New York Governor Launches 43North Startup Competition

Call for Founders to Grow Businesses in Buffalo for Cut of $5 Million in Investment

Finalists to Face-Off at Live In-Person Pitch Event in October

New York (STL.News) Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that applications are now being accepted for the seventh year of 43North, the $5 million startup competition that attracts world-class entrepreneurs to grow their businesses in Buffalo.  After a pandemic-related break in 2020, the startup competition makes its return mirroring previous years with plans to announce winning investments at an in-person live pitch event at Shea’s Theatre later this year.  Winning startups will receive investment as well as free office space, mentorship, and support from 43North, and access to 43North’s network of more than 600 North American investors.

“43North worked hard to help navigate its previous winning startups through the challenges of the pandemic and has spurred economic growth for the entire Western New York region,” Governor Cuomo said.  “This successful competition has celebrated several significant milestones in recent months, including one company going public and other companies adding jobs and raising millions in venture capital, proving Buffalo has what it takes to attract and grow cutting-edge startups.  We’re building on this momentum with a new year of the 43North Startup Competition that will welcome a whole new group of next-generation companies to Western New York – a place the world’s most innovative startups will want to call home.”

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said, “43North has put Buffalo and Western New York on the map for innovation and entrepreneurship. The 43North Startup Competition has attracted the best and brightest entrepreneurs from around the world, and this years competition will be no different in helping make their hopes and dreams come true.  43North is further proof that if you innovate and invest in Buffalo, you can prosper in Buffalo.”

Founded in 2014, 43North is a signature initiative of Governor Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion investment strategy for growing Buffalo’s innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem.  43North also receives support from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation and corporate sponsors.  Over the past seven years, 43North has invested in a diverse portfolio of 51 companies, 31% of which have founders of color and 23% having female founders.  Those startups have gone on to raise over $600 million in capital and boast valuations nearing $6 billion.  Nearly half of those companies have maintained a material presence in the Queen City,creating over 800 local jobs.  Among the ranks is tech unicorn ACV Auctions, who brought 43North to new heights as its first publicly-traded portfolio company, after an IPO on March 24, 2021.

While the COVID-19 pandemic brought many New York State industries to a halt, several 43North companies realized growth in the form of raising capital, expanding their teams, and securing new office space in Buffalo.  Squire, a SaaS platform for barbershops and 43North year four company, doubled their valuation to $250M during a time when their customer base largely could not operate.  Year five company HiOperator added over 150 employees in 2020 alone, and moved into a new home earlier this year, leasing a 25,000 square foot, two-floor office space in the Roblin Building on Main Street in Buffalo.  Other 43North companies, like Circuit Clinical not only experienced significant traction closing a $7.5 million Series B raise and growing their team to 45 in Buffalo, they also aided in the fight against the novel coronavirus by playing a supporting role in test and vaccine development.

Eager to expand the portfolio and bring more startups to Buffalo, 43North feels poised for growth as they embark on a new competition. “43North is thrilled to be launching our seventh startup competition,” said Colleen Heidinger, president of 43North.  “On the heels of major portfolio traction, and significant momentum for Buffalo’s larger startup ecosystem, our region has shown itself as a viable hub where entrepreneurs can build a successful company and accelerate growth.  We’re excited to see the innovation that this year’s competition attracts.”

Winners of 43North’s 2021 competition in late October will receive either a top investment of $1 million or one of seven $500,000 investments.  They may also be eligible for a share of $500,000 in follow-on funding at the end of 2022. Companies will also receive one year of free office space, the opportunity to enroll in the START-UP NY program, and 43North’s mentorship and support program, which includes:

  • One-to-one mentorship, workshops, and access to a bank of consultant hours;
  • Access to recruitment support services to help them grow their teams in Buffalo;
  • Connections for business development;
  • Marketing and media relations support;
  • Investor introductions.

Companies that win the competition agree to provide 5% equity to 43North and to locate their CEO and at least half of their staff in Buffalo for at least a year. See the full terms and conditions here.

43North applicants will answer approximately 40 questions and upload a 60-second video in which they explain why they think their company would be a good fit for Buffalo.  Startups have until July 19 to submit their applications via 43North.org.

The judging process will remain similar to years past with the following cadence:

  • A first-round written review of the applications;
  • A semifinal round of live video pitches;
  • Winners announced during a live in-person pitch event at Shea’s Theatre in late October

Empire State Development Acting Commissioner and President and CEO-designate Eric Gertler said, “43North’s remarkable record of attracting world-class startups and incredible teams that fuel regional innovation and entrepreneurial growth is even more crucial this year, as New York builds back and begins to reimagine, rebuild and renew the state’s economy.”

Senator Tim Kennedy said, “The 43North Startup Competition fosters creativity and innovation for entrepreneurs who are looking to grow their businesses and elevate their ideas, all in a city full of opportunity.  Every year, I’m impressed by the pitches made by finalists, and their eagerness to invest in our region, just as New York State is willing to invest in them.”

Assembly Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, “Western New York’s momentum will not be slowed down, not even during a pandemic. 43North is helping Buffalo attract and keep world-class entrepreneurs in WNY through its $5 million startup competition.  As a result, we are seeing innovation, the creation of jobs, and reinvestment into our communities.  We’re excited to see what new startups will be able to call WNY home.”

Mayor Byron W. Brown said, “As the Buffalo and Western New York economy emerges from COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever to foster the next class of entrepreneurs.  In its first seven years, the 43North competition has guided 51 start-ups to success, with more than half of the winners deciding to stay in Buffalo to grow their dreams, creating more than 800 local jobs.  Once again, I thank Governor Cuomo for his steadfast support of this business development effort, which has introduced Buffalo to new corners of the world.  Also, my sincere thanks to the 43North team, and board, for their stewardship over this portion of the Governor’s Buffalo Billion Initiative.”

On June 9, 2021, 43North is teaming up with program alumni and founders from ACV, Squire and Magnusmode to host a “43North Why to Apply” webinar where entrepreneurs can learn more about the competition and accelerator program.  More details on the webinar, competition rules and application for 43North’s 2021 startup competition can be found here.