BUFFALO, NY - The semifinal pitch round for the $5 million 43North competition kicked off with fanfare from chairman Bill Maggio, the head of Empire State Development Howard Zemsky and Governor Andrew Cuomo.
"Where are the donuts," asked Zemsky. "The last time I was here, there was donuts."
Zemsky was reflecting on a previous event held at the Rich Products atrium, the home for this year's semi-final pitch, wherein there were donuts. He switched gears from his increasingly better deadpan humor to reflect on the noticeable upswing happening in the Queen City.
"The vibe in this city has changed one-hundred eighty degrees," Zemsky said, "and success has a thousand father."
Zemsky continued to talk up Buffalo's resurgence before introducing Governor Andrew Cuomo, who continued the Laurel and Hardy routine once he took the podium.
"If you're wondering, I'm the man who makes the donuts." he joked.
Cuomo quickly shifted gears to address the Buffalo's noted history of innovation.
"Buffalo did generate a lot of ideas first," he said, "then lost our way."
The governor then announced that $5 million has been secured for next year's 43North competition, solidifying the state's commitment to the world's largest startup competition.
"We're now recapturing the entrepreneurial spirit of Buffalo."
After the Governor and company left the event, the serious work of pitching to the thirty venture capitalists charged with selecting the final ten startups began.
Companies from Boston, Taipei, Washington D.C., even as far as Belgrade, Serbia were represented this year. One Buffalo-based company, Abcombi Biosciences, worked their way into the semifinals, but that wasn't the only Buffalo connection.
CleanCapital co-founder Jon Powers is a native of Clarence. The Iraq War veteran and former White House Chief Sustainability Officer under President Obama founded CleanCapital to make investing energy efficient projects easier.
Some of the engineering team for Athena, an investment platform aimed at users investing in art, have ties to the University at Buffalo.
After a day of pitches, however, the venture capitalists tallied their score sheets to name the top ten for Thursday's final round of pitches: Arthena, Asarasi, Bounce Imaging, Formarum, HigherMe, Oncolinx, PathoVax, The Wealth Factory, UltraCell Insulation, WeDidIt.
View the pitches of some of these top ten finalists below.
Asarasi - aims to bottle water from the leftover product of maple syrup production. This byproduct would normally be thrown away, rather than bottled into drinking water.
Formarum - created the world's first self-powered, automated pool cleaning system.
HigherMe - aims to simplify the hiring of hourly employees for companies. The startup is already working with Dunkin Donuts and Panera Bread in streamlining their hiring process.
WeDidIt - rethinking charitable giving by allowing donors to harness data from users social media and