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