May 01, 2012

Business Competition Hopes To Keep Grads Local

By: Lori Chung

Source: YNN

ALBANY, N.Y. -- "I don't really have a label, [but] I am working with marketing people and graphic design people."

As a student entrepreneur, Samuel Cammarata may not have everything figured out. But the college senior's plans to build a microbrewery in Buffalo could get off to a running start here.

"Ideally, if I could get some investment in the company, that would be great," said Cammarata.

It's part of the New York State business plan competition held at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. More than 350 college students from across the state competing shark tank-style for funding for their business ideas, presenting investors everything from a new hockey stick to new way to distribute solar energy.

"We're looking at that the brain drain that happens where we educate these kids in wonderful colleges and universities across the state and they leave," said Michael Castellana, SEFCU CEO and a contest judge. "We got to give them the roots."

Organizers say a top prize of $50,000 in cash goes a long way to keep the best and brightest from seeking opportunities elsewhere.

"Our company has developed a new electrolyte," said CNSE student J.T. D'Avanzo. "The competition's actually pretty steep, so we'll see."

It's the competition's third year and organizers say participating students are already starting to profit.

"One example is a company that won two years ago, more recently, they're in the process of signing a $1.5 million term sheet with an investor. They've already raised a half million in grants," said Pradeep Haldar of CNSE.

And with one major success story already on the books, the competition is poised to grow next year with regional competitions all throughout the state.