Buffalo's annual exploration of the entrepreneurial spirit culminated before a packed house in Shea's Wednesday evening, as 43North passed out $5 million in state funds to companies which are in Western New York or will come here.
43North has become a big deal for the local tech community. Its members packed the seats to cheer and comment on some of the speeches.
The 43North team has been winnowing down hundreds of entrants to the 10 who made their pitches to the judges Wednesday. They had two minutes to pitch and four minutes to answer questions from the judges.
After the vote, the seven winners of $500,000 and the single winner of the $1 million grand prize were announced. Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul made the biggest announcement.
"And without further ado...may I hear a drum roll (drums roll)," Hochul said, "it is my pleasure to announce the $1 million grand prize winner of this year's 43North competition goes to Strayos."
Strayos CEO Ravi Sahu said the company will be moving here from St. Louis early next year, with most of the current 8 workers relocating with the CEO and his family. Sahu explained what he does with technology.
"Strayos maps below-the-surface information. Anything that you cannot see above the surface," Sahu said. "If you need utility lines to see pipes? That's what we do. Our technology finds them."
Sahu said this is a good community to relocate to, because the University at Buffalo trains the best geo-science students and the company will be hiring a lot of them.
A $500,000 prize went to PocketSuite, which helps small businesses run their operations on a smart phone. CEO Chinwe Onyeagoro said it is a specific goal.
"I want to find new and different ways to help you make more money," Onyeagoro said. "There's so much talent out there and all the talent needs are great tools in order to increase the income and live the American Dream."
43North has gradually assembled a portfolio of companies that have moved to Western New York after winning one of the prizes and started hiring people to expand operations. Past winner ACV said it now has 1,000 employees across the country from its base on Ellicott Street in Buffalo.
Circuit Clinical is already here as a UB partner company. The firm uses its TrialScout web site to connect medical patients with clinical research and trials. Company CEO Dr. Irfan Khan said there is a lot of clinical research to track.
"We are very blessed in Western New York to have amazing clinical leadership," Khan said. "I mean, cutting edge research, phenomenal world-class physicians and scientists, bringing opportunities to the people of Western New York every day. There's always an opportunity for more engagement."
Khan is a cardiologist who moved into the entrepreneurial sector to connect clinical trials with patients. Circuit Clinical already has 24 employees and continues to expand.
Clinical trials are tests of new medicines to see if they work and are safe for a patient to use. They can be the last chance for a patient with a serious illness, especially when all other treatments have failed.
The winners of the 2019 43North Competition are:
- Strayos - St. Louis, MO - $1,000,000 Winner
- Circuit Clinical (TrialScout) - Buffalo, NY - $500,000 Winner
- GroupRaise - Houston, TX - $500,000 Winner
- Peanut Butter - Chicago, IL - $500,000 Winner
- PocketSuite - San Francisco, CA - $500,000 Winner
- Rally - New York, NY - $500,000 Winner
- Robodub - Seattle, WA - $500,000 Winner
- WhoseYourLandlord - New York, NY - $500,000 Winner