43North celebrates winners; each receive $1 million

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Local startup accelerator 43North named the five winners in it’s annual competition. Eight finalists competed in front of a live audience Thursday night for one of five spots in 43North’s portfolio and an investment of $1 million.

The five winners include:

Otrafy – supplier management softwareAgape Wellness – relationship wellness appAMPAworks – inventory task automatorPhood – connects student meal plans with delivery servicesMod Tech Labs – makes 3D content creation simple

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43North boasts 59 portfolio companies, has raised $1 billion in capital and is valued at $4.4 billion. It was founded in 2014 and has brought eight cohorts of start-ups to Buffalo. Those companies have relocated here and their businesses have grown their roots in Western New York.

“One thousand jobs here in our backyard as a result of our portfolio companies. Again, it’s just the beginning and we expect that number to grow and grow as the years go on,” 43North President Colleen Heidinger said. “It’s an incredible opportunity, and it’s why I’m home.”

The five winners were excited and grateful to begin their new journey in Western New York. They say Buffalo is the perfect place to grow, learn and thrive.

“I’ve always thought that the local start-up community in Upstate New York had so much potential,” Agape Wellness Inc. CEO and founder Khadesha Okwudili said. “Our first investment came from LaunchNY, which is local. I always wanted to stay here and give back to the community.”

Agape Wellness Inc. is based in Rochester, N.Y.

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“The track record for Buffalo’s execution from an operational level is also unparalleled,” said Alex Parmley, CEO of Phood, which is based in New York, N.Y. “I feel like this is the best opportunity I’ve had in my life in a long time and I look forward to building a billion dollar business here.”

Lucas Cunha, COO and co-founder of Chicago-based Otrafy also gave his thoughts on the Queen City.

“Being in Buffalo is going to enable us with the right testing realms. Imagine like R and D for technology. We are going to be all of our research and development with our local partners,” he said.

“We’ve always been a very tech forward company and we’re excited about helping revolutionize some industries that need a little kick in the pants,” Alex Porter, CEO and founder of Mod Tech Labs of Austin, TX, said. “We just love helping people. It’s really the core of our product.”

“Buffalo is experiencing an innovation renaissance. A lot of people are fleeing other cities and it’s just up-and-coming, exciting city to be involved with today,” Bianca Gonzalez, co-founder of AMPAworks based in Santa Monica, Calif., added.

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New York State, Empire State Development, the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation and other organizations are investors in this project. The vision is to transition Buffalo’s economy and make it a tech start-up hub.

Heidinger added the companies will be hiring once they relocate to Buffalo in January 2023. Hiring information can be found here.

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Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.

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