The pressure will really be on this year’s 43North finalists as they make their pitches during the $5 million business plan competition’s finals Thursday night.
Unlike other years, when most of the pitching already was done by the time the finalists made their way onto the stage at Shea’s Performing Arts Center, this year, there will be plenty of pitching still to be done.
After narrowing the field from 16 semifinalists to 10 during a daylong session that begins Thursday morning, each finalist will walk out on the Shea’s stage to make a two-minute pitch and answer five minutes of questions from a panel of seven judges.
The stakes will be high. Those judges determine who gets the $1 million grand prize and who gets the $650,000 runner-up prize or the $550,000 third prize. Five firms will win $500,000 prizes and two finalists go home empty-handed. Winning firms must spend a year in Buffalo.
“We think this is entertaining,” said Peter Burakowski, 43North’s marketing manager. “It’s more about getting more stuff into the evening time.”
The 16 semifinalists, summarized below, have won tens of thousands of dollars in other business competitions and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from investors. Some already are generating revenue. Two joined the finals in recent days as other competitors dropped out.
The contest, part of the state’s Buffalo Billion economic development initiative, is aimed at encouraging entrepreneurship in the Buffalo Niagara region.
CEO: Oke Okaro
Description: One of two Buffalo-based companies in the competition, Burner Fitness is building a platform that allows consumers to purchase video training sessions from top fitness professionals and wellness coaches. The company had been located in the Silicon Valley in California but moved to Buffalo because of its lower labor costs.
Cellular Preservation Technologies
CEO: Matthew Colpoys
Description: Cellular Preservation Technologies uses xenon gas to preserve the shelf life of cells, including blood platelets that normally decay after four to five days. It explains: “Cancer patients sometimes need to refuel their blood because their treatments cause them harm. The fuel that is used is very valuable, and much of it goes to waste because it is not used before it rots. Our product puts the fuel to sleep, so that it takes much longer to rot.”
Hometown: San Francisco
CEO: Doktor Gurson
Description: Doblet is building a network of app-driven phone chargers in the San Francisco Bay area. The startup works with sponsors to provide free portable phone chargers at dozens of locations. The company initially tried charging $3 a month for its service but now has switched to a sponsorship model. It raised $1.3 million in seed financing in 2015.
Hometown: Watertown, Mass.
CEO: Luca Buttazzoni
Description: The company has developed a line of ready-to-assemble utility carts to help people transport their belongings. The product line includes dollies, lift trucks and other accessories that can be stored in small spaces, such as a car trunk, closet or apartment and can be used both indoors and outdoors.
CEO: Davielle M. Jackson
Description: The company makes the Pretty Panty, a line of disposable feminine protection undergarments, that are available at stores like Walmart and Target, along with online sites including Amazon.com. The company has said that its current overseas manufacturer can’t keep up with demand and it is interested in shifting production to the United States, and possibly Buffalo.
Hometown: Long Beach, Calif.
CEO: Scott Wayman
Description: The company’s software suite for childcare centers, schools and camps handles tasks such as payments, billing, scheduling and attendance. It allows parents to check their children in and out of the center, pay tuition electronically, view and share photos, complete student paperwork and contact teachers. Kangarootime has completed three rounds of fundraising, including a round that closed in July.
CEO: Yu-Hao Chen
Description: MobioSense has developed a portable medical device to monitor patients with heart disease and potentially predict heart attacks. The company says its device can test one drop of blood in 10 minutes to measure cardiac biomarkers, such as Troponin, for 70 percent less than current tests cost. MobioSense, a 2016 43North finalist that failed to win any money, is the first company to be a finalist in two different years.
Hometown: San Francisco
CEO: Harsh Vathsangam
Description: Moving Analytics has developed an app-based system that allows patients to rehabilitate from a heart attack at home. Using an app that tracks their activity, patients can follow a home-based rehabilitation program that frees them from having to go to a specialized rehab center. Data is shared with care providers, who monitor the rehab activity. The firm has raised more than $1.5 million in funding.
Hometown: San Francisco
CEO: Morteza Ahmadi
Description: Qidni is developing a palm-sized device that can be used to treat patients with kidney failure. The device would allow patients to have access to treatment at all times, unlike dialysis, which requires a trip to a treatment center. Qidni, which was launched in Ontario, participated in the San Francisco-based IndieBio accelerator for biotech startups and raised $250,000 in seed funding from investors, as well as funding from investment firm SOSV.
CEO: Rachel Jackson
Description: Rachel's Remedy's product is an FDA-approved moist-heat pad that soothes common breastfeeding ailments such as clogged ducts and engorgement, and helps to increase milk supply. The pads are sold at major retailers such as Babies R Us and Target and the company earlier this year signed a licensing agreement with Dr. Brown’s, a global maker of baby bottles and other baby feeding products.
Hometown: Fredericton, New Brunswick
CEO: Bethany Deshpande
Description: SomaDetect is developing a product that uses light scattering technology to allow dairy farmers to keep better track of the quality of the milk produced by their herd and the health of their cows. Rather than relying on milk samples sent to a laboratory, dairy farmers would be able to use SomaDetect to track the quality of each cow’s milk and monitor it for signs of infections or other potential health issues within an individual cow.
Hometown: New York City
CEO: Songe LaRon
Description: Squire executives describe their app as the “OpenTable for barber shops.” Rather than waiting in line for a haircut, the Squire app allows users to book – and pay for – a haircut in advance at a participating barbershop. The service is available in more than 20 cities, but not Buffalo.
Hometown: Kitchener, Ont.
CEO: Andrew Martinko
Description: When you’re out in the sun, Suncayr’s stickers can warn you when your sunscreen stops working. The startup’s sticker turns purple when a user’s sunscreen is no longer blocking harmful ultraviolet rays. The company originally developed their product to work in marker form that would allow users to draw on their skin, but then switched to the sticker model. Suncayr has raised more than $600,000 in funding.
Hometown: San Jose, Calif.
CEO: Iba Masood
Description: TARA stands for Talent Acquisition and Recruiting Automation, and the company bills itself as a new way to outsource software development work, from a website to a new app, using a stable of software development contractors.
CEO: Dr. Stephen Keith
Description: The company is developing a biotechnology product that could be used to reverse the harmful effects of blood loss, including helping to rebuild blood pressure and reducing organ damage. Vivacelle Bio has been accepted into the Start-Up NY tax-free program, promising in February to invest $100,000 in operations based in the UB Biosciences Incubator to, work with B researchers on clinical trials and to develop its technology.
Hometown: Beverly, Mass.
CEO: Daniel Sterling
Description: Water Hero makes an internet-connected device that consumers can use to control the water in their homes from their smartphone. The devices, which sell for $300 and up, come with an associated app that provides real-time data on water use. It also can be used to turn water on or off remotely, and if a pipe breaks, it automatically shuts down the water in the home and sends the user a text. The company raised more than $60,000 in a Kickstarter campaign