43North winner Agape drops out, replaced by London company Twipes

One of the five $1 million winners of this year’s 43North startup contest has dropped out and another finalist will be taking its place.

Five companies, including one from Rochester, won $1 million investments Thursday night from 43North, the Buffalo-based startup accelerator. Otrafy, Agape Wellness, Phood, AMPAworks and MOD Tech Labs were selected from the eight finalists.

Agape, a relationship wellness company that developed an app to send personalized questions to couples, will no longer be joining 43North’s eighth cohort of startup companies.

Twipes, a company from London that makes flushable wet wipes, will take Agape’s place.

43North and Agape, founded in Rochester by Khadesha Okwudili, were not able to “get to a place where both of us felt comfortable in regards to some pre-existing agreements,” 43North President Colleen Heidinger said.

In exchange for an investment from 43North, companies must agree to move to Buffalo for a year and give 43North a 5% equity stake.

People are also reading…

Heidinger would not share specifics of the agreement that could not be reached.

“As an organization, we never share details of the deals that we structure,” she said.

So taking Agape’s place will be Twipes, founded by Al Borz and Elle McIntosh.

43North Finals

Twipes founders Al Borz and Elle Mcintosh demonstrate how their flushable, biodegradable wet wipes break down in water during the 43North finals at Shea’s Performing Arts Center on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022.

Joseph Cooke/Buffalo News

Twipes has created what the company calls “the world’s first truly flushable wet wipes” that take three hours to break down in water and seven days to break down in a landfill.

Twipes was selected to replace Agape because the 43North finals judges chose the company as the first alternate. Heidinger shared the news with Borz and McIntosh Friday night.

“We didn’t need to take much time to think about it at all,” Borz said of the decision to accept the $1 million investment. “Maybe like half an hour.”

The co-founders already had plans to be in Buffalo at the beginning of January, when the other 43North winners are scheduled to move in. Despite not originally winning a prize, Twipes’ founders were so impressed with Buffalo that the city topped their list of possible US manufacturing locations, so they were coming here to look for sites.

The company wants to tap into Western New York’s legacy as a strong manufacturing region, Borz said. There are many old buildings and manufacturing spaces available for an affordable price. And the University at Buffalo has top-of-the-line materials research labs that the company can partner with and hire students from, Borz said.

“This is a huge, incredible opportunity for us,” Borz said. “It speeds things up so much. This $1 million puts us on a pathway to developing the world’s first flushable baby diapers. That’s the next step for us.”

Twipes wet wipes are currently only available in the United Kingdom. But, the company is planning to begin selling them online in the US at the beginning of February. The wipes will be produced in the UK until Twipes establishes its manufacturing facility here.

Newest 43North-winning startups coming in with big plans for Buffalo

Judges were looking for the companies that are not just going to survive in Buffalo, but thrive.

Twipes is currently hiring for a strategic operations manager and will soon be looking for a marketing director. The company anticipates hiring more local employees once they settle in.

Borz will be relocating to Buffalo in January, along with Twipes’ head of product, Elizabeth Kotoulis, who currently lives in Florida. McIntosh will make the move in March, he said.

Borz said he is excited to return to Western New York. He liked Buffalo when he first visited in October and was struck by how welcoming the people he were met.

During the new 43North companies’ first week in Buffalo, 43North staff plan a week full of activities to get the founders acclimated with Western New York. This year’s welcome week will kick off with tickets to the Bills’ final regular season game against the New England Patriots, Heidinger said.

Borz is prepared. He already has a Josh Allen jersey to wear.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *