Toronto Star | Ashante Infantry
Canadians are being encouraged to participate in a new $5-million business plan competition that aims to turn Buffalo into a startup hub.
For at least a year, though, winners will be obligated to operate their businesses in Buffalo, where they will get free incubator space.
Andrew Pulkrabek, executive director of 43 North, says the once maligned city, which is experiencing a fiscal and social renewal, is “a burgeoning ecosystem for entrepreneurship.”
“There’s a rebirth of the city in high tech, in life sciences. There are tremendous support systems that exist here, by way of infrastructure and then individual subject matter experts and mentors. There’s a lot of overall community support, grass roots support, to help folks that are ultimately going to come here, set up a business, be successful.”
The organization, which will take a 5-per-cent equity stake in winning ventures, is seeking a total of 1000 applicants from every industry, except hospitality and retail.
“They can be at any stage: from back of the napkin, all the way through to an established cash-flowing business,” said Pulkrabek.
Contest outreach will extend to southern Ontario, India, China and Israel, but 43 North hasn’t yet ironed out the legal details around non-American winners working in New York.
“We don’t have a hold on immigration policy, but we do have a lot of folks in good positions that can help navigate the waters for a potential Canadian company that would come through and would win,” said Pulkrabek. “We want to do everything we can to help those companies aboard be successful in landing here.”
The proposal could impact Toronto’s own startup capital ambitions, but Ontarians should consider the “overall ecosystem,” said Pulkrabek.
“If we can attract people to consider this part of the world differently, if we can have them look at western New York and Buffalo and the Greater Toronto Area as being an applicable location for startups, I think we can all win in this mix,” he explained.
The competition was funded by the New York Power Authority (NYPA) with proceeds from the sale of unutilized Niagara hydropower. Three rounds of judging should conclude in October.