The Panasci Competition

While the Sabres were warming up for their first playoff game against the Rangers, I went to the Panasci Competition.

The late Henry Panasci donated a bunch of money to the University of Buffalo to be used to encourage entrepreneurship in the Buffalo Area.  On Wednesday the seventh (or maybe eighth?) annual Panasci Technology Competition was held, with the 5 finalist teams (out of 15) presenting their business plans to a panel of judges.  The award was $25,000 plus a year of free legal service, to help accelerate the winner’s business plan.  StudentVoice and AuctionCruncher, previous competitors and winners, are alive and thriving in the Buffalo area, as well as several other past winners and competitors.

This year’s audience of about 60-some people consisted of students, coaches, academics and a few venture businessmen.  It was held in a room that was just large enough to require the use of microphones, only microphones weren’t available to either the teams nor the judges asking questions.  [Note to UB:  Please use microphones in the future; the audience would really appreciate it].

Personally, I don’t think this competition is advertised anywhere near well enough, either for inviting competitive teams or for drawing potential investors.  How many readers have even heard of this competition?  Many of these teams who don’t win would make a great addition to various established businesses; others have strong enough business plans that might attract forms of investment other than the Panasci Award itself.  The students certainly were intelligent and communicated well, the kind of students that corporate managers seek for employment.   It was very unfortunate that the audience represented mostly friends of the competing teams and not local companies and investors.

Now that the competition has completed its seventh (or maybe eighth?) year and the rules are well-established, it’s time to step this up a level.  I’m going to suggest that groups like InfoTech Niagara and the Buffalo Niagara Partnership embrace this competition and get their respective memberships more involved.

The winner was CH3 Biosystems, a supplier of custom ingredients for the discovery of protein methylation pathways in cells and tissues (useful for researchers in the discovery of disease treatments).  I had the privilege of being their coach and mentor.  I am proud and happy for them.


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