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Waterloo startup has eyes on $1-million prize

Waterloo startup has eyes on $1-million prize

Posted by PanamericanWorld on October 23, 2015

A small Waterloo startup is gunning for the $1-million grand prize in a business idea competition in Buffalo.

Plum, a provider of employment assessment software, is one of 11 finalists in the 43North competition. The finalists were announced Thursday.

On the table are $5 million in prizes, including the $1-million grand prize, six $500,000 prizes and four $250,000 prizes.

So Plum is guaranteed of winning $250,000 and has a better than 60 per cent chance of winning $500,000 or more.

"To be picked as a finalist is very exciting for us," said Caitlin MacGregor, the startup's chief executive officer and co-founder. "It is a guaranteed $250,000."

But Plum, a four-year-old firm that employs seven people, isn't settling for winning $250,000.

"We are gunning for the $1-million grand prize," MacGregor said. "Seven out of 11 finalists will win $500,000 or more. Those are really great odds."

Plum, founded by MacGregor, Neil MacGregor and Christine Bird, provides online pre-employment assessment and survey tools to measure how well job applicants fit a position. Its platform uses behavioural science and predictive analytics.

In addition to the cash prizes, the 43North winners get free space in a business incubator in Buffalo for a year. They get mentoring support and access to other business incentive programs.

MacGregor said Plum will maintain its office in Waterloo and set up a satellite office in Buffalo.

She stressed that the startup will continue to be headquartered in Waterloo Region. But opening an office in Buffalo is an incredible opportunity because it gives Plum a presence in the United States, a market that accounts for 50 per cent of its sales.

"I don't think any company would disagree that having a U.S. presence makes sense," MacGregor said. "It is very important for us, absolutely."

She noted that there is a lot of talk about the Waterloo Region area being Silicon Valley North as well as the Waterloo Region-Toronto technology corridor.

"Buffalo is a logical extension of the idea of Silicon Valley North and the Highway 401 corridor," she said.

The finalists will make pitches in front of panel of judges next Thursday at the Shea's Performing Arts Center in Buffalo. Each finalist will make a 10-minute presentation, which will be followed by a 10-minute question and answer session. The winners will be announced Thursday evening.

The other finalists include two startups from Toronto — CleanSlate and Qoints — one startup from Israel and seven from the United States.

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