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Animal Supplement Maker Wins $500K Accelerate Michigan Top Prize

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DETROI T — A Plymouth-based developer of algae-based technology to develop food supplements for animals won the top prize of $500,000 Thursday night at the third annual Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition.

Nearly $1 million was won Thursday night by 15 companies in what’s billed as one of the richest business plan competitions on the planet.

The win by Algal Scientific Corp. capped three days of pitches and presentations by 50 early stage companies and 23 more companies submitted by Michigan’s college and university students. The pitches took place at the Book Cadillac Hotel and Orchestra Hall in downtown Detroit.

The company was represented Thursday night by the father-and-son team of Paul Horst and Geoff Horst, who was one of the original four founders of Algal Scientific when it won the inaugural DTE Clean Energy Prize in 2009. Geoff Horst has more than 10 years of experience in advanced algal biology and is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Michigan State University.

The company originally proposed converting concentrated food and beverage industry process streams into bioproducts worth $500 to $1,000 a dry ton. Now, the company is concentrating on beta-1.3-glucan, estimated to be worth $10,000 to $100,000 a ton. Beta glucan helps boost the immune system of animals, encouraging more rapid growth and weight gain. Current methods of producing beta glucan involve yeast and are both more expensive and produce a less pure product than the Algal Scientific process.

Other winners who earned money Thursday night were:

* First runner up, $100,000, nanoMAG LLC, a Livonia company that is developing and commercializing next-generation, high strength, lightweight nanomagnesium biocompatible materials with applications in orthopedic medicine. President Stephen LeBeau has 35 years of experience in the areas of manufacturing and materials processing and commercial market development of advanced materials.

* Second runner up, $50,000, InPore Technologies Inc., an East Lansing company that is developing advanced membranes for applications like water filtration and flame retardance.

* Advanced materials industry award, sponsored by Masco Corp., $25,000, InfiChem Polymers LLC, a Sterling Heights company commercializing a proprietary chemical process for the recycling of polyurethane scrap that is now destined for landfills.

* Advanced transportation industry award, sponsored by Ford Motor Co. $25,000, Eco-Fueling LLC, a Saline company which has designed, built and road tested a retrofit system that achieves a 15 percent fuel economy improvement for existing diesel engines.

* IT industry award, sponsored by Comcast, $25,000, Ideomed, a Grand Rapids developer of chronic condition management member engagement systems for insurance companies.

* Alternative energy award, sponsored by DTE Energy, $25,000, Ornicept Inc., which gives wind energy developers, natural resource managers, regulators and airfield controllers up-to-date information on bird movement.

* Life science award, $25,000, BioSavita, a Plymouth company which is developing new and less expensive methods of making monoclonal antibodies, the next generation of blockbuster drugs.

* Medical device award, $25,000, Breonics, a company developing technology to make more kidneys available for transplantation.

* Next generation manufacturing award, $25,000, Coliant Corp., a Warren-based developer of rugged electrical accessories for the motorcycle and powersports industries.

* Products and services award, $10,000, Protean Payment Inc., an Ann Arbor developer of a universal payment, loyalty and gift card called Echo.

* People’s choice award, $10,000, Retia Medical LLC, which makes monitors for high-risk patients in the operating room and intensive care units.

Among the student startups, meanwhile, first prize went to Kymeira Advanced Materials, a developer of advanced ceramics out of the University of Michigan; second prize to Lemon Peel, a developer of a noise cancellation headband so hospital patients can get a good night’s sleep, developed by students at Hope College; and third place to SkySpecs LLC, a UM-based developer of unmanned aerial vehicles for infrastructure inspection.

Other universities participating in the startup competition included Central Michigan University, Kettering University, Lake Superior State University, Michigan State University, Northwestern Michigan College, Wayne State University and Western Michigan University.

Before the presentation, attendees were treated to a presentation on innovation by Terry Jones, founder of Travelocity.com and former CIO of Sabre Inc. He’s also chairman of Kayak.com.

You can see his engaging slide show for yourself at www.tbjones.com, but here are the highlights:

* Quoting science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke, Jones noted, “The future is a foreign country., they do things differently there.”

* It’s a different world today — it’s wired, information has found freedom, and consumers have more power than ever.

* Innovation rests on the twin pillars of culture and team. Culture eats strategy for lunch, so you have to build a culture of innovation — experiment, take risks, fail faster, and after failure, kill the project, not the person.

* To build a great team, Jones said, bring in a balance of views — hire old people, hire young people, hire people who aren’t like you, teach old dogs new tricks, teach new dogs old tricks, hire people who don’t fit in. And remember that geniuses often don’t fit in.

* Beware the ‘Dopeler Effect,’ in which stupid ideas seem smarter when they come at you rapidly (e.g., pets.com, webvan.com).  And beware the ‘Bozone layer,’ that layer of middle management that keeps good ideas from moving upward.

* Negative people are energy vampires. Negative people wipe out organizations.

* Keep your development teams small. Amazon has a great rule — two pizza teams. If it takes more than two pizzas to feed the team, the team is too big. Big teams don’t innovate.

* Good ideas can come from anywhere in the org chart because everybody has access to information, and Jones is convinced that the best innovation comes from the bottom of the org chart. Jones said that innovation that comes from the top down is orderly and dumb, while innovation that bubbles up from the bottom is chaotic but smart.

* It’s OK to go with your gut on new ideas, just don’t bet the farm on them — do quick hits and small projects.

* Innovation frequently means just doing something better that already exists, like Apple with the mp3 player and the cell phone.

Accelerate Michigan is sponsored by the University Research Corridor, the research collaboration of Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University, and Business Leaders for Michigan, the statewide successor CEO organization to Detroit Renaissance.

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