One now time-honored tradition for new business funding is the business plan competition. But often they're laden with limitations or college registration requirements that make them irrelevant to most founders. 43North is a bit different. Yes, you'll have to spend a year in Buffalo, New York but the prizes start at $250k and go up to a million dollars. And, unlike most tech funding sources, 43North is open to individual entrepreneurs who don't write code.
43North, billed as the "world's largest business idea competition," is one of those events that will likely live up to its billing.
Details of the 43North Business Plan Competition
The prizes are substantial:
We will award $5 million in cash prizes â including one $1 million grand prize, six $500,000 prizes and four $250,000 prizes â to the best entrepreneurs, startups and teams from around the world.
Winners also receive free incubator space for a year, mentorship from experts in their fields and access to many exciting incentive programs, like Start-Up NY, which allows businesses to operate tax-free for 10 years.
So who's eligible?
43North is open to applicants ages 18 and older from anywhere in the world, in any industry, with the exception of retail and hospitality. We are looking for business ideas that are scalable and have the potential for aggressive growth.
What happens if I win?
Winners agree to operate their business in the Buffalo, New York for a minimum of one year and provide 43North with 5% non-dilutive equity in their company.
Where and when do I apply?
The competition includes three rounds of judging:
1. Feb 5, 2014 to May 31, 2014: 43North accepts applications via 43North.org â apply here.
2. Sept 15, 2014 to Sept 20, 2014: Semifinalists present their plans via webinar
3. Oct 27, 2014 to Oct 30, 2014: Finalists present their plans during a weeklong series of events in Buffalo, NY
Should You Apply?
There are lots of reason to do this especially if you don't fit either the old school "we generally like old white men with money" business loan route or the new school "we only fund teams of 20 something founders featuring white boys" approach.
Prizes are big chunks of money plus other good things with relatively few strings unless you have specific location needs.
Initially presenting your idea clearly on paper is a great way to clarify your thoughts and prepare for future pitches and presentations. From what I've seen of the application process they're not looking for traditional business plans so you won't be bogged down with extensive research and imaginary projections.
If you do make it to the second round you'll be able to reap publicity benefits which may lead to other funding possibilities.
If you win, your dream is a go.
But there are good reasons not to apply beyond specific needs that don't slot into competition requirements.
43North will ultimately attract a huge number of applications. The odds are against you so perhaps your time would be better spent elsewhere.
You hate filling out forms.
Buffalo, NY just doesn't fit your lifestyle.
Why I'm Applying
I have mixed feelings about contests and competitions because even based on talent there's always an arbitrary gatekeeping element. That element is heightened when it relates to my own business building on the web because the beauty of the web is that I can bypass gatekeepers and go straight to my audience. So jumping through hoops for some foundation or panel is not my preferred route these days.
But 43North has a relatively lightweight yet meaningful application process.
And it's rare that gatekeepers open up something this widely. From angels to VCs, non-technical solo founders are at a huge disadvantage in tech funding even if initial technical needs could be outsourced quite effectively.
Most importantly, I have a project that fits 43North quite well and 43North fits my needs. The funding levels are important given that my project would be easily imitated in the initial stages so it will need funding to grow quickly.
I've already clarified some of my thoughts in initial work on the application and that's been helpful. For what I want to do, 43North appeared at the right time and Buffalo could easily be the right place,
So, despite the odds, I'm in. How about you?
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Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch) posts music crowdfunding news @CrowdfundingM. To suggest topics about music tech, DIY music biz or music marketing for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.