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Record number of applicants for world's largest business idea competition

ALBANY – A record number of applicants signed up for the 43North global business idea competition, which concluded its application round on May 31, 2014. A total of 6,932 applications were received for the competition during the four-month entry period, with 2,603 qualified submissions advancing to the first round of judging.
“The 43North competition is an important part of our Buffalo Billion initiative, designed to attract talented entrepreneurs and startup ventures from all over the world and bring them here to Western New York,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “We are proud to announce the first round has gone global in a big way with applications coming in from over 90 countries. This is another sign that Buffalo is on the radar of entrepreneurs worldwide.”

43North Steering Committee Chairman Jordan Levy said, “We set out to attract 1,000 applicants for the competition and we blew that number right out of the water. I think the huge response 43North has received demonstrates the viability of our strategy to build a local entrepreneurial eco-system, and what we have to offer startups in terms of support, talent, mentorship and services, and a low cost environment to help get businesses started.”

The 43North competition—named after the latitudinal line that runs through Western New York—features $5 million in cash prizes, with a top prize of $1 million, and is part of Governor Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion initiative, intended to drive new economic opportunities throughout the City of Buffalo and the Western New York region. The applicant pool included business ideas hailing from all 50 U.S. states and 96 countries, representing various sectors such as information technology, software development, web and mobile technology, business services, media and entertainment, e-commerce, healthcare and biotechnology, green and clean technology, advanced manufacturing, sports and fitness, agri-business, and others.

In May 2013, the New York Power Authority (NYPA) trustees approved $5.4 million in funding for the 43North global business idea competition. The award came from a recommendation by the WNY Power Proceeds Allocation Board (WNYPPAB) to apply the revenues from the sale of unutilized hydropower toward the concept of a competition. These funds were subsequently committed to the non-profit Launch NY for management of the competition and eventual distribution of funds.

The NYPA proceeds funding for 43North stems from net earnings obtained from its sale into the wholesale electricity marketplace of unutilized hydropower designated under state law for Western New York businesses. In addition to the $5.4 million for 43North, NYPA has made proceeds funding awards of more than $8 million to more than 20 Western New York enterprises as part of its multidimensional efforts to spur job creation and capital investments in the region.

To spread the word about the business idea competition and attract applicants from across the country and around the world, 43North embarked on an aggressive social media, public relations, minority engagement, and roadshow outreach campaign. This effort resulted in over 14 million online impressions, roughly 100 earned media placements, thousands of personal conversations and individual meetings, participation in several high-profile national minority and women business enterprise (M/WBE) conferences and events, and over 75 outreach presentation stops in two dozen North American cities and other international locations, particularly those with the greatest interest in startups.

In addition to the top cash prize of $1 million, 43North will award six $500,000 prizes and four $250,000 prizes. Winners also receive free incubator space for a year, guidance from mentors related to their field and access to other exciting incentive programs, like Start-Up NY.

Here is a breakdown of the remaining process:

  • June 30, 2014: The semi-finalists will be announced.
  • September 2014: The semi-finalists will be asked to present further details on their business plan to 43North’s judging panel, followed by 10 minutes of questions. At the conclusion of the week, the 11 finalists will be announced. Each finalist will be guaranteed a cash prize.
  • October 30, 2014: The finalists will pitch their business in-person to a panel of celebrity judges in Buffalo and the award ceremony will be held. Events will take place in the week leading up to the pitches and award ceremony. Details on finals week will be announced later this summer.