The judges in the 43North business plan competition are getting a little more time.
With more than 2,600 qualifying applications to evaluate, the contest’s organizers have pushed back the deadline by a little more than two weeks for winnowing the field down to about 100 semifinalists, who then will be asked to submit a more detailed business plan and financial information.
The $5 million contest’s more than 200 volunteer judges now will have until July 15 to narrow the field of entrants, rather than the original June 30 deadline they faced.
43North officials said the extension is due to the strong response that the contest received, which brought in more than 6,900 total entries – about seven times more applications than the contest’s organizers originally expected.
That field then was immediately whittled down to 2,603 qualified entries by eliminating potential entrants who were part of ineligible industries or failed to submit their entries properly.
“Due to the in-depth quality of answers, we are going to give our judges a little more time to review the applications,” the contest’s organizers said in an email to the qualified entrants.
The business plan contest, part of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion economic-development initiative, is aimed at making Buffalo Niagara a more vibrant region for fledgling businesses.
Contest organizers said the extension of the deadline for selecting the semifinalists will not alter the schedule for selecting the 11 winners of the $5 million in prizes that are up for grabs, including a grand prize of $1 million.
The prizes will go to entrepreneurs the contest’s judges deem to have the most promising plans for a new business.
Eligible are early stage ideas and businesses just getting started.
Winners are required to start and operate their businesses in the region for at least a year.
After the semifinalists are named, organizers will evaluate the remaining entrants more intensely during a five-day session from Sept. 15 to 20 that will include 10-minute online presentations available for viewing by the public.
After those presentations, the pool will be narrowed to a field of 11 finalists, who will be guaranteed of receiving a prize, although the size of the award won’t be determined until the final stage of the competition, which will take place from Oct. 27 to 31.
For that event, the finalists will travel to Buffalo to make 10-minute presentations about their businesses to a panel of judges, followed by 10 minutes of questions from the judges.
In addition to the cash prize, winners will receive rent-free space in an incubator site that will be part of the state’s Start-Up NY tax-free zone, meaning that those businesses won’t be subject to most state taxes and that employees won’t have to pay state income taxes for 10 years.
The winning firms also will be provided access to other resources and mentoring services to help them turn their ideas into viable businesses.