Buffalo biz plan contest attracts thousands

42North founder Jordan "Jordy" Levy: Buffalo's entrepreneurial ecosystem is on the rise.

New York’s 43North business plan contest received a record 3,000 qualified entries seeking a shot at big bucks, free incubator space and mentorship.

The downside: You have to set up shop in Buffalo.

Nonetheless, more than 11,000 entrepreneurs signed up for the second running of the program, a 64 percent jump over 2014. Entrants came from all 50 states, nine of the 10 Canadian provinces and 117 countries.

Sectors included software development, web and mobile technology, media and entertainment, e-commerce, healthcare and biotechnology, green and clean technology, advanced manufacturing, agri-business and others.

The contest awards one $1 million prize, six $500,000 awards and four $250,000 awards, making it one off the richest in the world. In addition, organizers call it the world’s largest.

“The huge global response to 43North is a testament to the program, as well as the region,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in announcing the numbers. “More and more people are finding out that Buffalo is a city on the move and want to be a part of this very exciting chapter in Western New York’s history.”
Cuomo’s Billion for Buffalo initiative funds the contest, with support from the New York Power Authority.
Registrants from the United States represent 45 percent of total responses, with New York, California, Florida, Texas and Georgia leading the way. Internationally, India, Canada, Brazil, the United Kingdom and Israel were the top foreign countries for registrants.

Sixty-one percent are of Asian, African-American, Hispanic or American Indian ethnicity, with 30 percent white. Twenty percent are female.

Later this summer, 43North will announce semifinalists who will be asked to complete a more in-depth online application and then present their business ideas to a team of judges via videoconference. In October, 11 finalists will pitch their business ideas in-person in front of a panel of high-profile judges.

“We set out to keep the momentum up and capitalize on a very successful inaugural year, and the 11,356 registrants we engaged proves we did just that, while continuing to inject Buffalo into the global startup conversation,” said Jordan “Jordy” Levy, the venture capitalist and Cuomo confidant who launched the program. “Our region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is on the rise and the inclusion of another 11 promising startups to Western New York will only help further that cause.”