43North, World’s Largest Business Plan competition is on a hunt for 11 startups from across the globe. The selected batch will enjoy cash grants, support, mentorship, incubator space and lot more. The top 11 business ideas put forward during finals week in Buffalo, October 27-31, 2014, will receive these cash awards.
In support with Inc42 Magazine, TLabs, the startup accelerator and part of Times Internet, is hosting team 43North, on 6th May, to help them reach startups in India, click here to register for the MeetUp.
To educate startups more about this program , we caught up with Andrew Pulkrabek, Executive Director, 43North who shared briefly about the competition, criteria of selection, how funds are managed and what brought them to India.[Edited Excerpts]
Inc42: Tell us briefly about 43North?
Andrew: 43North is the world’s richest business idea competition. There are 11 cash and benefits awards available, totaling $5MM (USD), to applicants at all stages of development and in virtually any industry from anywhere in the world.
Inc42: You guys are giving $5Mn of cash prize, so have you raised this fund or how is it structured?
Andrew: The funding is already in place. It comes from New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion initiative, where the state is investing a billion dollars directly into Buffalo, New York. The funding is split between eleven individual awards (top award of $1MM, six $500K, and four $250K). The awards are made with two basic obligations. 1) The awardee must provide 43North with a 5% non-dilutive equity stake in their company and the top management must locate to Buffalo, New York for at least 12 months.
Inc42: Please specify all the perks which the selected startups will get?
Andrew: The perks are many. In addition to the cash awards, awardees will receive free incubator space for 12 months. In addition, 43North has a very strong group of mentors (business technical, and financial) to assist the awardees as they work to grow and prosper in Buffalo. In addition, all awardees will locate in a StartupNY zone. Being in this “zone” will mean the companies will not pay any New York State corporate or personal income taxes for 10 years, for their team and all their employees. On top of this is the fact that each of the eleven winners will get very personal attention from the Buffalo, NY community as a whole. The importance of this is the companies, the employees, and their families will have all the assistance they need for quick, easy, and effective integration into the community.
Inc42: How many countries are you scanning for the program and why only 11 startups?
Andrew: 43North is interested in great teams with phenomenal ideas from anywhere in the world. To date, 43North.org has received applications and registrations from 77 countries. There are eleven total awards as they are of a size that likely will enable the winners to develop their idea far enough to help them raise additional funding for their growth or, perhaps even get into the market.
Inc42: What brings you to India, are you doing more such events in India to educate the mass?
Andrew: Simply put, 43North is in India because of the great talent and level of innovation that exists here. Roadshows are being conducted throughout India in Bangalore, Delhi, Jodhpur, and others. The idea is to share the opportunity of 43North to as many entrepreneurs and innovators as possible.
Inc42: What 43North is charging against the support to startups?
Andrew: Nothing. In fact, if a company is selected as one of the final eleven awardees, 43North will pay the costs of flying the team to Bufffalo, NY, put them up in a hotel, show them around the area, including Niagara Falls, and more during the “finals week” in October. Even once they locate to Buffalo, there is no direct cost for the support 43North provides.
Inc42: What is the criteria for selecting?
Andrew: This is truly about the merit of the team and the idea. Applicants should go to 43North.org and click on “APPLY”. From there, all that is asked is a high level executive summary. Judges will review these applications beginning in June (deadline to submit is 31, May). They will be looking for the quality of the team, the idea, and the overall ability for this opportunity to “scale” and grow big.
Inc42: Can startups at any stage apply for the program, early stage, funded, doing well or you have restrict it to some level?
Andrew: Yes, any stage of company can apply. In fact, applicants must select whether their company is “idea”, “pre-revenue”, or “revenue” stage.
Inc42: Shed some light on US startup ecosystem?
Andrew: The overall startup ecosystem is very robust. Whether a company is in tech, lifescience, renewables, energy, or any other space, it all exists in the United States. Specifically, within Buffalo, NY and the larger ecosystem in which it operates with Toronto, Ontario, Canada, there are all of these industries. In fact, Governor Cuomo just announced in February of 2014 that IBM will build a new $55 million Buffalo IT Innovation and Commercialization Hub. This is in addition to over $8 billion of recent private and public investment, and a $225MM investment in cleantech for Buffalo announced last November by the governor. Regardless of what space a company is in, Buffalo is part of a solid and rapidly growing ecosystem.
Inc42: Every accelerator/incubator offers a cash, incubation, mentorship and other supports, may be 43North is offering more, but what is the actual USP about this competition or is it just another initiative to boost the ecosystem?
Andrew: In addition to a lot of money, incubator space, world-class business, technical, and financial mentors, a zero tax program for 10 years, the significant benefit 43North offers is a “high touch point”. What this refers to is the level of support, professional and personal, that will be available for all of the awardee companies and their families. Buffalo, New York is a very warm and personal place to locate and grow a business and family. The community is very supportive of what 43North is working to achieve. This will flow through to the awardees. So, if a company or an individual needs some specialized support locally, domestically, or even internationally, the people that help make it all happen are in Buffalo and are available and wanting to help. This level of commitment is truly unique and extremely valuable to help develop and grow a business or to simply and quickly get individuals and their families connected and integrated to the local community.
Inc42: Once the program goes live, what will be the next in pipeline? Launching more such initiatives or you will just focus on building selected startups?
Andrew: The intent of this program is to run this for five years. 43North is wholly focused on identifying the world’s best and brightest teams and ideas and will continue to do so.
Inc42: Three advices you will give to booming entrepreneurs?
Andrew: 1) Ask yourself what you would build and what you would do if your resources were limitless. All too often, entrepreneurs think, “if only I can get this or do that”. Instead, what if you were not constrained; how big could you go? Reality will bring you down to earth but in the process, what you develop may be different and much better.
2) Be self aware. The greatest strength and individual can have is recognizing his/her weaknesses. Be honest with yourself in this process. Telling to the truth to yourself is usually the hardest “person” in which to do this. We always want to believe the “picture” in our mind is better than what it really dictates. Once you are grounded in what you do good and not so good, surround yourself with people that are better than you. That is how you rise up to create greatness.
3) Financially model all of your assumptions, no matter how small. Many times entrepreneurs will say, “the business will be doing $50MM in five years”. If someone really thinks that, they should have all of the financials budgeted out to reflect this assumption. This doesn’t mean they should build statements of income, cash flow, and balance sheets. No. Instead, just take Excel and put down every assumption, even the costs of office supplies like paperclips, on a month by month basis for the first year, quarterly for the next two years, and annually out to year five. When you do this, it will make you contemplate the reality of your assumptions and you will then have a defensible position when you try to raise money and say your deal will be “$50MM in five years”.