Broader group of 43North finalists vie for prize

Stephen T. Watson | The Buffalo News

This year’s collection of 43North finalists is larger, and less parochial, than the group of companies brought in last year for the $5 million business plan competition.

In 2015, the contest’s second year, six of the 11 finalist companies were from Buffalo Niagara or Southern Ontario.

This year, just two of the 16 finalist companies are from the region.

The 16 finalists include four from Boston, three from the Washington, D.C.-Baltimore area, three from downstate New York and two from San Francisco. All of those regions have more mature startup scenes than the Buffalo area.

43North organizers made a series of changes to the application process this year, to emphasize bringing in a higher-quality mix of companies even if the contest drew fewer applications overall.Instead of an initial, eight-question application, companies filled out the intensive, 60-question application that previously came during the second stage. They also asked for financial information from the companies in the first round instead of the second round. And they charged an application fee for the first time, of either $50 or $100.

The contest drew 542 applications this year, compared to 11,350 last year, but 74 percent of last year’s applications were immediately thrown out because they didn’t meet the eligibility guidelines.

Contest officials say the changes paid off. In one sign of the startups’ strength, officials say the 542 qualified applicants for this year’s competition had raised a combined $170 million from investors.

The finalist companies have won tens of thousands of dollars in other business competitions, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from investors and in some cases already are earning revenue from sales.

They have ideas ranging from a new cancer drug, to a renewable source of water drawn from maple trees to a public bench that’s a “Wi-Fi” hub and a high-tech gathering spot.

Which one will walk away with the $1 million grand prize? We’ll find out Thursday night.

• Abcombi Biosciences

Hometown: Buffalo

Team size: 5

Stage: Pre-revenue

The only Buffalo-based company in the competition is trying to develop a “smart” vaccine for complex diseases such as pneumonia. Abcombi also has lab space through the Johnson & Johnson Innovation incubator, JLabs @ Toronto. The company has won $95,000 in business competitions, including the Bright Buffalo Niagara Entrepreneur Expo, and received $560,000 in grants and foundation support.

Andromium

Hometown: San Francisco

Team size: 6

Stage: Revenue

A software company whose app aims to make the Android operating system function like a desktop. The company says its mission is to build a world where the only computer people will need is their smartphone. Andronium has raised $3.5 million in pre-sales for its Superbook through a Kickstarter campaign and other sources.

Arthena

Hometown: New York City

Team size: 10

Stage: Revenue

A startup that uses automated and data-driven results to invest in the most liquid segment of the art market. Arthena says it focuses on art because it is the alternative asset with the highest barrier to entry for investors but the strongest historical returns on investment. The company says it opens up the $64 billion art market to millions of people who otherwise couldn’t invest. Arthena was part of the spring 2014 class of AngelPad, the global tech accelerator, and has raised $1.35 million.

Asarasi

Hometown: Westchester County

Team size: 2

Stage: Revenue

The company has developed a way to harvest and bottle water from maple trees, replacing the consumption of groundwater and reusing byproducts of the maple production process that are now discarded. Its water is distributed in independent grocery stores and food service operations throughout the Northeast. Asarasi has won $62,500 in prizes in six business competitions over the past nine months, and has raised $235,000 from investors over the past year.

Bounce Imaging

Hometown: Boston

Team size: 9

Stage: Pre-revenue

The company makes 360-degree, disposable cameras for first responders to use as they enter dangerous spaces to better identify hazards ahead. Bounce Imaging has been named a Popular Science/CNN/TIME Best Invention, was a Gold winner at MassChallenge, and in 2015 won the $1 million Verizon Powerful Answers Award for best technology for first responders. The company has raised $2.5 million to date.

CleanCapital

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

Team size: 5

Stage: Revenue

A startup that takes clean-energy financing and investments to a broader market. The company’s platform identifies, screens and manages clean energy projects  – primarily solar projects on commercial, industrial, medical and educational buildings – for its investors. CleanCapital’s initial project was for $21 million, backed by John Hancock, and the company says it has $100 million in exclusive deals it plans to roll out in the next few months. The company has received $1 million in seed funding, and its CEO is a Buffalo native who still has Bills season tickets.

Formarum

Hometown: Toronto

Team size: 6

Stage: Pre-revenue

The company has developed a water turbine technology to create self-powered and self-contained devices that can be installed in pipes and eliminate all external components, including control panels, electrical cables, and communication modules. Formarum used this technology to create, as its first product, a swimming pool device that uses the flow of water in pool pipes to generate electricity and then uses that electricity to produce pure, inexpensive chlorine on-site to sanitize the pool. Since 2013, the company has raised about $327,679 (American), including investments and awards and grants.

