Eric Reich is no stranger to business plan competitions or their value. Having turned $25,000 grand prize winnings into a national business that helps colleges and universities around the country, Campus Labs is one of Buffalo ‘s finest startup examples.
Eric, you won a business plan competition at the University at Buffalo that helped get your company going — tell us about how that experience shaped your evolution, and the opportunity you now see in 43North for other startups/entrepreneurs as a result.
We considered winning to be a responsibility. We wanted to give the award credibility, so that motivation was good, but we learned that the competition is really a microcosm of what it takes to build a company: the preparation experience, the ongoing presentations to different audiences and then the choices you make, regardless of if you are successful each time you work to win a competition or a customer opportunity or an outside partnership.
What do you think 43North does for Buffalo ‘s entrepreneurial landscape?
It changes it considerably. I am hopeful that 43North not only infuses the winning companies into the startup ecosystem, but hopefully some teams that don’t win will have done enough work and built enough confidence to start their company and can utilize resources like z80 Labs to get off the ground.
What resources or support does a startup need to survive and flourish, and what does Buffalo have to offer in that regard?
Startups are all about the team. I am often asked about starting and scaling a business in Buffalo and the perception that it can be difficult to build a team, but I think it is the opposite. There are more smart, capable people in Buffalo looking for exciting opportunities than there are companies that can provide that experience.
You led your company to a very successful exit. Any tips for others as they set out to build a company that can grow and flourish, as well as even position themselves to eventually be acquired?
The best way to a successful exit is not to plan for one. Build a great company that doesn’t need to be acquired. Not only will your foundation be much stronger, but when you inevitably start to receive inbound interest because you have built a great company, your leverage is greater and your choices are more numerous.