Lack of a stimulating environment and lack of funding keep too many great business ideas at the dream stage. The people, businesses, and Government of New York State are determined to change that for entrepreneurs and start-up teams as part of the $2.2 billion renaissance that will "position Upstate New York and the Greater Buffalo Niagara region squarely on the map of America's newest innovation and entrepreneurship hotbeds."
Lack of encouragement and stimulation squelches innovation and can exhaust an entrepreneur's creative spirit. Working in an enriched environment that nurtures and promotes creative forward thinking - that is, in a great "Place to Think" - is vital to successful development of new ideas and fresh approaches. Buffalo is rising to the challenge and inviting new entrepreneurs and business people to help Buffalo emerge as their Place to Think - an international center for innovation.
But a great business idea and an excellent context for innovation are not enough. Lack of funding keeps too many terrific business ideas at the dream stage. Buffalo-based 43North offers 11 talented entrepreneurs or start-up teams from anywhere in the world a chance to share in $5 million to transform their business dreams into reality.
Promoted as "the world's largest business plan competition," 43North - a not-for-profit named after the line of latitude that runs through Western New York State - achieves this claim by offering financial packages that total $5 million to innovators judged to be the best: top cash prize $1 million, six $500,000 prizes, and four $250,000 prizes. Award funds came from the New York Power Authority's sale of unutilized hydropower.
An innovative, viable, scale-able business idea is the price of admission into the 43North Business Plan Competition. No application fee. Although applicants must be at least 18 years of age, no limitations exist for stage of business development. No limits on team size, technology involved, nor types of incubator facilities required. All the "techs" - bio, clean, green, high, and medical - qualify with exclusions only for retail, hospitality, and financial schemes. Although one prize is guaranteed to be awarded to a Buffalo-area venture, the competition is wide open to entrepreneurs and start-up teams from any state or country. A truly global opportunity.
Just take your fabulous business idea to http://www.43North.org and start filling in the online application with your business objectives, market overview, and other details. Financial statements are not required at this stage, but applicants are urged to confirm with legal counsel that any intellectual property involved is protected. File by May 31, 2014 and you're entered to win.
Venture Capitalist and 43North Executive Director Andrew J. Pulkrabek stresses that money, even a lot of money, is not enough. Winners will also receive a year of free incubator space, but that's not enough either. The 43North definition of "full support for business growth" includes mentorship from experts in applicants' fields, support for early-stage growth, additional venture funding, and access to incentive programs, like Start-Up NY, which allows businesses to operate tax-free for 10 years.
The Competition consists of three, independently-judged stages:
- 1. Round 1, during which applications are accepted at 43North.org, ends May 31st and judging and eliminations begin.
- 2. Round 2, in September, involves semifinalists elaborating on their plans to include competitive analysis, key stakeholders, financial considerations, and other significant business development details. Short online presentations will allow the world to appreciate the full range of innovative business ideas. Judges make the tough decisions and narrow the field again.
- 3. Round 3 ends October 31 after finalists pitch their business plan in person to a panel of judges in Buffalo. Winners receive their prizes and now the real work begins!
All winners are required to relocate to Buffalo, New York, for a minimum of one year. If you're not a local, you may feel that moving to an unknown location will make things harder. In this Place to Think, there'll be no more going it alone. 43North and Buffalo will be behind you. Instead of you alone wanting and striving to succeed, you'll have determined, experienced entrepreneurs and experts to support your drive and smooth the path to success. This is the power of location at it's best.
Pulkrabek describes a degree of local commitment to successful development of the winning 11 ventures that would make Buffalo and the Western New York area a smart choice for long-term growth of the prize-winning businesses. The Competition was designed as one element in Governor Cuoumo's Buffalo Billions initiative, an overall economic development plan that also encourages high-growth start-up enterprises and new business to locate in Western New York. IBMs recently-announced downtown +500-job venture is a harbinger of tech growth.
Pulkrabeck believes making sure the world and its entrepreneurs know about the $5 million opportunity is 43North's biggest challenge. Late in February, Pulkrabek took the 43North show on the road and toured Southwestern Ontario to encourage applications. He presented Competition details at the Laurier University Schlegel Centre for Entrepreneurship in Waterloo, and hosted a series of 43North sessions for interested Toronto students, startups, and venture capitalists. The roadshow will continue in 12 US cities, India, and China.
In the first three weeks after Governor Cuomo announced the launch of this business plan competition on February 5th, more than 260 budding entrepreneurs filed applications. While many originated from Western New York State and the Greater Toronto Area, entrepreneurs from across the US and from Italy, Vietnam, and England have put forward their innovative concepts. What are you waiting for?
Even the 43North Business Plan Competition will not be enough if the right people don't hear about it. Spread the word to entrepreneurs ready to transform their dreams into reality with a little help from Buffalo.
Source: "A Place to Think" from What's Your Point?