Article Date: November 2, 2015
Peter J. Thompson/National Post files
Three Canadian startups are relocating across the border in Buffalo, N.Y., for a year armed with an infusion of capital after emerging as finalists at 43North, the self-proclaimed “world’s largest business idea competition.”
Toronto’s CleanSlate and Qoints, and Waterloo-based Plum.io all fell short of the grand prize of US$1 million, but made it through to the final cut of 11 startups, out of more than 11,000 applicants, guaranteeing them a cash prize. From the US$5 million up for grabs, CleanSlate, which produces a system to sanitize electronic devices using ultra violet light, was one of six companies to win $500,000. Qoints, which helps marketers compare data and Plum.io, a cloud-based hiring tool, each earned $250,000 for their pitches.
The winner of the US$1 million was Buffalo-based ACV Auctions, an app-based marketplace for wholesale vehicles.
CleanSlate’s prize comes as the startup builds momentum. The company secured its first major purchase order a few weeks ago. It’s also near to closing a seed round that could reach $1.7 million. In addition, it hopes to double its six-man team by mid-2016.
It’s possible the move to Buffalo could parlay into a more permanent presence, Taylor Mann, CleanSlate’s chief executive, said. “It’s close enough that we can stay in touch with our research partners and keep doing some product development in Canada … but really use Buffalo as the hub for sales, distribution and servicing of the product,” he said.
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Mann said CleanSlate’s target market is comprised of nursing homes, doctor’s offices and hospitals. “We’re not looking at it as some sort of prison sentence,” he said about moving to Buffalo. On the contrary, Mann foresees having an active relationship in Buffalo’s community, where he contends there’s a great opportunity for product sales.
The winners were chosen by seven judges, who reviewed a batch of 110 semi-finalists from 117 countries. In addition to the Canadian companies, the finalists included two Israeli startups and six U.S. businesses, four of which hailed from New York State.
Canada’s results at the 43North this year are an improvement from 2014, the contest’s inaugural year, when a Toronto startup, TriMirror, made it to the final round with its 3D virtual fitting room. Only one other startup came from outside the U.S. last year. It was from Taiwan.
The competition is part of New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s so-called Buffalo Billion initiative, a US$1-billion commitment to spark life into Buffalo’s beleaguered economy. The city still shows scars of blight after years of dependence on a struggling manufacturing sector, but is in the midst of a renewable energy and medical science revival, similar to the one happening in its Rust Belt counterparts Detroit and Pittsburgh.
CleanSlate’s competitors in the medical science sector were finalists North Tonawanda, N.Y.-based Cytocybernetics, which makes a drug screener, and Boston-based Disease Diagnostic Group, which created a platform to track infectious diseases.