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Clean-tech startup picoSpray lines up potential customers

Clean-tech startup picoSpray is putting together a lengthy list of customers for its small-engine technology and is well on its way to proving the viability of its concept.

The Ann Arbor-based start-up's technology is basically a low-cost electronic fuel injection system for small engines. The product will help make small engines (think lawn mowers or chainsaws or go-carts) more energy efficient and help reduce their emissions. Check out a video on the technology here. The technology can reduce fuel consumption by 10-15 percent, depending on the type of engine, calibration, and the speed it runs at.

"For different customers there are different valuations," says Lihang Nong, founder of picoSpray.

He adds that picoSpray has already proven the concept behind its technology to one large manufacturer of small engines. He declined to identify the firm. He did say that his firm continues to test its technology in 2014 and is lining up potential customers.

The startup is one year away from commercializing its technology. It is currently working to raise some seed capital to help push the commercialization process forward faster.

"We're in the process of raising a seed round in the area of $1 million," Nong says. "We plan to prove the technology in 2014."

Nong and his team of seven people are all recent engineering graduates of the University of Michigan. They started working on picoSpray at a business plan competition. It eventually moved into the TechArb, a startup incubator for U-M students in downtown Ann Arbor, and landed a microloan from the Michigan Microloan Fund last year. It is now working independently of the University of Michigan.

Source: Lihang Nong, founder of picoSpray
Writer: Jon Zemke

Covaron takes 2nd place, $100K at Accelerate Michigan

Covaron Advanced Materials took second place in the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition last month, a win that put $100,000 in cash into the startup's kitty.

That money will go toward its seed capital round. The firm raised a total of $300,000 in seed capital and also landed a $250,000 loan from the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund prior to the win last month. Covaron Advanced Materials is also looking to raise a $5 million Series A.

"We're just starting to solicit that now," says Dave Hatfield, CEO of Covaron Advanced Materials.?

The Ann Arbor-based start-up, formerly Kymeira Advanced Materials, is developing a new chemistry for ceramics, which brings the benefits of existing advanced ceramics to new parts and markets. The 1-year-old company won the student portion of the Accelerate Michigan competition last year. This year the startup and its team of six people (it just hired one of its interns) leveraged that experience to turn in another winning effort.

"We had a good story," Hatfield says. "To win both of those competitions and through the vetting for the business loan from the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund means you have a pretty good business plan. It’s a great confirmation for us."

Source: Dave Hatfield, CEO of Covaron Advanced Materials
Writer: Jon Zemke

TurtleCell aims to release 1st iPhone cases in early 2014

TurtleCell is quickly becoming a popular startup in Michigan and the proof is in the pudding at business plan competitions.

The iPhone accessory startup made the semifinals of this year's Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition and then scored the People's Choice award and $10,000 in seed capital at the competition in Detroit last month. The Ann Arbor-based firm is using that cash along with some other seed capital it has raised to make a few hundred prototypes of its iPhone cases this winter.

TurtleCell has created an iPhone case that comes with retractable earbuds. The case would allow full access to the smartphone’s buttons and have a four-foot-long headphone that easily retracts back into the case when not being used. The earbuds will be higher-quality, comparable to Beats by Dre.

"We have pretty much completed the prototype stage," says Paul Schrems, CTO of TurtleCell. "We’re getting ready to start our Beta testing with 500 users."

TurleCell's team of five people will put out those first prototypes will go out in early 2014. It will then take that experience to help spearhead a crowdfunding campaign next spring. The company tried to crowdfund $50,000 earlier this year. It only hit $20,000 but the startup’s team took a lot away from the experience.

"That was the best thing for us," says Nick Turnbull, CEO of TurtleCell. "We used that time we would have used to ship orders to finalize the product’s design and do some fundraising."

Source: Paul Schrems, CTO of TurtleCell and Nick Turnbull, CEO of TurtleCell
Writer: Jon Zemke

Blackstone LaunchPad startups excel at Accelerate Michigan

The number of student-led startups from Detroit competing in this year's Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition has jumped, both in quantity and quality.

Ten Detroit-based startups made the semifinals of the business plan competition last week, making up 10 of the 34 competitors in the student-portion of the event. Ann Arbor-based startups have traditionally dominated the student competition, taking a clear majority of the top three spots in each of the competition’s first three years. This year SIB Medical Technologies, a startup creating research collection instrument that was founded at Blackstone LaunchPad at Wayne State University, took second, the small business incubator's first winner at Accelerate Michigan.