HigherMe

Hometown: Boston

Team size: 10

Stage: Revenue

The company has developed software to help retail and hourly employers quickly hire better employees. Its founders call it a LinkedIn for the world of retail and hospitality. HigherMe has worked with customers such as Dunkin’ Donuts and Panera Bread. The company has raised $1.5 million from investors, including Barbara Corcoran from the TV show “Shark Tank.” Now hiring for five full-time openings.

MobioSense

Hometown: Taiwan

Team size: 5

Stage: Pre-revenue

A company that has developed a computerized system to monitor patients with heart disease and potentially predict heart attacks. It’s a portable, palm-sized device that the company says is revolutionary because it could prevent and predict heart attacks in real time. The Taiwan National Science Council and its Ministry of Science and Technology have endorsed MobioSense. The company has $480,000 in private and government investments, including $200,000 from angels.

NeoReach

Hometown: San Francisco

Team size: 15

Stage: Revenue

A startup that has developed a platform to manage social media marketing campaigns and to track the results. Its software is used primarily by major Fortune 1,000 brands such as Walmart and Amazon. The company has raised $3.1 million in venture capital funding and won Founder.org’s $100,000 challenge.

• Oncolinx

Hometown: Boston

Team size: 6

Stage: Revenue

The company worked with the National Cancer Institute to develop targeted cancer immunotherapies, or antibody drug conjugates, that are planned to enter clinical trials in mid-2017. Oncolinx has partnerships with 14 pharma companies to speed up the development of the therapies. The company is a winner of the MassChallenge, MassBio and Texas Medical Center Life Sciences Award, among other contests, and has closed on $350,000 in financing.

PathoVax

Hometown: Baltimore

Team size: 3

Stage: Pre-revenue

A biotech spinout from Johns Hopkins University that is commercializing RGVax, a low-cost vaccine to prevent HPV-associated cancers. PathoVax has won business competitions within the university and was named a “Best of the Best” startup at a pitch event hosted by the Mid Atlantic Bio Angels in 2015. The company has raised more than $700,000 from angel investors, as well as $100,000 in research grants. PathoVax also received a multimillion-dollar federal grant to help its vaccine technology move to human clinical trials.

Strawberry Energy

Hometown: Belgrade, Serbia

Team size: 9

Stage: Revenue

The company is developing solar-powered “smart benches” that can serve as Wi-Fi enabled social hubs in urban settings. Strawberry said it is focused on providing sustainable, green and customizable infrastructure to meet the challenges of rapid global urbanization. Its benches are solar-powered and connected to cellular and internet networks. They can also track the health of the local environment. Strawberry has raised $400,000 from investors.

UltraCell Insulation

Hometown: Boston

Team size: 4

Stage: Pre-revenue

The company makes high-performance building insulation from recycled corrugated cardboard. UltraCell has won the TechOut Competition and has been a MassChallenge finalist. The company has raised funding from investors such as the Clean Energy Venture Group, Rochester Angels, Walnut Venture Associates and Boston Harbor Angels, though it declined to specify the dollar amount. It also has received grants from the National Science Foundation, the Environmental Protection Administration and the Mass Clean Energy Center

The Wealth Factory

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

Team size: 8

Stage: Revenue

A startup that produces financial literacy education technology games. The company’s goal is to provide equal access to financial literacy around the world, particularly to underrepresented and underserved populations. The program takes users from birth to retirement in 12 interactive and instructive modules that exceed the personal finance common core standards. The company is the official financial literacy partner for the Bank on DC program operated by the District of Columbia’s Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking, serving 15,000 young people annually, and last year was featured in a Dell ad. This year it launched its CreditStacker app on Google Play and Apple’s App Store.

 

WeDidIt

Hometown: Brooklyn

Team size: 6

Stage: Revenue

A software service that aggregates donor data so charities can automate their prospect research and launch highly targeted fundraising campaigns. The company has helped organizations such as New York Public Radio, Amnesty International and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles raise more than $40 million over the years. WeDidIt won the MillerCoors Urban Entrepreneurs Series, and a $25,000 grant, in 2012. The company has raised about $1 million from its investors, including the 500 Startups Accelerator and Dreamit Ventures.