Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Monday, February 20, 2012

Zell Lurie Institute awards nearly $90,000 to student startups

The Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business on Friday announced the winners of the 2012 Michigan Business Challenge and recipients of the Applebaum Dare to Dream Grants and Mayleben Family Venture Shaping Grants for U-M student startups.

Award winners and grant recipients received funding totaling nearly $90,000 for innovative new business concepts and compelling business plans. Several teams will go on to compete at intercollegiate business plan competitions where winning Michigan teams in 2011 brought home $326,350 in prize money and services.

“The Michigan Business Challenge and Dare to Dream grant program exemplify how the Zell Lurie Institute connect students from multiple disciplines and provide teams with the support and resources needed for the development of nascent business ideas into compelling business plans with the potential to launch,” said Tom Kinnear, executive director of the Zell Lurie Institute. “This multi-faceted, learn-do approach prepares entrepreneurially ambitious students with lifelong entrepreneurial skills and connects them with key individuals important to their career pursuits.”

Michigan Business Challenge

The 29th annual four-month, multi-round Michigan Business Challenge began in the fall with nearly 145 students from across the university representing 45 teams. The competition process awarded more than $60,000 in total prize money. In the past decade, more than 500 teams have participated in the challenge and nearly $375,000 in prize money has been awarded.

The 45 teams were narrowed down over the course of two rounds of competition to eight teams. On Friday the semifinalist teams were narrowed down to a field of four finalists that presented their businesses in an interactive session with professional investors and competed for the top Pryor-Hale prize of $20,000.

The Pryor-Hale Award for Best Business for $20,000 went to Fashion Forward Maternity — a socially responsible online boutique where savvy professional women can borrow high quality and designer maternity and nursing fashions at a fraction of the price of new. The team consists of Erin Lewis, Judy Skiles Lavers and Sannie Sapier.

"The Michigan Business Challenge has been critical in helping us get ahead,” said Lewis. “I found my team through the executive MBA network, but the challenge has been extremely valuable as a way to receive feedback and refine our model. We received some initial funding in 2011, and today’s win will certainly help take the company to the next level.”

In total, the competition awarded $62,000 in prize money. Other top winners included:

• Runner-up for $10,000 — Converge Medical Technologies, a medical device company that develops patient brain-function monitoring solutions through principles of neuroscience. (Mike Johnson, Jay Johnson, Anna Ng, Anthony Tsai and George Mashour)

• Erb Award for Environmental and Social Sustainability for $7,500 — @FingerTips, a for-profit social-entrepreneurial company that builds devices enabling the blind to use modern touchscreen devices. (Siyang Chen, P.K. Mishra, Roger Potter and Nick Wilcox)

• Williamson Award for Most Successful Team of Business and Engineering Students for $5,000 — @FingerTips.

• Marketing Award sponsored by Mark Petroff for $2,500 each — @FingerTips and Fashion Forward Maternity.

• Most Successful Undergraduate Team for $2,500 — Thru.im, a mobile website that lets users transact with any business via free text messaging for consumers who want to communicate with businesses through text. (David Spiro, Chad Stark, Calvin Gee, Cheng Chen)

• Outstanding Presentation for $2,000 each — Thru.im and Converge Medical Technologies.

• Best Written Plan for $2,000 — StrideSports, a designer and manufacturer of fitness and exercise equipment with a mission to create fun, exciting, innovative products that inspire people to live healthier lives. (Brian Beard, Grant Weber)

• Finalist for $1,000 each — @FingerTips and StrideSports

• Round Two competitors each received $200; semifinalists that did not advance or receive a larger award each received an additional $300. ASK Interfaces (Ginny Liu, Christopher McMeeking, Jackson Buell, Jeffrey Miller), AutoBike LLC (Sean Simpson, John Czoykowski, Mark Simpson, Kevin Smith), and Surf-face (Shijing Lin, Hiroshi Kitami, Ellie Chang).

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 venture-ready teams may apply for a $1,500 Assessment grant to establish the feasibility of their business or a $10,000 Integration grant to move their company toward launch. Grants are awarded in the fall and winter terms.

$27,000 in grants were awarded for winter term.

Applebaum Dare to Dream Integration Grants of up to $10,000 were awarded to:

• @Fingertips ($10,000)

• The Beet Box ($5,000), providing healthy fast-food options that support and reward a healthy lifestyle. (Daniel Morse, Alexander Perlman, Kay Feker, Kendra Hall, Peter Hans Ward)

• Digital Maxim ($2,500), providing regional books in eBook format for all popular eReader devices to serve the needs of immigrant populations living in developed countries. (Thirumurthi Ranganathan, Sriram Ramanathan, Deviprasad Taluk, Ramalingam Subramaniyam, Manushyaputhiran)

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

• EVStation, investigating the feasibility of a business delivering a platform for electric vehicle charging station access. (Javier Rivera, Lawrence Han)

• Thrively, investigating the feasibility of a business establishing online platform for professionals to share feedback. (Nick Fassler, Emily Luke, Emily Bowman, Raina Rahbar)

• Torch Hybrid Marine Systems, investigating the feasibility of a business based on hybrid-electric marine propulsion systems. (Matthew Lankowski, Michael Daeffler, Justin D'Atri, Siddharth Menon, Matthew Sexton)

Mayleben Family Venture Shaping Grants of $500 were awarded to:

• AudioCode, addressing an opportunity utilizing smartphone technology. (Joe Dertouzos)

• AutoEat, addressing a need in the restaurant industry. (Maya Ben Ari, Dan Itsara)

• DrankBank.com, addressing the issue of connecting campus area businesses to student populations. (Jordan Eckstein, Ian Sabbag, Brian Shepanek)

• Footnotes, addressing an opportunity to improve the impact of events among attendees. (Mitch Adler, Seth Samuels, Krunal Desai)

• Google but Vocal, addressing the issue of connecting rural Indian populations to information. (Rachna Shukla)

• Ritmosim, investigating opportunity to develop novel solution to spinal orthoses. (Jorge Sanz-Guerrero, Dan Johnson, Maren Bean, Sam Beckett, Pat Milligan, Rikav Chauhan)

• Shutterhub, addressing the need for efortless photgraphy solutions in the consumer photography market. (Jeff Bargmann)

• StudentKit, addressing a need for targeted communication among university student populations. (Daniel Hoffman, Harrison Forman, Zach Mandel)

• YourCall, addressing a listener's lack of choice in the sports entertainment industry. (Josh Smith, Andrew Smith)

• YouTrivia, investigating novel approach to online marketing. (Ricardo Rodriguez-Laureno, Shamik Ganguly)