"It shows that most of our students are entrepreneurs and not just exploring it," says Aubrey Agee, senior program administrator of Blackstone LaunchPad at Wayne State University.

Blackstone LaunchPad opened the small business incubator at Wayne State University three years ago. The idea is to encourage non-business school students to open their own businesses. Dozens of entrepreneurs have made their way through the program since then.

This year nine of the 10 startups in Accelerate Michigan’s student competition had ties to Blackstone LaunchPad at Wayne State University. Those nine startups are made up of more than 21 entrepreneurs.

"There are a lot of people who are hustling and busting their butts," Agee says. "We were able to help guide them a bit and get them pointed in the right direction."

Source: Aubrey Agee, senior program administrator of Blackstone LaunchPad at Wayne State University
Writer: Jon Zemke

PHASIQ works to commercialize lab tool tech

University of Michigan spin-out PHASIQ is looking to bring its new research instrument to a life sciences lab near you in the not-too-distant future.

The Ann Arbor-based startup's technology genesis came from research developed by Shuichi Takayama and Arlyne Simon at U-M. The 1-year-old company instrument "provides an ultra-specific diagnostic platform for detecting protein biomarkers in biological samples," according to its company description at this fall's Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, where the startup made the semifinals. It offers "the most stringent quality custom assays to pharmaceutical companies for drug and biomarker discovery, advancing personalized medicine."

PHASIQ's instruments are currently being used by clinical researchers at the University of Michigan. The company is still tweaking the instrument’s design to streamline its operation.

"We're trying to change it so anyone can use it," Takayama says. "We want to make it simple."

A $150,000 Small Business Innovation Research grant is currently funding the development of PHASIQ's technology by the startup's core team of four people. The company is aiming to commercialize the instrument midway through next year and is currently working to raise a round of seed capital to make that happen.

"We anticipate we will need at least $2 million by 2014," Simon says.

Source: Arlyne Simon and Shuichi Takayama, co-founders of PHASIQ
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ann Arbor startups set growth curve at Accelerate Michigan

If the student competition at this fall's Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition is supposed to be a stepping stone to bigger prizes in the main event of the business plan competition, then startups from Ann Arbor are proving the theory true.

Accelerate Michigan got its start in 2010 as an event to provide access to seed capital, resources and investors to fledgling tech startups based in Michigan or those looking to move to the Great Lakes State. This year the organic growth of Michigan's startups started to show.

Covaron Advanced Materials won the student portion of Accelerate Michigan last year under the name Kymeira Advanced Materials, taking home $25,000 in seed capital. Last week the Ann Arbor-based company took second place in the overall competition, which comes with a $100,000 check. It was the most prominent example of a young, up-and-coming startup setting the growth curve at Accelerate Michigan.

Ann Arbor-based SkySpecs took third place (with a prize of $10,000) in last year's Accelerate Michigan student competition. The 1-year-old startup is developing aerial drones that use artificial intelligence to inspect infrastructure in dangerous locations, such as the blade of wind turbines.

This year it made the semifinals of the overall competition, going against older, more developed startups. Tom Brady, one of the startup’s co-founders, says "the competition is stiff" when talking about the other startups pitching at Accelerate Michigan. He and his co-founders felt much more confident about their pitch because of their previous experience in the student competition.

"If we had gone straight from an idea to the business plan competition we wouldn't have done well," says Danny Ellis, co-founder of SkySpecs.

Source: Tom Brady and Danny Ellis, co-founders of SkySpecs
Writer: Jon Zemke

Inmatech aims to reinvent batteries with supercapicitor

If the conventional wisdom about technology is correct and future change is more likely to be found through incremental improvements instead of great leaps forward, then Inmatech might have the next step forward in battery technology.

The Ann Arbor-based startup's technology takes advanced, customized supercapacitors and inserts them in batteries for electronics. The supercapacitors enable the batteries to improve the delivery of energy and up energy density.

"That way the battery is just handling the energy storage," says Saemin Choi, CTO of Inmatech.

