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Restaurant app team wins local event for startups as 43North Week begins

The team that in 54 hours built a working mobile app for restaurants and their customers won the Buffalo Startup Weekend competition, which saw a record number of participants and served as the official start of 43North Week in Buffalo.

The developers of Three Square Meals beat out 15 other teams for the top prize in the fourth local Startup Weekend, which began Friday and wrapped up Sunday evening.

The event, part of the national Startup Weekend network, first was held in 2012 and is meant to encourage entrepreneurial activity in Buffalo. The 2014 version took place in the dig co-working space on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

Organizers said they saw their highest-ever number of registered participants, at 193, and the largest share of female participants, at 30 percent of the total, according to Katie Krawczyk, a spokeswoman for the event.

Startup Weekend began Friday with “open mic” pitches of business ideas from participants, who then formed teams and scrambled to develop a mobile app or another prototype over the next two days. The 16 teams, also a record, made their cases to a panel of judges Sunday.

The Three Square Meals team designed a functioning app that lets patrons, in real time, check into restaurants and track and rate their meals, while restaurants get data on customer orders, details on what is or isn’t popular on their menus and a tool to send out coupons to loyal customers.

The team members, who managed to demonstrate a check-in at an area restaurant to the judges, were: Dan Gigante, team leader and project manager; brothers Mark and Mike Zorn, mobile app developers; Amber Rampino, designer; Garrett Murphey, front-end developer; and Travis West, marketing.

PetFund, a platform for crowdfunding the cost of pet injuries at animal shelters, came in second place, and Buffalo Automation Group, which presented an idea for design, manufacture and sale of bulk carrier robots used in global shipping, came in third.

The winning teams receive donated professional memberships and business services, including financial, legal, marketing and business-development advice.