UM Awards $129K To Top Student Startups

ANN ARBOR — The Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business announced the winners of the 32nd annual Michigan Business Challenge, as well as recipients of the Applebaum Dare to Dream and Mayleben Family Venture Shaping Grants.

These business plan competition and grant programs, which recognize promising student-led startups, provided grants and funding totaling $129,500 this year.


The top winners included:

Michigan Business Challenge

The Michigan Business Challenge is a four-month, multi-round competition that began in the fall with students from across UM’s 19 schools and colleges. Round one hosted 80 teams in December. Of these, 22 teams advanced to round two where the field was narrowed down to eight semi-finalist teams. On Friday, Feb. 20, the final eight teams were put to the test again, and four finalist teams were chosen to present their businesses to a panel of judges including professional investors. Over $75,000 was awarded at the competition.

The Pryor-Hale Award for Best Business, worth $20,000, went to Companion, represented by Danny Freed (BBA ‘15), Lexie Ernst (BBA ‘17), Nathan Pilcowitz (BA ‘15), Kathryn Reiner (BBA ‘16) and Jake Wayne (BSI ‘16). Companion is a peer-to-peer safety app that allows family and friends to keep an eye on users as they walk home late at night. Public safety organizations can harness real-time walking data combined with historical walking patterns and a predictive engine to determine the optimal placement of officers. “MBC was an amazing opportunity for us to grow as a team and really think through our business,” Freed said. “We couldn’t have done it without the help of everyone from Zell Lurie and are excited to see what the future holds.” The team also received the Most Successful Undergraduate team award for $2,500 as well as the Marketing Award sponsored by Marketing Associates for $2,500.

Other top winners included:

* The Pryor-Hale Runner-up award for Best Business for $10,000 and the Williamson Award for the most outstanding business and engineering team for $5,000 went to RainDance Recovery represented by CW Bourgeois (MsE ‘15), Courtney Dansby (MsE ‘15), Jonathan Lilley (MsE ‘15) and Alexander Perlman (MsE ‘15). RainDance is a mobile water distillation system that can filter clean water at oil wells that naturally produce, which can be used in ongoing oil and gas operations or sold for local industry.

The Outstanding Presentation awards for $2,000 each went to CubeWorks and Graduate. Cubeworks, represented by Zhiyoong Foo (PhD ‘13), Gyouho Kim (PhD ‘14), Pat Pannuto (PhD ‘16) and Nikhil Prem (MBA ‘16), is a millimeter-scale wireless sensing platform, which will be used in glucose monitoring application to improve the quality of life of diabetic patients. The fully implantable continuous glucose monitor eliminates the inconvenience and discomfort of existing products. Graduate, represented by Eric Katz (BBA ‘17) and Camille Merritt (MBA ‘16) is a mobile application that allows students and parents to view which graduation requirements the student has completed, is currently working toward, and still needs to complete in order to graduate from high school in four years. Graduate helps students make a plan and stick to it.

* The Best Written Plan award for $2,000 went to Stethos, represented by Courtland Keteyian (MD/MBA ‘11), Farrukh Mohammed (MBA ‘07) and Andrew Plaska (MD ‘17), for their attachment that easily and reversibly converts a mechanical stethoscope into an electronic stethoscope, allowing sounds to be recorded, analyzed and played back within the earpieces.

The Marketing Award sponsored by Marketing Associates $2,500 went to South Asian Flavors, represented by Harinee Sampath (PTMBA ‘15) for her exotic food company offering premium healthy,savory yogurt-based snacking dips in a variety of South Asian flavors, made with natural ingredients.

1,000 to each of the Finalists that didn’t receive a larger award

* $500 to each of the Semi-final teams that participated in the competition

 * $200 to each of the 16 teams that advanced from Round One and competed in Round Two

The Social Impact Track

New to this year’s competition was the Social Impact Track, presented in partnership with the Frederick A. and Barbara M. Erb Institute and the Center for Social Impact, introduced to stimulate the creation of new businesses, products or services that prioritize social or environmental considerations. Three teams competed in the finals Feb. 20.

