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Cuomo announces launch of America's largest business plan competition

by jmaloni


Wed, Feb 5th 2014 12:45 pm

"43North" will award $5 million to attract startups to Western New York

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the launch of the largest business competition in the U.S. Details for the Buffalo competition, as well as its new brand, 43North (www.43North.org), were revealed at a press conference at One Canalside, a newly rehabbed building overlooking the transformative new construction along Buffalo's waterfront.

The 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, which is driving economic development throughout Buffalo and Western New York.

"For the past decade, Buffalo has slowly and steadily been on the move - you can see it in our skyline, in new, burgeoning neighborhoods like the Medical Campus and Larkinville, and in the organic growth of our business community with exemplary leadership from Eric Reich of Campus Labs, George Chamoun of Synacor and Ashok Subramanian of Liazon," said 43North Steering Committee Chairman Jordan Levy. "Our city is ready for the next phase in growth and development. I'm excited to be part of the movement that is bringing entrepreneurs to our community and making Buffalo a place where startups are welcomed and encouraged."

43North is designed to systematically generate new business ventures in Western New York, while providing mentoring and other aid for aspiring entrepreneurs; supporting early-stage firm growth; and attracting additional venture funding. The objective of this bold and proven approach is to position upstate New York and the greater Buffalo/Niagara region squarely on the map of America's newest innovation and entrepreneurship hotbeds.

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 open to applicants ages 18 and over from anywhere in the world in any industry, with the exception of retail and hospitality. Winners agree to operate their business in Buffalo for a minimum of one year.

The competition will be broken down into three rounds, with each round being judged independently of one another.

•Round 1 (Feb. 5 - May 31): Applications from prospective businesses will be accepted via the competition's website, www.43North.org. The purpose of round one 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.

•Round 2 (Sept. 15-20): The semifinalists will present further detail on their plan, along with a 10-minute online presentation to 43North's judging panel, followed by 10 minutes of questions. The plans put forward in round two will include the venture's business concept, value proposition, competitive analysis, communication and distribution channels, client relationships, key stakeholders, resources and activities, cost structure, revenue streams and financial considerations.

•Round 3 (Oct. 27-31): The final stage of the competition is for finalist teams to pitch their business in person to a panel of judges in Buffalo. Each team will have 10 minutes to sell their business idea, followed by 10 minutes of questions. Teams will be assessed on overall organization of the presentation; the team's ability to "sell" the idea and need for the company; the team's ability to defend the plan and be responsive to questions; and the quality of the overall plan. The competition concludes with the selection of winners and celebrations.

43North.org will provide applicants with the information needed for the competition, and will feature competition details such as staff, funding and mentor resources, as well as news, updates, videos, social media sharing capabilities, and information about living and working in Western New York.

To spread the word about the competition and attract applicants from across the country and around the world, 43North is embarking on an aggressive roadshow that will include stops in 12 U.S. cities, southern Ontario, India, China and Israel.

"Thanks to Gov. Cuomo and the efforts of local business leaders Jordan Levy and Howard Zemsky, Buffalo will now be home to the nation's largest business plan competition of its kind," said 43North Executive Director Andrew Pulkrabek. "As a result, Buffalo stands to be the beneficiary of new innovation, industry and jobs from bright minds across the U.S. and around the world. This competition will also help grow Buffalo's entrepreneurial economy for years to come."

"To create the type of entrepreneurial ecosystem that is required to attract the best and brightest business minds, we needed to raise the stakes and design a contest that will go above and beyond some of the traditional financial offerings of previous competitions," said Howard Zemsky, WNY Regional Economic Development Council co-chair and managing partner at Larkin Development Group. "Thanks to Gov. Cuomo and the New York Power Authority, we now have the means to make Buffalo a more competitive city in the world of startups. 43North will attract entrepreneurial champions who have the ability to invigorate the existing business community and attract future startups to the Western New York region."

"This competition builds on the strengths of the Western New York Region by inviting and encouraging ideas that will ultimately result in job creation," said Satish K. Tripathi, WNY Regional Economic Development Council co-chair and president of the University at Buffalo. "The winners will be coming to Buffalo at an exciting time of growth and economic revival. This is a tremendous opportunity for the best and brightest startup minds to be a part of the renaissance."

In May, the New York Power Authority trustees approved $5.4 million in funding for the international business plan 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.

"Gov. Cuomo has spared no effort to spur conditions for unleashing Western New York's great economic potential, as demonstrated by his 'Buffalo Billion' initiative and the 43North global business plan competition," said John R. Koelmel, NYPA chairman. "The Power Authority is proud to be supporting these efforts, including the funding that we're providing to make the 43North business plan competition a reality from proceeds obtained from the sale of unutilized Niagara hydropower."

"With $2.2 billion in new economic development activity currently underway in Buffalo, I'm excited to see this $5 million business plan competition attract creative ideas that turn into funded, high-growth enterprises that spur even more investment and job growth for city residents," said Mayor Byron W. Brown. "This competition, part of Gov. Cuomo's 'Buffalo Billion' initiative, heightens Buffalo's visibility on the business radar, providing us with another great opportunity to showcase our city as a vibrant place to live, work and invest because of Buffalo's improved fiscal condition, diverse economy, skilled workforce and safe neighborhoods."

Four full-time staff members plus a steering committee chaired by Levy will lead 43North. Staff members include Pulkrabek, executive director; Peter Burakowski, senior marketing manager; Jon Spitz, operations manager; and Christa Vidaver, events manager. The committee is comprised of local leaders in business and investment, including Zemsky, Scott Friedman of Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman LLP, Ron Schreiber of Softbank Capital, David Zebro of Strategic Investments & Holdings Inc., and Sharon Randaccio of Performance Management Partners Inc.

43North will operate from Z80 Labs at One News Plaza.

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