One of the first priorities of the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition when it launched in 2010 was to connect local entrepreneurs with investors from near and far. Now that the $1 million business plan competition is entering its third year, it's starting to collect a roster of investment relationships.
Accelerate Michigan offers a $500,000 cash prize for the event's winner, along with a number of smaller prizes that usually clock in at the five-figure mark. It has attracted top tier Great Lakes State tech start-ups, as well as firms from across the U.S. interested in moving to Michigan. Organizers also use the competition as a platform to showcase the state's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem to both local and out-of-state investors and strategic partners.
Last year organizers were able to make a particularly significant connection: Alex Wong, a tech venture capitalist with roots in Ann Arbor and one of the top people at D.E. Shaw Group
, a $27 billion fund based in Silicon Valley. Accelerate Michigan organizers were able to schedule a day of meetings with Wong and potential partners (both entrepreneurial and investor) during the competition.
"Everybody from that meet-up found it really valuable," says Lauren Bigelow, executive director of Accelerate Michigan
The competition has also helped move the pens on some significant term sheets. Last year's winner, DeNovo Sciences
, leveraged the $500,000 prize in last year's competition to a $1.75 million seed capital round this year. The Plymouth-based start-up is developing a platform for early detection of cancer from blood as an alternative to painful biopsies. DeNovo Sciences
is hoping to land a $6 million Series A round next year.
Accelerate Michigan moved from Ann Arbor to downtown Detroit this year. It will be held at the Book-Cadillac Hotel, Guardian Building and Orchestra Hall over Nov 13-15. For information, click here
Source: Lauren Bigelow, executive director of Accelerate Michigan
Writer: Jon Zemke
Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.