The prize for $15,000 went to Blueprints for Pangaea, represented by Anna Chen (BS ’16), Olivia Cholewa (BSN ‘16), Jungwoo Ha (BS ’16), Raj Kadiyala (BS ‘15), Danny Luan (BS ‘17), Ben Rathi (BBA/BS ‘17), and Sanjay Reddy (BS ‘17). Pangaea will provide accessible healthcare to communities in emerging nations by engaging the abilities of undergraduates nationwide. Ultimately the company hopes to establish a systematic method of collecting unused medical supplies from local hospitals and shipping them to targeted areas in emerging nations. “The Michigan Business Challenge not only improved our ability to concisely present our business plan, but more importantly, it afforded us an opportunity to receive critical feedback on our venture,” Rathi said. “The prize money is a blessing that will propel us into the direction of success, and will be directly used for reducing pollution and saving lives.”

Dare to Dream Student Startup Grant Recipients

The Dare to Dream Grant program funds students looking to test their business idea, formulate a plan and work toward launching their business while earning their degree. The first phase, a Venture Shaping grant of $500 sponsored by the Mayleben family, allows teams to determine how to transform identified opportunities into businesses. More advanced teams may apply for a $1,500 Assessment grant to establish the feasibility of their business or a $5,000 Integration grant to move their company toward launch. Grants are awarded in the fall and winter terms. Grants totaling $21,000 were awarded during the Fall 2014 semester and grants totaling $34,500 will be awarded winter term 2015 among 24 student teams.

The Dare to Dream Fall 2014 program awarded grants to the following teams:
Applebaum Dare to Dream Integration Grant of $5,000:

  • South Asian Flavors – an exotic food company offering premium healthy, savory yogurt-based snacking dips in a variety of South Asian flavors, made with natural ingredients.

Applebaum Dare to Dream Assessment Grants of $1,500:

  • com – an online website platform that automates data scientist operations by using machine learning to understand what data scientists are looking for in every new dataset.
  • BetterHope – an online marketplace for products made with dignity.
  • Incearch – a referral-based recruiting platform.
  • Pet Perch – solves a fundamental problem faced by pet owners who sleep with their furry companions by offering a product that secures to the bed and allows the pets a space of their own.
  • Range Messenger – offers hyper-local, real time deals and messages using our patented “Digital Sonar” within a user defined distance to drive retail business or for individual use.

Mayleben Family Venture Shaping Grants of $500:

  • CookForMe – an online marketplace that connects cooks in a local community with customers who want the convenience of food cooked in their homes without compromising on nutritional needs and their health.
  • Legacy Peak Capital – utilizing Medicare, health system, and payor claims data, provides full transparency into the cost and quality of Post-Acute Care providers by disease state and provide relative rankings.
  • Eat Food – a platform that makes it easy to plan, buy, and track our food consumption.
  • EnergyHarvesting – a device that harvests the kinetic energy created by eye movements and provides this energy to implanted ophthalmic medical devices.
  • Allergenesis – application that allows individuals to create a profile with their specific food allergies and/or intolerances, filter fast-food menus by ingredients, and locate fast-food restaurants near them.
  • FindMyHome – aims to be the “eHarmony for Home Search.”
  • Augmented Technologies – a training suit for emergency scenarios.
  • Graduate – a platform for students and parents that tracks students’ progress towards high school graduation.
  • Incearch – a referral-based recruiting platform.
  • Local Products Discovery – a database of Chinese local snacks and commodities.
  • Local Seeds – links investors, innovators, and retailers through a “Hub”, a centralized point for communication and negotiation that would create a new entrepreneurial and investment landscape.
  • New Aegis Corporation – a non-newtonian fluid and foam composite for football helmets that reduces acceleration forces by 30 percent and substantially reduces the resulting shockwave.
  • SmartPlays – a technology-based, easy-to-use video recording and gameplay-analyzing tool for football coaches.
  • Stiily – a patent-pending technology that substitutes real fashion models with their virtual dummies and allows endless possibilities to mix and match different articles of clothes and accessories.
  • VeriMAb Diagnostics – a portable point of care testing device that provides rapid feedback for potential allergies.
  • Woila – a platform that helps urban Indian youth find a match for the purpose of serious dating, possibly leading to a marriage.
  • Yes Now! – a location-based search that uses the current location of the buyer to search for items and connect with sellers in the neighborhood.

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