Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

More than $100,000 awarded to U-M student entrepreneurs

U-M students have secured $112,000 in funding for promising, student-led startups in the 30th annual Michigan Business Challenge and the Applebaum Dare to Dream and Mayleben Family Venture Shaping grant competitions.

"We are developing the next generation of serial entrepreneurs and venture investors through a combination of education and intense, action-based learning experiences aimed at the discovery, shaping, formation, investment and growth of new ventures," said Tim Faley, managing director of the Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business.

  Grant Hughes (center) is one of the founders of Focus, which won the Pryor-Hale Award for Best Business in the Michigan Business Challenge. With him are Sarika Gupta (left), student program manager for the Zell Lurie Institute, and Tim Faley, managing director the institute. (Photo by Scott Soderberg, Michigan Photography)

"For decades, the Michigan Business Challenge and Dare to Dream grant programs have been helping us do this, and we are always impressed with the quality and promise of the businesses and student entrepreneurs campuswide that get involved."

The Michigan Business Challenge is a four-month, multiround competition that began last fall with nearly 200 students from across campus representing 72 teams — nearly double the number of participants from a year ago.

Teams were narrowed down over the course of two rounds of competition to nine semifinalist teams, which were weeded out further last week. A field of four finalists presented their businesses in an interactive session with professional investors, and competed for prizes ranging from $1,000 to $20,000 (about $62,000 in all).

The $20,000 Pryor-Hale Award for Best Business went to Focus, a digital personal trainer integrated into a wristwatch-like device capable of automatically recording repetitions, sets, rest periods, weights and exercises or motions. MBA student Grant Hughes said he and business partner Cavan Canavan had never pitched Focus to anyone in a formal setting.

"The Michigan Business Challenge has been a comprehensive, varied and challenging endeavor," Hughes said. "Now that MBC is behind us and we've won, we not only get $20,000 to continue product and business development, but we also take with us the experience and confidence of having won a prestigious competition such as this as we build our concept into a viable company."

Other top MBC winners included:

• Exo Dynamics, an ergonomic support device that enables health care practitioners who experience back problems to perform at their best in the operating room. ($10,000 Pryor-Hale Runner-up and $5,000 Williamson Award for Outstanding Business & Engineering Team)

• Centricycle, a nonprofit company working to improve health care in rural India through the use of sustainable diagnostic technology and education. ($7,500 Erb Award for Sustainability)

• Go Tickets, a digital ticketing solution for college and university athletic programs. ($2,500 Best Undergraduate Team and $2,000 Outstanding Presentation)

• Torch Hybrid, software service provider for marine hybrid-electric powertrain development and energy management. ($2,500 Marketing Award sponsored by Mark Petroff and $2,000 Best Written Plan)

• Password Patterns, offering a pattern of colored boxes in a matrix that allows one to memorize a design or color pattern other than numbers for a password. ($2,500 Marketing Award sponsored by Mark Petroff)

• PhasiQ Inc., offering high-throughput bioanalysis assays, producing data otherwise not obtainable to life scientists in pharmaceutical industries. ($2,000 Outstanding Presentation)

The Dare to Dream Grant program, sponsored by Eugene Applebaum, founder of Arbor Drugs and president of Arbor Investments Group, 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 Aastrom Biosciences CEO Tim Mayleben and his wife Dawn Evans, allows teams to determine how to transform identified opportunities into businesses. In all, 17 Mayleben Family Venture Shaping Grants were awarded.

More advanced 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. About $50,000 was awarded for Dare to Dream and Venture Shaping grants.

Dare to Dream Integration Grant winners included:

• Kymeira Advanced Materials, creator of proprietary, new-to-the-world material that offers properties of heat tolerance, hardness and strength, similar to advanced ceramics, but with a fabrication process similar to thermosets. ($5,000)

• Mariposa Diagnostics, clinical lab services and research organization focused on transforming the process of diagnosing lupus and accelerating the pace of new therapeutic developments. ($2,500)

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

• A2Cribs, a large-scale lease aggregator providing a database of rental listings for college students.

• Focus, the digital personal trainer integrated into a wristwatch-like device.

• Reveneyes, a Web-based software platform that gives health care providers a single, concise, near-real-time view of profitability for each patient visit.

• RippleSense, a mobile-augmented reality platform that helps tourists explore places through instant information, stories and memories of others, making the interaction between people and environment more personal and intimate.

In the past decade, more than 2,000 students have participated in the Zell Lurie Institute's Michigan Business Challenge and Dare to Dream competitions, which have awarded more than $1.5 million during that time.

U-M's first business plan competition was established in 1984 by business school alum Millard Pryor to encourage and identify the most promising student-led businesses. In 1995 it became known as the Pryor-Hale Business Plan Competition and was renamed the Michigan Business Challenge in 2005.

The grand prize of the event remains the Pryor-Hale Award for Best Business in honor of the individuals and families who initiated the original competition.