Buffalo is an amazing city, but I think we are all guilty of the occasional hometown bashing. Whether you were born here or not, we all play this back and forth game, bouncing from love and loyalty to disappointment and outcry. The outcry usually comes after a loss on Sunday… I know I’m not the only one guilty of this. We ride this wave, up and down, but last week took me so far from the down and skyrocketed me to an all time high. Seven days after this years 43North competition at Shea’s, and I’m still awestruck.
The third annual $5 million startup competition was held last Thursday evening at Shea’s and was emceed by Buffalo’s own, Luke Russert. It was truly an inspirational event, and so perfectly reminded me of what an amazing city we live in. What 43North is doing for this city, and what this city has the potential to become is inspiring and should give us all hope for the future.
Oncolinx, a company from Boston, MA was awarded the $1 Million grand prize, and for good reason. Oncolinx is currently developing targeted cancer immunotherapies in conjunction with the National Cancer Institute. The goal? —fight cancer cells without damaging healthy cells during the process. Winning the grand prize is huge, and will allow Oncolinx to carry out planned clinical trials by mid-2017.
I spoke to Sourav Sinha, Co-Founder and CEO of Oncolinx shortly after the conclusion of the awards ceremony, and he and his parter were absolutely thrilled. When I asked Sinha how he predicts the next 12 months will develop he told me, “we hope that we can put in a lot of good work this year and move our drugs into the clinic and really start helping patients, start helping families, start making a difference in people’s lives.” Their plan grabs at the heartstrings of anyone who has been touched by cancer, and the potential for success is through the roof after winning this competition. Oncolinx has already been in contact with representatives from the Roswell Park Cancer Institute and hopes to run some phase one clinical trials with Roswell.
If the success of past 43North winners has any indication of how Oncolinx will do, there is no need to worry. Joe Neiman of ACV Auctions, the 2015 43North $1 Million winner told me, “[43North] put a spotlight on us, and helped to raise a ton of publicity,” and Neiman knows, with publicity comes success. “I can’t say enough good things about [43North],” said Neiman, “this has been an incredible year, our business has grown tremendously, and this event shines such a positive light on everything going on here in Buffalo.” Neiman and I discussed the difficulties a growing company faces while attempting to raise money, and what the opportunities that 43North provides do to help develop success. ACV Auctions is a mobile marketplace that provides car dealers with spontaneous, 20 minute live auctions allowing wholesale car sales to be extremely efficient while cutting fees. Neiman and his crew are already working with over 1000 dealerships and look to continue their success in the coming years.
Choosing Oncolinx as the 2016 43North winner was an extensive process, and ultimately came down to seven judges. One of the seven, John M. MacMahon, Founder and CEO of V2K Medical was pleased with the outcome of this years competition. MacMahon was proud to be chosen as a judge and appreciates this competition for what it is. “This spirit of entrepreneurship, and building it up from the grassroots—but putting the seed capital there to really make it happen is wonderful,” said MacMahon, “and it’s going to be copied over and over again, but Buffalo is the place that’s leading it.” In regards to Oncolinx, MacMahon addressed the talent of the two founders and was optimistic in saying, “they can execute and build, and bring people here, and you don’t want that talent leaving—young, committed, thoughtful talent right on the cutting edge will pay long term dividends to Buffalo.”
It’s all about Buffalo, and the future looks bright. Erik Moore, Founder and Managing Director of Base Ventures, was another one of the seven judges responsible for choosing Oncolinx. Moore chimed in on 43North and what it means to the city. “To see these companies today, it fits right into the narrative of Buffalo continuing to be on the cutting edge of not just technology, but helping humans and helping people,” said Moore. Moore thinks that the benefits of funding Oncolinx will be able to be seen “almost immediately,” and it will be an easy transition for the company. “The beautiful thing about what these guys are doing, is with a little bit of money they’re going to take it to clinical trials and they’re going to be creating jobs along the way,” said Moore, “they are going to be a great story for Buffalo, and just one more thing on the long list of wonderful things Buffalo has done.” Throw away any negativity you got left, cause Buffalo is a city to be proud of.
It would be amazing, [and] groundbreaking—for Buffalo to be the city where cancer was cured, and the impact it would provide for communities all across the globe.
How proud? I’ll let Mayor Brown answer that one. “I’m very proud of the city, and very proud of the 43North team,” said Brown, “I’m very appreciative of the governor for the investments made in Buffalo, and the faith and confidence he has in this community.” Mayor Brown was pleased that Oncolinx was ultimately selected as the grand prize winner. “As I looked at the competition and watched the great companies participating, Oncolinx was my favorite to win,” said Brown. When I asked Mayor Brown what he thought about the idea of Buffalo becoming the city to cure cancer he said, “It would be amazing, [and] groundbreaking—for Buffalo to be the city where cancer was cured, and the impact it would provide for communities all across the globe.”
Buffalo has meaning to each and every one of us. The future of this city is bright, and 43North is just another shining example of more good to come. My final question for Oncolinx CEO Sourav Sinha was ‘What does Buffalo mean to you?’. “Buffalo is a quintessential American town, from the architecture to the people, to the love of football, and Buffalo wings,” said Sinha, “I am looking forward to becoming a part of this community.” He’s new to town so we’ll have to give him a pass on the ‘Buffalo wings’… it’s just ‘wings’.
To Oncolinx, and the rest of this years participants and winners, I sincerely want to congratulate all of you and wish you the best of luck in all of your future endeavors.