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43North week events selling out

The 43North finals are nearly a sellout.

All of the seats for the pitch sessions on Thursday morning and afternoon between the $5 million business plan competition’s 11 finalists and a panel of high-profile judges at Shea’s Performing Arts Center already have been snapped up, said Andrew Pulkrabek, the competition’s executive director.

The only remaining seats for the day-long finals are for the awards ceremony on Thursday evening.

“Attendance is going up rapidly, but we still have seats available,” said Katie Krawczyk, a 43North spokeswoman.

And it’s not just the business plan competition that has drawn ample interest during the weeklong series of events for entrepreneurs that organizers have dubbed, 43North Week.

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 idea behind the contest is to address a major shortcoming that local development officials identified – a lack of entrepreneurs and business startups – by offering 11 prizes, ranging from $250,000 to a grand prize of $1 million – to 11 entrepreneurs to try to lure high-potential ideas for new businesses to Buffalo Niagara.

To capitalize on the buzz generated by the contest, 43North organizers have planned a weeklong series of events aimed at encouraging other entrepreneurs in the Buffalo Niagara region.

“We’re integrating the 43North business plan competition with the ecosystem of entrepreneurship and venture capital in Buffalo,” said Howard Zemsky, the co-chairman of the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council during a media event to kick off 43North Week.

So far, the response by the community has been strong, organizers said. Registration information is available at the contest’s website,

A session today to help teach beginners the basics of HTML and CSS, two types of programming that are used to design Web pages, has filled all of its spots and has a waiting list, said David Bachowski, the co-organizer of the Whitespace Coding Camp.

More than 100 participants were expected to attend the fourth Buffalo Startup Weekend, which began Friday and runs through Sunday on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

During the event, 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 each of those ventures.

A forum on Wednesday afternoon about crowdfunding as a way for entrepreneurs to raise money had fewer than 10 tickets remaining, said Jack McGowan, the event’s co-founder. The forum runs from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in the Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics & Life Sciences, 700 Ellicott St.

As many as 42 of the 113 semifinalists in the competition are expected to attend another event Wednesday afternoon where they will have the chance to meet with venture capitalists and angel investors. That event, organized by Bright Buffalo Niagara, will be held from 3 to 7 p.m. at UB’s Clinical and Translational Research Center, 875 Ellicott St.

Helping those 43North semifinalists that didn’t make it to the last round of the competition find the support and funding they need to develop their ventures could “help usher in a new wave of innovation from across the globe,” said Norma Nowak, the Bright Buffalo Niagara co-organizer.

The Buffalo Startup Scramble, which runs from 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday at four different venues along Allen Street and features 10 musical acts, allows people thinking about starting a company to network with the founders of local startups and other entrepreneurs.

“The goal is to encourage citizen entrepreneurship and celebrate the success of our entrepreneurship community,” said Clark Dever, the scramble’s co-organizer.