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43North says pool of applicants smaller but more competitive

For 43North, it's about quality over quantity.

The number of entries for this year's 43North business plan contest was down 4 percent from last year, but the head of the organization believes this could be the most competitive field yet.

43North received 485 applications for the fifth edition of the competition, compared to 504 last year, said Alexander Gress, the executive director. The deadline for this year's competition, which is a Buffalo Billion initiative, passed last week.

43North in recent years has adopted a "quality over quantity" stance toward entries, and said more-established companies are responding accordingly.

For instance, 123 of the entrants this year have raised at least $500,000 in capital and have at least three employees, compared to 80 entrants that met those standards last year.

"They've raised capital that is beyond seed or friends and family money, so they have validation from third-party capital," Gress said.

And 75 entrants this year have raised at least $1 million and have at least three employees, compared to only 37 entrants that reached that threshold last year, he said.

The prize packages are surely attractive: $1 million for first place, and six runner-up prizes worth $500,000 each. And two or more of the winners will have a shot at a share of $1 million of follow-on funding at the end of 2019. But Gress said applicants are also drawn to 43North by what he calls the "Buffalo boost."

Alexander Gress said this year's 43North contest could be the most competitive yet. (News file photo)

"These companies are mature enough to look at the access to local vendors, service providers, and they know those are going to be key ingredients in their future success," he said.

43North has also emphasized attracting entrants with long-term plans for Buffalo operations, Gress said. Winners are required to have their CEO and at least half of their staff in Buffalo for at least a year; 43North is eager to have winners stay beyond their obligation.

Applicants this year came from across the United States, plus 24 other countries, which 43North said was on par with last year. The field of contenders will be trimmed over the summer, culminating in the final round in early October at Shea's Performing Arts Center.

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