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43North competition announces star-studded judges panel

Kim Pegula and the venture capitalist who co-founded the Huffington Post will be among the seven judges who will determine which of the 11 finalists in the 43North business plan competition will win the $1 million grand prize.

The seven-member panel includes four judges who are either venture capitalists or work with entrepreneurs, along with the editor of Forbes magazine and retired Roswell Park Cancer Institute President David Hohn.

“You’d be hard-pressed to find as respected a group of experts as 43North’s finals judges,” said Jordan Levy, the Buffalo venture capitalist who is chairman of the 43North steering committee.

“Having the right people on a team is critical,” said Daniel Lewis, a Williamsville native and the co-founder of New York City hedge fund Orange Capital. “When it comes to 43North’s finals judges, they have the right people – leaders from their fields with decades in collective startup expertise.”

The 11 finalists will make pitches before the judges during morning and afternoon sessions in Shea’s Performing Arts Center on Oct. 30. The judges then will determine which of the 11 finalists will win the $1 million grand prize, which ones will get one of the six $500,000 awards and which ones will receive one of the four $250,000 prizes.

Each of the finalists are guaranteed to receive a prize.

The business plan contest is a small but potentially powerful part of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion economic development initiative, aimed at making Buffalo Niagara a more vibrant region for fledgling businesses.

The finals judges are:

• Esther Dyson, chairman of EDventure Holdings, a New York City angel investor firm that specializes in investments in startup companies, especially in the health care, human capital and aerospace fields.

Dyson was an early investor in companies such as online photo service Flickr and Brightmail.

Dyson took a sabbatical from the investment work from October 2008 to March 2009 to train as a backup cosmonaut at the Russian space center in Star City, outside Moscow.

• David Hohn, the retired Roswell Park president, brings expertise in medical issues to the judges panel. Hohn is a former chairman of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network and currently serves on that group’s executive committee.

He also was named in 2007 to be vice chairman of the New York Stem Cell Board and is involved in planning the hematology and oncology unit at the new Children’s Hospital.

• Randall Lane has been editor of Forbes Magazine since 2011 and has a background as a media entrepreneur.

Before returning to Forbes as editor, he was editor at large at Newsweek and the Daily Beast. Before that, he co-founded and served as editor-in-chief of a half-dozen magazines, including P.O.V., Trader Monthly and Dealmaker.

• Ken Lerer is the managing director at Lerer Hippeau Ventures, a New York City venutre capital firm that focuses on consumer technologies.

He is a co-founder of the Huffington Post and currently is the chairman of Buzzfeed and is a co-founder of NowThis, a New York City startup that creates short news videos for audiences across social and mobile platforms.

• Kim Pegula, president and CEO of Pegula Sports & Entertainment, has become, with husband Terry, a major force in Buffalo sports with the family’s purchase of the Buffalo Bills earlier this month to go with the Buffalo Sabres.

In her role at Pegula Sports and Entertainment, she oversees the company’s wide range of holdings, including a Nashville country music label and studio, a high-performance athlete training facility, as well as large-scale sports and entertainment venues.

• Darrin M. Redus Sr. is founder, president and CEO of MainStreet Inclusion Advisors, a national advisory and entrepreneurial development group that specializes in helping people in underserved populations become entrepreneurs.

Before starting MSIA, Redus spent seven years as chief economic inclusion officer for JumpStart Inc., a national group that provided support to start-ups.

• Bijan Sabet is the general partner, Spark Capital, a Boston-based venture capitalist whose funds have more than $1.8 billion in assets and specialize in investments in the Internet and mobile sector, especially early stage start-ups.

Sabet’s funds were early investors in Twitter and he served on Twitter’s board from 2008 through 2011. Stark also has made investments in tech firms such as Tumblr, Foursquare and Boxee.