Invest Michigan Awards $375K to Four Tech Startups

Invest Michigan announced this week that it has invested $375,000 in four early-stage tech startups through the Michigan Pre-Seed Fund 2.0. Invest Michigan is funded by the Michigan Strategic Fund and has $5.8 million earmarked for investment in high-tech startups with an additional $1 million dedicated to help universities transfer technology to the marketplace.

“These are all very unique, innovative companies with incredibly strong management teams,” says Charlie Moret, president and CEO of Invest Michigan. “They’re indicative of the growth of the entire tech sector in Michigan.”

The four companies receiving funding are:

—SkySpecs ($100,000): The Ann Arbor-based company is developing drone technology. SkySpecs was the $500,000 grand prize winner at last year’s Accelerate Michigan competition, and Moret says what SkySpecs is working on gets to the heart of Michigan’s technical expertise: “The whole drone market is the next technological innovation taking place. Right now, the lack of FAA regulations are a challenge, but eventually SkySpecs will be positioned well in an expanding industry.”

Fusion Coolant Systems ($125,000): The University of Michigan spinout is headquartered in Detroit. It has developed a patented cooling system used in metal fabrication that relies on carbon dioxide instead of water to cool and lubricate machinery during the manufacturing process, leading to faster production rates and improved tool life.

Zipments ($100,000): The mobile delivery service that uses crowdsourced couriers is based in Grand Rapids, MI, but operates in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. In July, it acquired Hobson, the New York-based courier service, for an undisclosed amount.

MyFab5 ($50,000): Based in Ann Arbor, MyFab5 offers an app that helps people discover and recommend the best food in any city in the United States. In 2012, the company told Xconomy that it hoped to provide the antidote to “long-winded, often ‘negative just to hear myself talk’ reviews that dominate Yelp.”

Before moving to Detroit in 2013 to take a job with TechTown, Moret spent 13 years at Connecticut Innovations, a quasi-public/private organization that nurtures and invests in startups. He also ran a $20 million pre-seed fund for startups, and he ran several incubators in partnership with Yale University and the University of Connecticut. Compared to Connecticut, he says, Michigan’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is stronger and more robust.

“Within the next five years, the rest of the country will take notice and say, ‘How did Michigan do this?'” he adds.  “Techstars wouldn’t be coming to Detroit if they didn’t think there was a good opportunity here. Silicon Valley will always be Silicon Valley—we don’t need to compare ourselves. What we have going on here is very significant, and the kind of collaboration we see doesn’t happen other places. I think we’re getting close to being one of the top places nationally for entrepreneurs.”

Moret says that five investments surrounding technology transfer at Michigan universities were recently approved by Invest Michigan, and he plans to announce the details by March.

Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the editor of Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET_AA

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