their venture, including their business concept, target customers, industry overview, competitive landscape and revenue potential.

June 2: Of the 6,932 applications, 2,603 were deemed qualified submissions, meaning they included a response to each application question and chose to formally submit their application. A pool of more than 200 judges will now review the qualified submissions.

June 30: The semifinalists will be announced.

September: The semifinalists will be asked to present further details on their business plan to "43North's" judging panel, followed by 10 minutes of questions. At the conclusion of the week, the 11 finalists will be announced. Each finalist will be guaranteed a cash prize.

Oct. 30: The finalists will pitch their business in-person to a panel of celebrity judges in Buffalo, and the award ceremony will be held. Events will take place in the week leading up to the pitches and award ceremony. Details on finals week will be announced later this summer.

"We are thrilled with these applicant figures, and having traveled throughout the country and to several foreign destinations over the last several months, I can speak first-hand to the excitement that exists for '43North' and the pot of funding and support that we are offering finalists," said "43North" Executive Director Andrew Pulkrabek. "Buffalo is now part of a wider entrepreneurial conversation thanks to '43North' and other complementary efforts, such as Launch NY, Start-Up NY, and the advancement of new local incubator and co-working spaces like Z80 Labs and dig."

To learn more, visit www.43north.org.

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