Fifty-three companies and 42 angel and investment groups participated in this year’s Accelerate Michigan business plan competition, which just wrapped up Thursday evening with the announcement of contest winners. At stake, according to event organizers, was more than $1 million in cash and prizes. Participants competed for prizes ranging from $10,000 to $500,000 over three days, with panel discussions and networking sessions folded into the agenda between pitch sessions.
Ypsilanti, MI-based DeNovo Sciences won the grand prize of $500,000. DeNovo beat nine other finalists on the last day of the competition with its microfluidic-based platform technology that can detect circulating tumor cells earlier and with greater sensitivity than standard biopsy approaches. Winning a runner-up prize of $150,000 was Fusion Coolant Systems, a University of Michigan spin-out that makes an advanced coolant and lubrication system for use in manufacturing.
Winning $25,000 sector awards were:
The $10,000 People’s Choice award went to Shoulder Innovations, a design and development company focused on providing shoulder replacement implants with that last longer and are easier for surgeons to implant. The $25,000 AARP-sponsored Encore Award for the best startup by someone over 50 years of age went toNextGen Metabolomics, which is developing new technology to automate the measurement of metabolites from samples such as cells, biopsies, urine, or blood.
“We’ve had some very successful exits in the past few years, and success tends to breed success,” Rapundalo said. “The coastal VCs have woken up to the fact that there are really good opportunities in Michigan that offer a great return on investment. It’s a bargain.”
Rapundalo says that Michigan’s startups aren’t immune to the current trend that has investors shying away from biotech firms, but, in general, he feels “pretty upbeat” about the prospects for the industry’s growth.
“People are almost bullish about it,” Rapundalo says. “If anything, we don’t toot our own horn enough. This is the third year in a row that the bio sector was very well represented [at Accelerate Michigan]. I think that speaks volumes about what the industry means to the state of Michigan.”
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