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Business competition hopes to attract entrepreneurs from around the world to Buffalo

Ashley Hirtzel
The city of Buffalo

A new business competition is aiming to attract entrepreneurs from around the world to Western New York. The “Build It Buffalo” business plan competition is touted as the most ambitious the United States has ever seen.

The competition is expected to attract 1,000 applicants from around the world. That estimate comes from similar competitions held at Rice University and Mass Challenge in Massachusetts that attracted 1,000 people, with smaller prize money.

Winners of the competition would be required to stay in Buffalo for one year and grow their business, while receiving mentoring and support services. They are also competing for a change to split the $5 million prize. The top award will be $1 million and the second-level prizes are $500,000.

CEO of Launch NY John Seman says officials are still working on the eligibility requirements.

“We’re looking for companies that are young, maybe less than three years of age. We’re not focusing on any specific industry sector, so it could be from any sector. We’re looking for people that are going to be able to build high-growth companies that will generate new jobs and bring more entrepreneurs to the area,” says Seman.

Seman says the concept for “Build It Buffalo” was a spinoff of the “Billion to Buffalo” fund’s support of life sciences, advanced manufacturing and entrepreneurship.

“The goals of the competition are to attract the best and brightest entrepreneurs from within the region and across the nation to build their business or move their business here and recognize that the greater Buffalo/Niagara area is a great place to grow a company, that we have lots of positive and supportive resources to help them grow, and we’re hoping that will transform the overall image of Buffalo to being one of a city of innovation,” according to Seman.

The competition will roll out early next year. The New York Power Authority donated $5.4 million to fund the prizes and promotion of the competition. AMDG Public Affairs and global ad agency Waggener Edstrom has been hired to promote and advertise the event.

WBFO/Western New York reporter for the Innovation Trail.