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The Winners Circle: A Run-Down of Local Startup Competitions


If you haven’t noticed by now, Buffalo is a competitive city. A competitive nature is in our DNA – you’ll see it at sporting events (from Little League to professional-grade), in the “best of” rankings of local restaurants, and in the workplace.

This rings true in our entrepreneurial ecosystem as well. 43North hosts its annual $5 million startup competition at Shea’s Performing Arts Center, where finalists battle it out on stage in front of some huge names in the startup world.

But we’re not alone. From undergrads at a local university, to professionals working on a side hustle, to entrepreneurs launching their third company, these competitions shed a light on our growing startup community – and our competitive spirit.

Henry A. Panasci Jr. Technology Entrepreneurship Competition

Each year, the Panasci Competition brings together University at Buffalo students from a variety of disciplines, including business, technology, engineering, and science. Before competing for Panasci’s cash prizes, students often participate in the Blackstone Launchpad program, which takes them step-by-step through the process of developing an idea and transforming it into a viable business.

2018 Winners:

$25,000 Grand Prize Winner – Bitcrusher

$10,000 2nd Place Winner – Storillo

Bright Buffalo Niagara Entrepreneur Expo

The annual Bright Buffalo Niagara Entrepreneur Expo attracts local startups, investors, educators, and business professionals that are focused on helping our local startup community grow. Participants in the competition receive mentorship, meet one-on-one with potential investors, and compete for funding. The expo is a full day of guest speakers, case studies, workshops, and networking, followed by live pitches and awards.

2018 Winners:

$10,000 Grand Prize Winner – LegWorks

$5,000 2nd Place Winner – Bitcrusher

Bulls Launch

For University at Buffalo students looking to break into the entrepreneurial world, the Bulls Launch is a great way to master their elevator pitch. This competition is for idea-stage startups, and participants have only 90 seconds to pitch their idea. Did I mention you’re not allowed to use any notes or PowerPoints?

Finalists pitch their idea in front of a live audience and have the opportunity to win up to $1,500 to further advance their idea.

WNY Student 2 Biz Challenge

21 local colleges and universities come together each year for the Student 2 Biz Challenge, a competition for undergrad and graduate students across all areas of study. Students can submit a business idea in the following categories: information technology/software, social entrepreneurship/nonprofit, clean technology, advanced technology, products, and services.

The winner of this challenge then represents WNY at the New York Business Plan Competition, where they compete for over $500,000 in prizes. Several teams also have the opportunity to incubate their company for one year on their college campus, giving them access to additional mentorship and faculty resources.

2018 Winner:

“Lake Effect Mobile Detailing” by Timothy Wysocki, Canisius College

Startup Weekend

Each fall, entrepreneurs, designers, developers, and anyone interested in starting a business put the pedal to the metal in a 54-hour blitz of workshops, business plan development, pitching, and demos. At the end of the weekend, a winning startup idea is selected.

You can bring your existing team or form your own with other participants in the program. If you’ve had the itch to launch your own startup but haven’t had the team or platform to get started, Startup Weekend will give you a crash course in what it takes to build a business from the ground up.


Any other great local competitions we should know about? Let us know!

Tags: Buffalo, entrepreneurship, startups

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