The Buffalo News I David Robinson
The 43North business plan competition is down to 142 semifinalists for this year’s contest.
The $5 million business plan competition released the semifinalists on Monday after narrowing its field of entries from a pool of 542 initial entrants.
This year’s semifinalists were culled from a much smaller pool of applicants after 43North officials altered the entry process to make it more stringent and adding a modest entry fee in an effort to weed out less-qualified applicants and focus the early review process on higher-quality candidates.
43North organizers said 37 percent of the semifinalists have founders who have identified themselves as being African-American, Hispanic or as being part of another non-white ethnic group. The organizers said 23 percent of the semifinalists have founders who are women.
“I’m very pleased with the caliber of our applicants,” said William J. Maggio Jr., the 43North chairman. “43North has constantly improved its processes to ensure the best possible results.”
• Startups from the Buffalo Niagara region are well represented among the semifinalists, with 25 firms from Erie and Niagara counties making the cut, or about 17 percent of the remaining entrants. Last year, a quarter of the semifinalists were from the Buffalo Niagara region.
• More than 30 percent of the semifinalists are from New York. Beyond the local semifinalists, two are from the Rochester area and 18 are from downstate.
• A little more than two of every five applicants are from a state other than New York. More than 10 percent of the semifinalists – 15 in all – are from California, while 5 percent – a total of eight – are from Massachusetts.
• A quarter of the remaining applicants – a total of 36 – are from outside the United States. Canada has an especially strong presence among the semifinalists, with 26 Canadian entrants making up 18 percent of the semifinalists. Last year, Canadian firms made up 10 percent of the semifinalists.
• Ten of the semifinalists are from outside the United States and Canada, including three from Israel. Other international semifinalists came from Serbia, Finland, Bulgaria, Sweden, Vietnam and South Korea.
This year’s applicant pool was just a fraction of the entries the contest has received in each of its first two years, including 11,350 entrants last year.
The contest added an entrance fee of $50 to $100 to weed out less-than-serious applicants.
43North organizers also decided to offer fewer prizes this year, eliminating the $250,000 prizes that previously had been awarded to four of the 11 winners. This year, the contest will have eight winners, with six companies winning $500,000, the runner-up getting $600,000 and the winner $1 million. The contest will hold $400,000 in prize money in reserve to be awarded in 2017 to winning companies that show particular promise.
The contest is one of the smallest pieces of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion economic development initiative. The idea behind the contest is to help create a more entrepreneurial climate in a region where the pace of new business creation was lagging behind the nation, and also to create an image of Buffalo as a good place to start a business.
The semifinalists now will make video pitches to 43North judges through the end of August. The pool of semifinalists then will be narrowed to eight finalists, who will make in-person pitches during the contest’s final round, which will be held in Buffalo on Oct. 26-27.