The startup and its team of four people, which calls the University of Michigan's Venture Accelerator home, is currently in the prototype phase and looking to sell its first units in 2015 or 2016. Inmatech also won the DTE Energy Alternative Energy prize (worth $25,000 in seed capital cash) at this fall’s Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. The money will go towards the startup’s efforts to close on a seven-figure seed capital round in the coming months.

"We have raised close to $1 million," Choi says. "We need to raise $1.5 million in 2014."

Source: Saemin Choi, CTO of Inmatech
Writer: Jon Zemk

Lawrence Tech scores $150K for entrepreneurship education

Students who aspire to be their own boss at Lawrence Technological University got a six-figure boost this fall.

The Southfield-based university won a $150,000 grant from the Chicago-based Coleman Foundation to promote and facilitate entrepreneurial education. The grant will be doled out over two years and it will make Lawrence Tech’s entrepreneurial education program available to students pursuing degrees in the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Architecture and Design, and Management.

"We have so many students that have the skill sets and opportunities to pursue self-employment after graduation," says Karen Evans, senior lecturer in the College of Management for Lawrence Technological University. "They might not feel empowered to do that. We want to fill those gaps for them."

Part of filling those gaps will be showcasing the university's entrepreneurial endeavors to the metro area for the next two years. It will also work to increase awareness between students and staff working on entrepreneurial projects and encourage them to collaborate more.

"We want to show students what other students are doing," Evans says.

The Coleman Foundation is a private, independent grant-making organization that funds educational institutions that offer entrepreneurship training and support. Lawrence Tech's College of Engineering has an entrepreneurial education program for engineering students supported by a grant from the Kern Family Foundation. The university is an active member of the Kern Entrepreneurial Education Network.

Source: Karen Evans, senior lecturer in the college of management for Lawrence Technological University
Writer: Jon Zemke

Midtown to get another "Living Room," this one part of TechTown District Plan

Last week the Knight Foundation reported that Midtown Detroit Inc. was awarded the prestigious ULI Global Award for Excellence for superior development efforts that go beyond good design to include strong leadership, community contribution, public-private partnerships, and financial success. While many, many people helped turn Midtown into the success it has become, none have been more directly involved than Susan Mosey, President of Midtown Detroit Inc. Read more about Mosey and her efforts in this week's Urban Innovation Exchange.
 
But that wasn't the only Midtown news to come from Knight. Midtown is about to get itself another "Living Room," in addition to the Cultural Living Room that opened inside the DIA earlier this year. A new grant from the Knight Foundation – in partnership with U3 Ventures, Boston-based planning firm Sasaki, and San Francisco-based designers Rebar – will support the design work of the new TechTown Living Room, a public space that will serve as the heart of Midtown’s TechTown innovation district.

The Living Room, part of the TechTown district plan for a mixed-use neighborhood building on the area's existing anchor universities, hospitals, and major businesses, "will transform a parking lot at Cass and Burroughs streets into an active and dynamic public space," connecting to TechTown's new co-working space which will be home to more than 400 entrepreneurs. It will also have a café and programming to attract the more than 10,000 professionals, students, and residents in the surrounding neighborhoods.
 
According to Alex Feldman of U3 Ventures, the Living Room will be completed in the summer 2014.
 
Source: Alex Feldman, Knight Foundation blog
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

MedHub leverages new Dexter HQ to attract talent

Healthcare software firm MedHub moved into its new headquarters last July as a competitive advantage.

The company's leadership proudly says it overspent on redeveloping the circa-1899 Old Grain Mill at 3515 Broad Street in downtown Dexter into a custom office space for techies. It’s all part of the plan to attract high-end talent, especially the much-sought-after software developer.

"The developers are a quirky lot," says Peter Orr, president & CEO of MedHub. "We had a guy turn us down three times. Money was no object. He took the job when he saw our building. That’s why we overspent on it."

The 13-year-old company has hired three people over the last year, including relocating two software developers from Iowa and Kansas City. MedHub now employs eight people and it looking to hire at least another eight people, primarily software developers and support staff.

"We're on a hiring tear now that we have the space for it," Orr says.

MedHub’s technology enables teaching hospitals to better manage their medical residents, enabling them to improve communication, collaboration and residency information management. The system tracks residents and fellows (advanced medical school students in training to become doctors), helping ensure hospitals maximize Medicare reimbursements.

