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43North narrows its field to 110 semifinalists

The 43North business plan competition is down to 110 semifinalists.

A month after the $5 million contest closed its application period with more than 3,000 qualified entrants, 43North has whittled down its pool of entrepreneurs to a group of semifinalists who now will be asked to submit more detailed applications and make presentations to a panel of judges during a videoconference later in August.

“As of today, 110 startups are one step closer to a shot at $1 million, $500,000 or $250,000 to turn their dreams into reality,” said John T. Gavigan, 43North’s executive director, in announcing the semifinalists.

After the videoconferences, which will be held in August and September, the pool of semifinalists 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 event’s finals, styled after the “Shark Tank” television series, on Oct. 29.

More than a quarter of the semifinalists – 30 in all – are from Western New York, including 28 from Erie and Niagara counties. Nearly half of the semifinalists are from New York. Almost 30 percent of the semifinalists are from other states, including 11 from California.

Almost a quarter of the remaining applicants – a total of 26 – are from outside the United States, with 11 Canadian entrants accounting for 10 percent of the semifinalist pool. The semifinalists include four entrants apiece from India and Israel, joining entrepreneurs from seven other nations, from France and Romania to Brazil and Costa Rica.

“We really had good quality leading into it, and we’ll have a really strong set heading into the semifinals,” said Peter Burakowski, 43North’s marketing manager.

This year’s semifinalist pool also is more diverse, with a higher percentage of female semifinalists than last year, as well as more semifinalists who identified themselves as having Asian, African-American, Hispanic or American Indian heritage, Burakowski said.

With its $1 million grand prize, and 10 other prizes of either $500,000 or $250,000, 43North is the richest business plan competition in the country, aimed at making Buffalo Niagara a move vibrant region for fledgling businesses. It is part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion economic-development initiative and is funded primarily with money from the New York Power Authority.

The contest also offers winners a broad range of side benefits – from free office space to eligibility to be part of the state’s Start-Up NY tax-free program. The idea is to dangle a carrot lucrative enough to attract entrepreneurs who otherwise never would have considered Buffalo Niagara as a potential site for their business.

At least one of the winners must be local. In exchange for the money, the winners have to hand over a 5 percent stake in the business and agree to relocate a significant portion of their company to Buffalo for at least one year.

A total of 3,007 entrants met all of the contest’s eligibility requirements, up from 2,603 last year.