LIVONIA — The Great Lakes Entrepreneur’s Quest presented awards to the mid-year winners in its thirteenth year of the statewide business plan competition on Thursday, Jan. 31, at the ACE’13 event in Livonia.

More than 200 Michigan-based entrepreneurial ventures were registered for the competition, which attracts a wide-range of innovation-based businesses in fields such as alternative energy, information technology and software, advanced manufacturing, food safety, green chemistry, medical devices and life sciences. The competition’s twice-annual program accommodates both idea-stage ventures and companies with up to $3 million in cumulative sales.

Award winners in the Emerging Company category are:

First Place Award – $5,000. Monarch Antenna. Represented by Randall Dence, CEO, Ann Arbor-based Monarch Antenna is developing a smart and adaptive tunable antenna solution for smartphones like the Apple iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy III. The antennas used in today’s cell phone handsets are typically low cost, low performance ‘bent metal’ designs. These passive antennas provide adequate performance in a 2G or 3G voice cellular world but are inadequate for 4G data networks that provide streaming video, cloud services and offer rich multi-media smartphone applications. Additionally, Michigan Growth Capital Symposium announced a presentation slot for Monarch Antenna at the MGCS event in May.

Second Place Award – $3,000. Blue Water Bioproducts. Represented by Kurt Kurple, president, Port Huron-based Blue Water Bioproducts offers cost competitive, high performance polyurethane resins manufactured from an environmentally friendly and renewable material. Currently petroleum is used to manufacture polyurethane resins. Petroleum is expensive, increases greenhouse gas emissions and contributes to dependence on foreign petroleum imports. Blue Water Bioproduct’s polyurethane resins use a renewable material called lignin, a byproduct of the pulp and paper industry.

Third Place Award – $2,500. Exo Dynamics. Represented by Jorge Sanz-Guerrero, CEO, Ann Arbor-based Exo Dynamics is dedicated to creating the next generation of spinal orthoses that will improve treatment processes for people afflicted with chronic spinal conditions or injuries. A critical customer segment is the 50% of interventionalist doctors suffering from back problems due to long hours standing while performing procedures.

Award winners in the New Business Ideas category are:

First Place Award – $2,000. AdAdapted. Represented by Molly McFarland, Chief Marketing Officer, Ann Arbor-based AdAdapted offers a mobile advertising network providing dynamic, customizable, non-disruptive, product placement opportunities within mobile games and apps. Mobile users, developers and advertisers dislike banner ads, but developers need ad revenue and advertisers need a scalable way to reach mobile users. With AdAdapted, mobile game/app developers can serve integrated ads, which earn them “premium” ad revenue from advertisers while still keeping users happy. Advertisers get integrated ads, which are proven to out-perform banner ads, without the inefficiencies of contracting with each game/app developer directly. 

Second Place Award – $1,500. Beet Analytics Technology. Represented by Edward Kim, President and CEO, Plymouth-based Beet Analytics is commercializing a software product to revolutionize the way factory performance is monitored and managed. Their patented technology offers performance and quality improvement by:  Capturing digital profiles of automated motion; enabling predictive analytics; providing a cloud technology platform to connect factories worldwide; and allowing instant access to a complete view of manufacturing line activity. 

Third Place Award – $1,000. Kymeira.  Represented by Cameron Smith, CEO, Ann Arbor-based Kymeira is producing a new-to-the-world ceramic material they call a “thermoset ceramic” that replaces heat sintering with chemical sintering, enabling the incorporation of many commerically available reinforcing agents to increase strength of ceramics while enabling new production methods and reducing cost.  

GLEQ Coach Recognition Award. John Balbach, MI-SBTDC Tech Team, received the GLEQ Coach Recognition Award. He was nominated by Deepak Ravindra, Micro-LAM Technologies, a Kalamazoo-based venture using laser technology to thermally heat and soften hard and brittle materials. John was cited for his unique ability to turn around negative outcomes in very positive way, find efficient and productive solutions quickly, and motivate and inspire an entrepreneurial team. 

GLEQ Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award. Barry Paxton, Pharma Form Solutions, received The Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award. He was nominated by his business coach, Viktor Brandneris, and was recognized for his openness to coaching and his productive use of the Business Model Canvas even when faced with results that raised potentially serious issues with his plan. Barry aggressively dove into the customer discovery process and quickly realized that negative feedback was actually money, time and energy-saving input that would ultimately lead him to a better business model.

Vision to Action Challenge Awards. GLEQ recognized the following companies as having achieved significant milestones in advancing their ventures from concept to launch, or from startup to second stage:

  • Artisan Coffee Imports, Ruth Ann Church, Ann Arbor
  • CentriCycle,  Carolyn Yarina, Ann Arbor
  • DrainFixt, LLC, Tom Golibart, Macomb
  • FamilyMint, Bob Masterson, Rochester Hills
  • Generation E Institute, Cheryl Peters, Battle Creek
  • ITB Packaging, Joyce Kortman, Holland
  • Paxton Holdings and Pharma Form Solutions, Barry Paxton, South Lyon
  • Social2Step, Susan Burke, Ada
  • Sovilok Manufacturing, Martin Sovis, Flushing
  • Switcheels, Brad Alan, Clinton Township

In addition to the awards presented at ACE’13, GLEQ director, Diane Durance, announced several awards planned for the Spring 2013 GLEQ Business Plan Competition including the 4th Annual $100,000 SmartZone Award sponsored by Michigan’s network of SmartZones and a new track in the competition sponsored by Michigan Corp and MEDC for Social Ventures with an award package of $50,000. Continued awards include the Global Food Protection Institute award for food safety, the MSU Bioeconomy Institute award for green chemistry, the Michigan Medical Device Accelerator award, the NextEnergy Alternative Energy award, and the Automation Alley award for advanced manufacturing.

Winning ventures were selected by 85 volunteer judges, including venture capitalists; angel investors; university-based tech transfer, engineering and business staff; and economic and business development professionals.

The GLEQ awards were presented by Diane Durance, Executive Director, GLEQ;  Jack Ahrens, Managing Partner, TGap Ventures, and Chairman of the GLEQ Board of Directors; Carolyn Cassin, president and CEO, Michigan Women’s Foundation and GLEQ Board director; and Kevin McCurren, Executive Director, Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Grand Valley State University.

About Great Lakes Entrepreneur’s Quest

GLEQ, now in its thirteenth year of continuous operations, is a Michigan-based 501 (c) (3) non-profit education program designed to accelerate the formation of high-growth companies.  

GLEQ sponsors a statewide business plan competition twice each year. The competition accommodates ventures in various stages of development. Entrepreneurs with new business concepts compete in the New Business Idea category. Ventures in the early launch phases and those with grant income and customer revenue compete in the Emerging Company category. Ventures working with SmartZone advisors and seeking seed funding, can compete for the $100,000 SmartZone Award. Innovation Awards are available and planned for ventures in Advanced Manufacturing, Food Safety, Medical Devices, Green Chemistry, Information Technology and Alternative Energy.

GLEQ leverages a portfolio of 185 volunteer business and investment experts to provide training, coaching, mentoring and judging. GLEQ was a past recipient of a 21st Century Jobs Fund Grant and current operations are funded by an Entrepreneurial Support Services grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp.


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