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Student Entrepreneurs Earn Nearly $90,000 In UM Competitions

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The University of Michigan central campus.

The University of Michigan central campus.

(credit: istock) Technology Report
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ANN ARBOR — The Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business Monday 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 UM 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 life-long 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 rigorous competition process awarded more than $60,000 in total prize money. In the past decade, over 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, February 17 the semi-finalist 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. An awards reception followed the competition where Challenge winners and Dare to Dream grant recipients were announced.

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 University of Michigan, the Ross School of Business, and Zell Lurie Institute have been instrumental in the successful launch of Fashion Forward Maternity,” said Erin Lewis, eMBA ’12 and Fashion Forward Maternity president. “The U of M professors have been a tremendous source of support and I found my co-founder, Judy Skiles Lavers, through the Executive MBA alumni network. We bootstrapped and launched our business over the last nine months and have had early success, but I credit the Michigan Business Challenge in helping us refine our business plan and get ready to take our business to the next level.”

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

* Runner-up for $10,000 to Converge Medical Technologies,  a medical device company that develops patient brain function monitoring systems.
* Erb Award for Environmental and Social Sustainability for $7,500 to @Fingertips, a for-profit social-entrepreneurial company that builds devices enabling the blind to use modern touchscreen devices.
* Williamson Award for Most Successful Team of Business and Engineering Students for $5,000 to @Fingertips
* Marketing Award sponsored by Mark Petroff for $2,500 each to @Fingertips and Fashion Forward Maternity
* Most Successful Undergraduate Team for $2,500 to Thru.im, a mobile Web site that lets you transact with any business via free text messaging for consumers who want to communicate with businesses through text.
* Outstanding Presentation for $2,000 each to Thru.im and Converge Medical Technologies * Best Written Plan for $2,000 to 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.
* Finalist Awards of $1,000 each to @Fingertips and StrideSports

Round Two competitors each received $200; Semi-finalists that did not advance or receive a larger award each received an additional $300.

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
* 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.

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
* Thrively, investigating the feasibility of a business establishing online platform for professionals to share feedback
* Torch Hybrid Marine Systems, investigating the feasibility of a business based on hybrid-electric marine propulsion systems

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

* AudioCode, addressing an opportunity using smartphone technology
* AutoEat, addressing difficulties in the restaurant industry
* DrankBank.com, addressing the issue of connecting campus area businesses to student populations
* Footnotes, addressing an opportunity to improve the impact of events among attendees
* Google but Vocal, addressing the issue of connecting rural Indian populations to information
* Ritmosim, investigating an opportunity to develop novel spinal orthoses
* Shutterhub, addressing a need in the consumer photography market
* StudentKit, addressing a need for targeted communication among university student populations
* YourCall, addressing a need in the sports entertainment industry
* YouTrivia, investigating a novel approach to online marketing

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