When state officials hand out the $1 million grand prize in late October to the entrepreneur with the best business plan from the 43North competition, it will be the culmination of a weeklong series of events aimed at helping new ventures get started in the Buffalo Niagara region.
The highlight of what organizers are calling 43North Week will come Oct. 30, with presentations by the 11 finalists in the competition before a live audience in Shea’s Performing Arts Center throughout the morning and afternoon. The winners will be announced that night during an awards ceremony.
But the presentation by the 11 finalists and the award presentation – ranging from the $1 million top prize to six $500,000 awards and four $250,000 prizes – are only part of a weeklong series of events.
“It’s about helping showcase the entrepreneurial ecosystem that’s burgeoning here in Buffalo,” said Andrew J. Pulkrabek, 43North’s executive director.
The business plan contest is a small but potentially powerful part of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion economic-development initiative, aimed at making Buffalo Niagara a more vibrant region for fledgling businesses.
The idea behind the contest is to address a major shortcoming that local development officials identified – a lack of entrepreneurs and business startups – by offering a total of $5 million in prizes to 11 entrepreneurs to try to lure high-potential ideas for new businesses to Buffalo Niagara.
By offering prizes – and a wide range of lucrative side benefits – that were bigger than those offered by any other similar contest, the idea was to create a lot of buzz around the competition that it would attract entrepreneurs who otherwise never would have considered Buffalo Niagara.
The contest’s winners also will be offered a range of additional incentives, including free space in a local incubator site for a year, as well as support from mentors and the ability to qualify for the lucrative tax incentives available under the state’s Start-Up NY program
The winners will be required to set up and operate their business in Buffalo Niagara for at least a year.
The 113 semifinalists who were identified last month currently are making online presentations to the contests’ judges, who are expected to narrow the field to the 11 finalists by late next month or early October, Pulkrabek said.
Once the finalists are in place, 43North officials are planning a series of events leading up to the awards ceremony targeting entrepreneurs, including a session on Oct. 29 that will give all of the 113 semifinalists in the competition the chance to meet with venture capitalists and angel investors.
That event, organized by Bright Buffalo Niagara and slated to be held at the University at Buffalo Clinical Translational Research Center at 875 Ellicott St., also will highlight the local resources and start-up services available in the region.
Another event, scheduled for 1 to 2:30 p.m. Oct. 29, will feature a forum led by local attorney Alexander R. McClean, along with investors and other local officials involved in startup ventures, focusing on crowdfunding as a way for entrepreneurs to raise funding. That session will take place at the New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics & Life Sciences at 700 Ellicott St.
The series of events will kick off Oct. 24 with Buffalo Startup Weekend, hosted at d!g, the Design Innovation Garage, a startup incubator on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus at 640 Ellicott St.
Startup Weekend allows any entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas and receive feedback from other people involved in startups. After participants vote on the most promising ideals, they form teams and spend the next 54 hours working on a business model and studying the market for each of those ventures.
“It’s incredible to see what was once a small group of startup enthusiasts bringing together other startup enthusiasts to kick around ideas and see what sticks, now become a part of a week-long celebration of entrepreneurialism,” said Nicholas Barone, the Buffalo Startup Weekend organizer.
The following day – Oct. 25 – will feature the Whitespace Code and Design Camp, a full-day session to help beginners learn the basics of HTML and CSS, two types of programming that are used to design Web pages.
The Buffalo Startup Scramble will follow, from 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 28, at establishments along Allen Street, where entrepreneurs will be able to network with other entrepreneurs, including some involved with local startups.