43North Winners Make Progress In Raising Money, Developing Products

By Stephen T. Watson
The Buffalo News, N.Y.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The 43North competition in Buffalo, NY is a major pitch contest. For the past several years it has handed out millions in funding for innovative startups. This article takes a look at how some of those companies are progressing.

The Buffalo News, N.Y.

The 43North business plan competition is sorting through applications for its third year of awards. Winners from the first two rounds, meanwhile, are well into raising money, hiring workers, selling their products, and otherwise trying to build off their victories in the contest.

The 2014 winners have used their head start well, said 43North, which stands to succeed in parallel to winning companies because the organization gets a 5 percent equity stake in exchange for the prize money. “43North is very excited to see our winners’ many recent accomplishments and we are proud of the important roles 43North and Buffalo have played in their progress,” said John T. Gavigan, the organization’s executive director.

For example, Genetesis, a medical device startup founded by an Ohio State University student and now located in Columbus, will receive $350,000 from billionaire investor Mark Cuban.

Asana Medical, which moved back to Florida, has closed on $1.2 million in funding for the development and commercialization of a way to non-surgically treat inflammatory bowel diseases.

Two winners from 2014 that stayed in Buffalo also have raised funds. Medical Conservation Devices raised more than $1 million for its relatively low-priced anesthesia machine, while HemoGenyx, which is developing a treatment for blood diseases to improve the effectiveness of bone-marrow transplants, raised $1 million from Bonsai Capital.

The 2015 winners are newer, of course, but they also are making progress, as reported by 43North and the companies:

ACV Auctions

Hometown: Buffalo

What they do: ACV has developed a mobile app to host wholesale car auctions for dealers. The app helps dealers sell less marketable trade-ins and older vehicles through 20-minute online auctions. The company, part of the Start-Up NY tax-free program, says its app could help auto dealers buy and sell vehicles quicker and more efficiently.

Update: In April, ACV pitched at the Launch Pad PITCH competition at the Collision international tech conference in New Orleans. The company has continued expanding into territories in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Ohio, and has grown to 29 employees, with a large inside sales team.


Hometown: Toronto

What they do: CleanSlate is developing a device that uses ultraviolet light to clean and sanitize the surfaces of objects, from smartphones to thermometers, in medical settings to reduce the risk of infection. The company said its device can sanitize the surface of an object in 30 seconds, compared to one to three minutes with Sani-Cloth Wipes, without damaging electronic screens. The company also said its device can kill the most dangerous types of bacteria, including MRSA and C. difficile.

Update: The company has started generating sales revenue for its product and has reached an academic contract with Mount Sinai Health System for a study that began in May. CleanSlate has a pilot project at the Air Canada lounges at Toronto Pearson International Airport and will begin five pilot programs overall this summer.


Hometown: Buffalo

What they do: The company, founded in 2012, has developed a software system that helps coaches, trainers and other athletic officials track and manage data on how athletes are training. CoachMePlus, which withdrew from the Start-Up NY program, said the 43North funding would help it push into new segments of the athletic market about a year to 18 months faster than initially planned.

Update: The company is preparing for the release of its mobile app and is continuing to expand its roster of clients, which includes teams in the NHL, NFL and Major League Baseball.


Hometown: North Tonawanda

What they do: The company has developed a technology that its founders say can cut the time and money needed to bring new drugs to market. Its test can find out whether a drug candidate causes cardiac arrhythmia as a side effect. The company is also part of Start-Up NY, and received a $242,000 award from the National Institutes of Health last summer.

Update: The company is waiting to hear whether it will receive a second, larger small-business award from the NIH. Co-founder and CEO Glenna Bett presented at the SUNY Academic Industry Roundtable and won the infoTech Niagara BETA Award for Women In Technology.

Disease Diagnostic Group

Hometown: Boston, Mass.

What they do: The company is developing a battery-powered device that uses magnets and lasers to detect malaria in a patient’s blood. DDG says its 2-pound portable device can test blood in as little as 10 seconds at a cost of about 25 cents, and can detect malaria even in patients who aren’t showing symptoms.

Update: DDG was accepted into Start-Up NY and was one of the winners of the 2016 Tata Social Enterprise Challenge and the 2016 SPIE Startup Challenge. The company was a global finalist in The Venture competition and will compete again in July. It has completed product development of its prototypes and is well into research and development at the University at Buffalo’s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics & Life Sciences.


Hometown: Toronto

What they do: The company is developing systems to prevent the spread of infections in hospitals and improve the safety of staff, visitors and patients. It uses real-time surveillance technology and data analysis to track everything from hand washing to the movement of people and equipment.

Update: The company has raised $2.8 million as of this spring. It is switching its business model from charging a monthly fee per hospital bed for its services to a fee based on how much the company saves its hospital clients by preventing infections. The company is forming partnerships in this country and is working with Knowlex, its partner in the United Kingdom, to roll out its system to hospitals there in advance of speaking at a UK conference on infection control later this year.


Hometown: Richmond, Va.

What they do: Painless1099 helps independent contractors such as freelance designers or real estate agents save for tax season. The company helps users avoid unexpected tax bills at the end of the year by automatically withholding income and Social Security taxes, which are put into a separate account at an Iowa-based bank, and depositing the rest into the consumer’s checking account. The company makes money off the interest earned on the withholding deposits.

Update: Painless1099 also pitched at the New Orleans conference and was named a Top 10 finance and capital startup to watch on Entrepreneur’s Brilliant 100 list. The company started the first automated self-employment tax platform in an open beta launch this spring and recently passed $500,000 in deposits through its tax savings accounts for freelancers.


Hometown: Waterloo, Ont.

What they do: Plum makes employment assessment software that combines behavioral science with predictive analytics to help screen job applicants and determine how well they fit a position. The online service assesses an applicant’s intellectual and behavioral priorities, and matches those results with the findings from a 10-minute questionnaire that employers complete on the key attributes they are seeking for a specific position.

Update: Plum is launching test projects with career services offices at UB and the University of Waterloo. And the company has started working with Performance Management Partners, the human resource consulting firm. Plum was also accepted into Start-Up NY.


Hometown: Toronto

What they do: Qoints helps brands evaluate how well their digital campaigns are doing by comparing their results with industry benchmarks — something that only about a quarter of all companies do. It also offers ways to improve the performance of future marketing campaigns.

Update: The company has been accepted into The Next Founders program. Qoints also recently met with the Ontario trade commissioner, Indian information technology corporations and Thomson Reuters as potential partners and product distributors. Qoints was also accepted into Start-Up NY.

Uma Bioseed

Hometown: Ithaca

What they do: Uma Bioseed, founded by Cornell University MBA students, is developing affordable seed coatings that can help fight viral, fungal and bacterial pathogens, including during the seed’s germination phase. The coatings — made with enzyme technology developed by another Cornell spinoff, ZYMtronix — could increase crop yields.

Update: Uma Bioseed ended up deciding it couldn’t move to Buffalo, and turned down its $500,000 prize. That money was set aside for follow-on funding for the 2015 winners and for marketing purposes.

Hometown: Jerusalem

What they do: Voiceitt is developing voice translation technology for the disabled. The company’s translation app, Talkitt, is designed to help people with disabilities communicate better with others. The app can be programmed to recognize a user’s unintelligible speech and translate it into words that can be broadly understood.

Update: Talkitt won the fourth annual Medica App Competition. Voiceitt also participated in the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and was one of 11 startups picked to pitch in the SXSW Interactive Startup Pitch Competition. The company was also accepted into Start-Up NY.

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