UM students compete for $100,000 in startup cash

ANN ARBOR — Over the next three months, more than 100 students will compete for top honors and a record high of more than $100,000 in cash prizes in the 35th annual Michigan Business Challenge, the multi-round business plan competition hosted by UM’s Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies.

Round one of the competition kicked off Friday, debuting two new prizes: the Small Giants Positive Business Award – a $2,500 prize sponsored by the Small Giants Community and Center for Positive Organizations – and a $5,000 Undergraduate Award, sponsored by Daniel Sillman, CEO of Relevant Sports.

The Michigan Business Challenge takes student entrepreneurs through new venture creation in a multi-phase business development and planning process. Open to all current undergraduate and graduate students from across the University, proposed businesses may be for-profit or non-profit, and offer products or services to either consumer or industrial markets.

Notable companies from previous years’ competitions have included SAHI Cosmetics, which recently earned a $100,000 investment from AOL founder Steve Case at the Rise of the Rest pitch competition; PreDxion Bio, which recently graduated from the Y Combinator summer 2017 program; Neurable, which received more than $2 million in investments to build brain-controlled software for AR and VR following a second-place finish at Rice Business Plan Competition; and Companion, which was featured on the first episode of Apple’s reality TV series “Planet Of The Apps.”

“The cornerstone of business education is putting classroom lessons into practice, which is exactly what the Michigan Business Challenge asks participants to do,” said Stewart Thornhill, executive director of the Zell Lurie Institute. “While the financial resources and new prizes we’re debuting are critical to the growth of these student startups, feedback from judges and lessons learned from their peers will be crucial to these entrepreneurs as they set out to launch their businesses.”

In addition to the new Small Giants Positive Business Award, which will honor the team with the business plan that most effectively incorporates positive business practices, teams whose businesses pursue a mission-driven goal may be chosen in round one to compete in the Seigle Impact Track – with prizes totaling more than $26,000 – sponsored by the Mark and Robin Seigle Entrepreneurial Innovation Fund. Awards will also be given to the best cross-functional team, teams with impressive marketing efforts, the most successful undergraduate team, and those with the best written and best presented business plans.

More than 60 student teams competing Friday were selected to advance from last month’s qualifying round. As part of the day’s activities, each made a three-minute pitch to a panel of judges that includes successful entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and angel investors from the local business community. Approximately 20 teams will be chosen to participate in round two in January, where they’ll give a seven-minute presentation, followed by 10 minutes of questions from the judges. The culmination of the Michigan Business Challenge will be the semi-final and final rounds, set for Feb. 16.

For additional information on the Michigan Business Challenge competition, deadlines, process and eligibility, visit


Leave a Reply

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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.