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UM Awards Student Startups $113K In Funding

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ANN ARBOR (WWJ) – A patent-pending clock technology for the microprocessor market. An easier way to bring electric vehicle charging stations to commercial buildings. And even a water bottle that flips completely inside-out for easier cleaning.

From the world-changing to the humble to the just plain cool, more than a dozen business ideas were named winners of startup funding and grants totaling $113,000 Monday by the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

The grants came under various programs — the 31st annual Michigan Business Challenge, Applebaum Dare to Dream Grants, Mayleben Family Venture Shaping Grants. Stewart Thornhill, executive director of the Ross School’s Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies: “For more than 30 years, the Michigan Business Challenge and Dare to Dream grant programs have helped us with these endeavors, and each year, we’ve been more and more impressed by the quality of the businesses and determination of the student entrepreneurs all across campus.”

The Michigan Business Challenge is a four-month, multi-round competition that began in the fall with students from across the University’s 19 schools and colleges. Round One hosted 68 teams in December. Of these, 16 teams advanced to Round Two where the field was narrowed down to eight semi-finalist teams. On Friday, Feb. 21, the final eight teams were put to the test again, and four finalist teams were chosen to present their businesses in an interactive session with professional investors.

The Pryor-Hale Award for Best Business and its $20,000 went to Movellus Circuits, presented by Muhammad Faisal, scheduled to get a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and computer science this May, and Daniel Anderson, scheduled to receive an MBA at the same time. The company is developing patent-pending clock generator technology for the microprocessor market.

“Coming into the challenge, I had written business plans and pitched them in classes, but I hadn’t ever spent three months working on and improving a plan like we did for this competition,” Andersen said. “I learned that there is a tremendous difference between putting a first draft of a business plan on paper and developing something over time that will really resonate with investors and business professionals. Winning the Michigan Business Challenge gives us financial resources and confidence for interactions with system-on-chip companies such as Qualcomm and Psikick — our potential customers.”

Andersen’s teammate was one of many students joining the competition from outside of the business school.

“I signed up for the Michigan Business Challenge as an engineering student with limited experience in business,” Faisal said. “It taught me how to explain complicated engineering concepts so that they could be understood by a much broader audience, ultimately helping us reach more people. The competition reflects world investor meetings, and the feedback from the judges has been incredibly valuable in refining our business concept.”

The team also received the Williamson Award for $5,000 for the most outstanding business and engineering team as well as the Outstanding Presentation award for $2,000.

The Pryor-Hale Runner-up award for Best Business for $10,000 and the Marketing award sponsored by Mark Petroff for $2,500 went to Flipsi, represented by Jeff Plott, a 2013 master’s grad in engineering, and Chris Plott, a 2003 master’s engineering grad, for their reusable drinking bottle that flips completely inside out to facilitate easier cleaning.

The Erb Institute award for Sustainability for $7,500 went to Keravnos Energy, represented by Rupert Tull de Salis, a scheduled 2014 graduate for a master’s in electrical engineering, Dimitris Assanis (a scheduled 2015 Ph.D. graduate in mechanical engineering, Johannes Kristinsson, a scheduled 2015 MBA grad, for their energy system that installs heavy duty power electronics and battery storage units in commercial buildings for fast-charging services to electric vehicle drivers and reduced building utility costs.

The Outstanding Presentation award for $2,000 and the Marketing award sponsored by Mark Petroff for $2,500 went to MyDermPortal, represented by Paul Robichaux, scheduled this spring to get an MBA and a master’s degree in public health, and Vanessa Pena-Robichaux, for their web-based app for dermatologists to provide follow-up treatment via the internet for the most common diagnoses in significantly less time than an in person visit.

The Most Successful Undergraduate Team award for $2,500 went to Lab Compass, represented by Alex VanDerKolk, a 2013 bachelor of business administration grad, Nikhil Kumar, scheduled 2014 engineering graduates Max Wolff and Raul Iyengar, scheduled 2014 graduate George Zakhem and scheduled 2015 graduate David Middleton, for their cloud-based software enabling more efficient collection, storage and sharing of sensitive healthcare data used in medical research.

The Best Written Plan award for $2,000 went to Nodify, represented by scheduled 2014 MBA and master’s of science grads Sam Stevenson, Adam Byrnes and James Ward, for mobile apps that automatically refine a user’s professional network into a manageable group of important contacts and suggests relevant reasons to stay in touch.

Awards of $500 went to to each of the semi-final teams that participated in the competition, and $200 went to each of the 16 teams that advanced from Round One and competed in Round Two

Meanwhile, 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 advanced teams may apply for a $1,500 sssessment 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.

Grants totaling $50,000 were awarded for the 2013-2014 academic year.

The Dare to Dream Winter program awarded $20,000 in total grants to the following teams:

Applebaum Dare to Dream Integration Grants of up to $5,000:
Flipsi – A reusable drinking bottle that flips completely inside out to facilitate easier cleaning
Movellus Circuits – Revolutionary designs for embedded processors that make them scalable, portable, cheaper and smaller
MyDermPortal – A web based app that allows dermatologists to provide follow-up treatment via the internet for the most common diagnoses in significantly less time than an in person visit

Applebaum Dare to Dream Assessment Grants of $1,500:
Keravnos Energy – Installing heavy duty battery storage units into commercial buildings to provide fast charging services to EV drivers and simultaneously reduce the building’s utility costs
Nodify – Platform that allows users to rank or prioritize their contacts in order of importance and suggests the best ways to interact with those people

Mayleben Family Venture Shaping Grants of $500:
Bee Tagged – An app that allows users to tag connections from their social networks with a system that allows them to organize and mine their networks in more useful ways
e-Arg – An innovative, detachable electronic hookah head that can be used to replace the tobacco burning portion of the traditional hookah, reintroducing the popular social activity of smoking a hookah in an ethnic restaurant
Elegus Technologies – A new battery separator that improves the performance of lithium ion batteries
Fixworthy – Image-based computerized maintenance management system that allows users to upload photographs of their issues and responders to quickly find the problem through a built in GPS feature
Lifted Snacks – Mobile app that allows travelers to search for dining options in airports and place a meal order that is delivered to their gate prior to boarding
Raita – Company that manufactures and sells savory Indian yogurts that are both healthy and satisfying
Turba Health – Web interface that allows patients suffering from asthma to obtain a diagnosis and monitor their condition remotely
Turnip – A mobile app that allows users to seamlessly plan get-togethers and stay on top of their friend’s locations
YouKnowWatt – A web application that is accessed by home energy auditors and homeowners that will give homeowners energy efficiency tips and allow the auditor to communicate directly with them

More at http://www.zli.bus.umich.edu.

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