Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Monday, November 21, 2011

Startups with ties to university win statewide awards

Three startups with ties to U-M have been honored in a statewide business plan contest, the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition.

First prize overall and $500,000 went to DeNovo Sciences, which is developing an improved system for cancer detection that is an alternative to traditional biopsies. DeNovo's CEO is U-M chemical engineering alumnus Kalyan Handique, co-founder and namesake of U-M spinout HandyLab, which was sold to medical device firm BD in 2009 for close to $300 million. Winners were announced Nov. 17.


Watch a video about Are You Human, a company that has developed new technology to confirm whether a real person or a spambot is accessing a website. Click here to read more about the company.


More information about:

Are You a Human
Fusion Coolant Systems
DeNovo Sciences
innovate! at U-M

Second prize and $150,000 went to Fusion Coolant Systems, which is marketing a safer and greener coolant and lubrication system for use in manufacturing. Fusion is based on technology co-invented by Steve Skerlos, associate professor of mechanical engineering and civil and environmental engineering. The company is one of 14 faculty startups sharing space in U-M's Venture Accelerator in the North Campus Research Complex.

First place in the student startup category and $25,000 went to Are You a Human, which has developed a better way for websites to verify that a user actually is a person, and not a spam bot. Their PlayThru simple games are meant to replace CAPTCHAs, the warped letters and other characters users often are asked to recognize and type back into websites. Are You a Human spent two sessions in U-M's TechArb student business accelerator.

"The large number of U-M startups and student startups competing for these awards is a testament to the innovation and vibrant entrepreneurial culture at the University of Michigan," says Ken Nisbet, director of Tech Transfer. "These awards show the potential of our research discoveries, our student concepts and entrepreneurial alumni, all making a impact in revitalizing our Michigan economy."

Designed to bolster and advance Michigan's entrepreneurial ecosystem, the Accelerate Michigan competition is led by the newly formed Business Accelerator Network for Southeast Michigan, the Business Leaders for Michigan, the University Research Corridor (U-M, Michigan State University and Wayne State University) and the New Economy Initiative.

"This award is a huge deal for us," says Are You a Human co-founder Ben Blackmer, an MBA student in the Stephen M. Ross School of Business. "It's further validation for our idea and the money will help us continue to grow."

With a new one-year Master of Entrepreneurship program, two startup accelerators, three entrepreneurship centers and countless business pitch, plan and model competitions, U-M is educating, inspiring and supporting entrepreneurs across campus.