MedHub has signed up a number of name-brand clients in recent years, such as the Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, along with the health systems at Stanford and Duke universities. That has allowed 67 percent revenue growth. Orr says that is restrained because of a lack of available resources. He adds the company is solidly booked workwise through early next year, which he expects to hit 60 percent revenue growth again.

Source: Peter Orr, president & CEO of MedHub
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ann Arbor's HistoSonics named Innovator of the Year

HistoSonics has produced a device that uses sound waves to treat tissue in lieu of invasive surgery. Clinical trials have been set for patients with urinary problems due to an enlarged prostate. Pretty cool, huh?
 
Excerpt:
 
"Christine Gibbons, HistoSonics president and chief operating officer, said the Vortx Rx was approved for investigational use in clinical trials on humans in May by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Health Canada. Clinical trials began in July to treat patients with urinary problems due to an enlarged prostate. The trial phase is expected to last several years. The discovery and development work on the technology was performed at the University of Michigan.
 
Six units were made, three of which are being used for clinical trials at sites in Michigan, Ohio and Ontario. The hope is the device will be used for other clinical indications beyond urology."
 
Read the rest here.
 

Michigan growers use new technology to put apples to sleep

After last year's pittance of an apple crop, Michigan apples are an economic sweet spot again.

Excerpt:

"This year's Michigan apple crop is expected to be 10 times as plentiful as last year's puny output.

While the big bounce-back is welcomed in the nation's third-largest apple-producing state, the bounty presents its own challenges: How do growers, packers and processors maximize storage to avoid flooding stores with the fruit, thus crashing the market and lowering growers' profits?...

A fairly recent innovation called 1-methylcyclopropene, or 1-MCP, temporarily stops apples' ability to respond to their own cues for ripening...

Known commercially as "SmartFresh," it "has been a game-changer for apple storage and is partly responsible for the up-trending consumption of apples in the U.S. over the last 5 to 10 years," Michigan State University horticulture professor Randy Beaudry said. He is involved in updating a traditional apple refrigeration method known as "controlled-atmosphere storage," or "CA," to double the time Honeycrisp apples can be stored.

In a typical year, Michigan's 9.2 million trees produce 20 million to 23 million bushels, pumping up to $900 million into the economy...The state distributes to 26 states and 18 countries."

More here.

U-M to offer entrepreneurship education to all undergrads

The University of Michigan thinks that entrepreneurship should be a part of every student's educational repertoir. Within two years they intend to make classes in entrepreneurship education available to every undergrad, no matter what their academic focus.
 
Excerpt:
 
"Zurbuchen will lead the design of a program in entrepreneurship that will be open to all majors and that could be in place by the fall 2014 semester. He'll also coordinate and grow the school's entrepreneurial co-curricular activities, including the TechArb student business incubator and innovation-related student clubs."
 
Read more here.
 

Student start-ups continue evolution at Accelerate Michigan

There will be some familiar start-up names in this year’s Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. Not because it's the same entrepreneurs pushing the same ideas. It's because a number of former studentpreneurs are now pushing their start-ups as professionals.

A number of businesses that were launched from Michigan-based student housing are among the 51 semifinalists in the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. Among those are Covaron Advanced Materials (which won Accelerate Michigan's student competition last year under the name Kymeria Advance Materials), AutoBike (a product of U-M Ross School of Business grads), TurtleCell (founded by two U-M students) and SkySpecs (launched by four U-M students).

"We want to make sure we have a staircase of opportunities for students and their companies," says Lauren Bigelow, executive director of the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition.

The Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition is in its fourth year. It has made a name for itself for awarding $1 million in prizes over the three-day business plan competition, including a $500,000 top prize for the top finisher. The prizes go to Michigan-based startups rooted in the new economy or startups that are looking to move to the Great Lakes State.

The competition is held annually in mid November. It was held at the University of Michigan its first two years and moved to downtown Detroit last year. This year's event will also be held in downtown Detroit on Nov 12-14, primarily at the Westin Book-Cadillac Hotel. For information, click here.

Source: Lauren Bigelow, executive director of the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

U-M is a magnet for Fulbright scholarships

With 36 U-M students and faculty members receiving Fulbrights (32 accepting), the university ranks among the tippy top in the nation. This year, Princeton University and Arizona State University were ranked behind U-M in a tie for third with 26 grantees.
 
Check out who won what here.
 
617 higher education Articles | Page: | Show All
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