NEI Story Quick Facts
Grant: Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013
Grant Amount Total: $1,550,000
Grant Period: 7/22/2010 - 5/15/2014
- Promote Southeast Michigan as a venue for innovation and business opportunity.
- Attract investor attention and new capital flow to Michigan.
- Fuel innovation-based business growth.
Accelerate Michigan creates a platform for Michigan innovation and entrepreneurship to be seen on a national level.
- Lauren Bigelow, Accelerate Michigan
Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition
Michigan is home to world class business accelerators, including NEI funded Ann Arbor SPARK, TechTown, Automation Alley, and Blackstone Launchpad at Wayne State University. These are the places where the seeds of big ideas for business are watered. After entrepreneurs build the foundations of their businesses at these accelerators, the only thing they require to grow is exposure and access to capital.
Accelerate Michigan is an opportunity for those seeds to sprout. Every year, hundreds of Michigan-based startups enter Accelerate Michigan’s Innovation Competition. Semi-finalists are selected to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges composed of venture capitalists, investors, and established business people. The scene is frenzied and the excitement and anticipation are palpable as entrepreneurs practice their pitches in the lobby of the Book Cadillac Hotel in downtown Detroit, then enter small rooms to make their case to judges in just 10 minutes.
One winner is awarded a prize of $500,000, but all participants benefit from the exposure to new investors. Accelerate Michigan is an example of the entrepreneurial ecosystem funded by NEI at its best.
Algal Scientific has become a big name in Detroit’s scientific and entrepreneurial communities. They made their name by winning the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition in 2012. Accelerate Michigan judges recognized the potential of Algal’s work with the beta 1,3 glucan compound has the potential to revolutionize the animal feed market. Despite the significance of their work, it was challenging to get traction in the early days, but “there’s this growing entrepreneurial community here, as evidenced by the New Economy Initiative and Accelerate Michigan, that provide a really supportive network.”
Taking part in and winning the Accelerate Michigan Contest was essential for Algal. The networks they made while participating have been invaluable and the $500,000 award has allowed them to fast forward many of their studies, make excellent progress, and receive needed validation that their work is important.