By Stephen T. Watson
The Buffalo News, N.Y.
The 11 finalists in the 43North business plan competition that will split $5 million in prize money are a mix of life sciences and technology companies from Western and Central New York, elsewhere on the East Coast, Ontario and Israel.
A panel of judges will select the winner of the $1 million grand prize, along with the winners of six $500,000 prizes and four $250,000 prizes, following a daylong series of pitches from the 11 company teams before a live audience Oct. 29 in Shea’s Performing Arts Center in Buffalo. The winners will be revealed that night during the awards ceremony.
The office of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Thursday announced the 11 finalists, each guaranteed a minimum $250,000 prize, after selecting them from among 110 semifinalists.
The 11 finalists also receive free incubator space in Buffalo for a year, advice from mentors in related fields and access to other incentive programs such as the Start-Up NY tax-free-zone program. The finalist companies must stay in Buffalo for the year to receive the money.
This is the second year of the business plan competition, which for 2015 drew 11,350 applications from all 50 states, nine of the 10 Canadian provinces — except for Prince Edward Island — and 117 countries.
Thousands of applications were rejected for not meeting the contest’s strict eligibility requirements, but 3,007 entrants did meet those standards and were narrowed to the list of semifinalists and again to the list of finalists released by the governor’s office on Thursday.
The 2015 finalists include three local companies, two from Buffalo and one from North Tonawanda, and a fourth New York state company from Ithaca. Two finalists are from Toronto and a third is from Waterloo, Ont.
Outside the region, one company is from Boston and one is from Richmond, Va. The last two finalists come from overseas, in Israel, one from Jerusalem and one from Tel Aviv.
Life sciences and technology companies dominate the final round of the competition.
The finalist companies are:
–ACV Auctions, Buffalo, a mobile auction app for automotive dealers.
–CoachMePlus, Buffalo, a sports performance data tracker.
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–Cytocybernetics, North Tonawanda, which developed a way to screen new drugs to make sure they don’t cause irregular heartbeats.
–Uma Bioseed, Ithaca, came up with an organic method for treating seeds to protect them from pathogens during the germination phase.
–CleanSlate, Toronto, maker of an ultra violet system for swift sanitizing of smartphones and other electronic devices.
–Disease Diagnostic Group, Boston, which provides low-cost, early-stage screening, tracking and diagnosis of infectious diseases.
–GetGems, Tel Aviv, Israel, a digital currency startup that links mobile payments with a social networking platform.
–Painless1099, Richmond, Va., which provides “smart bank accounts” for freelance professionals to automate withholding, setting money aside for, and paying state and federal taxes.
–Plum.io, Waterloo, Ont., a turnkey cloud software analytics program for job applicants.
–Qoints, Toronto, an aggregator of digital marketing data.
–Voiceitt, Jerusalem, maker of the communication tool Talkitt, which assists people with speech disabilities.
The Oct. 29 awards ceremony caps off a week of 43North-related activities meant to showcase Buffalo’s entrepreneurial community.
The week begins with Buffalo Startup Weekend, from 6 p.m. Friday to 8:30 p.m. Sunday, again in the dig co-working space.
Entrepreneurs pitch their ideas and receive feedback from other people involved in startups. After participants vote on the most promising ideas, they form teams and spend the next 54 hours working on a business model and studying the market for the ventures.
At 5:30 p.m. Monday, the female winners of the 2014 competition, KeepUp and triMirror, along with Buffalo business owners Sharon D. Randaccio and Louise Sano, will participate in an interactive event and reception called Think Big with 43North, at the Buffalo Marriott HarborCenter, 95 Main St.
At 6 p.m. Tuesday, during the Ping Pong Diplomacy event visitors can meet more of the 2014 43North winners, tour the Z80 Labs technology incubator space at 640 Ellicott St. where the companies work and play in a table-tennis tournament.
Finally, starting at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 28, at the invitation-only University at Buffalo’s Bright Buffalo Niagara Entrepreneur Expo in Statler City, entrepreneurs can make one-minute pitches to a room of investors and executives, network at a trade show and hear a keynote address from Daymond John, founder and CEO of the FUBU clothing line and a star of “Shark Tank,” the ABC business reality show.
For more details or to register for the events, visit www.43north.org/43north-week.