The Great Lakes Entrepreneur’s Quest hosted its 11th Annual Statewide Business Plan Competition Award Ceremony on Thursday, June 9, including a new award named for WWJ Newsradio 950’s Great Lakes Innovation and Technology Report.

A diverse array of IT, life sciences and cleantech companies claimed funding at the event in their ongoing quest to become successful, growing businesses creating jobs in Michigan.

Sponsoring organizations of the event, which included a daylong entrepreneurship training conference at Michigan State University’s James B. Henry Center, were  Automation Alley, the Michigan Economic Development Corp., the Michigan Small Business Technology Development Centers (MI-SBTDC), and the Michigan SmartZones.

The event culminated in the presentation of the $100,000 SmartZone Award, sponsored by the Michigan SmartZones and funded through the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund, administered by Ann Arbor Spark.

This top award was presented to Syzygy Biotech Solutions, LLC, by Skip Simms, senior vice president of Ann Arbor Spark and managing director of the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund program. The award was received by Barry Nowak, founder and CEO, and MSU alumnus.

Syzygy produces biological reagents for use in DNA amplification, a fundamental and growing part of all DNA testing, related medical developments, and research. The West Michigan Science and Technology Initiative in Grand Rapids is home for Syzygy headquarters, laboratory and distribution facilities. A sales office and product depot is located in the Michigan Life Science and Innovation Center in Plymouth.

The sixth annual Automation Alley Innovation Award for Advanced Manufacturing, in the amount of $12,500, was presented to Chuck Salley, CEO of NextCAT. Detroit-based NextCAT has developed catalyst technology that allows the use of low cost feedstocks for biodiesel fuel and simplifies the production process, with an estimated savings of up to $1.00 per gallon.

The $25,000 GLEQ Grand Prize Award in the Emerging Company category was presented to Clean Energy Innovations, a Bloomfield Hills company that has developed a new control system to improve the performance of power storage devices like rechargeable batteries, substantially improving their recharging and discharging characteristics.

The Runner Up Award of $10,000 in the Emerging Company category was captured by MitoStem, a Detroit company that is using various protein delivery methods to create induced pluripotential stem cells that are more efficient, improving the performance of stem cell researchers and speeding the development of stem cell-based therapies.

The top six teams competing for the GLEQ Grand Prize in the Emerging Company category conducted three-minute pitches of their plans to a panel of investment judges. The panel included Martin Dober, senior vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation, Michigan Economic Development Corp.; Pete Farner, partner at TGap Ventures; Ken Kousky, president, Blue Water Angels; Jack Miner, capital champion, TechTown; and Paul Neeb, president & CEO, RealBio Technology Inc. and Jeff Van Winkle, partner, Clark Hill, PLC.

Presentation scores were added to scores on the companies’ written business plans to determine the overall winners. Finalists in addition to the winning companies included NextCAT, a Detroit company developing catalysts to make biodiesel fuel production cheaper; SurClean, a Wixom company that uses lasers and proprietary software for coating removal; The Mackinac Technology Company, a Grand Rapids company that is developing a low cost window insulation technology that reduces building heating and cooling loads and improves impact protection; and Vortex Hydro Energy, an Ann Arbor company that is developing an underwater current energy harvesting device.

The Emerging Company awards were presented by Jack Ahrens, managing partner, TGap Ventures and chairman of the GLEQ Board of Directors.

In the New Business Idea category, DeNovo Sciences of Ypsilanti received the First Place Award of $5,000 and ONL Therapeutics of Ann Arbor was awarded the Runner Up Award of $2,500. DeNovo Sciences is developing a microfluidic and imaging platform for early detection of metastatic cancer by isolation and detection of circulating tumor cells in blood. The award was accepted by Priyadarshini Gogoi, co-founder.  Raili Kerppoli  accepted the award for ONL, who has developed an ophthalmic pharmaceutical to prevent vision loss due to photoreceptor cell death. The New Business Idea awards were presented by Michelle Crumm, co-founder, Adaptive Materials, and member of the GLEQ Board of Directors. Adaptive Materials, an Ann Arbor-based portable fuel cell company, was the 2003 GLEQ Grand Prize winner.

A first-time GLEQ GLITR Award was announced to honor the contribution made by the Great Lakes Innovation and Technology Report and its editor, Matt Roush, to Michigan’s entrepreneurial community. The winner of the GLEQ GLITR Award, Clean World Fuels, was selected from business summaries submitted in a two-day Business Plan Blitz and will receive coverage with Matt Roush on WWJ Newsradio 950. The winning plan was submitted by Matthew Vale, the company’s director of communications and operations. Macomb Township-based Clean World Fuels is developing a cooling system to create an efficient hydrogen-on-demand generator for diesel-fueled engines. Injecting hydrogen into the combustion chamber of diesel engines results in a cleaner fuel burn and less pollution emissions.

Greg George of GTI Advisors was awarded GLEQ Coach of the Year,while Kenneth Faris, president of Battle Creek-based Twinzy Toys, was selected for the Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award. His GLEQ coach Sandra Cochrane, MI-SBTDC Tech Team consultant, said: “He demonstrates the entrepreneurial enthusiasm and commitment needed for success.”

The Angel Tax Credit and Next Step Fund honors were announced by Sam Hogg, president of, a 2009 New Business Idea category winner, and director of venture development, NextEnergy.  Twenty-three companies qualified through the GLEQ Business Plan Competition to offer prospective angel investors the opportunity to apply for the 2011 Small Business Investment Tax Credit. Sixteen of those companies are being reviewed by the Next Step Fund for loans up to $50,000.

GLEQ, now in its 11th year of continuous operations, is a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) educational program designed to accelerate the formation of high-growth companies in Michigan. GLEQ uses volunteer business and investment experts to provide training, coaching and mentoring. Entrepreneurs in the business plan competition receive as many as four written critiques from members of the investor community.

The 2012 GLEQ Business Plan Competition opens for registration on Monday, Aug. 22. Awards will be announced at Washtenaw County’s Annual Collaboration for Entrepreneurship in January.

Additional information is available at or by calling Diane Durance, GLEQ executive director, at (734) 255-3183.

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