Business Accelerator Network for Southeast Michigan Offers $1M in Prizes for Entrepreneurs

Today’s launch of a huge $1 million business plan competition in southeast Michigan gives flesh to the ambitious phrases thrown around back in June, when the new regional Business Accelerator Network that is overseeing the competition was hailed by local business leaders as “one of the most catalytic events for entrepreneurial activity and innovation in southeast Michigan.”

If this first effort by the network is any indication, we just might be witnessing the beginning of something that has eluded southeast Michigan for a long time—regional cooperation in support of business startups and entrepreneurship.

The Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition is launching today with more than $1 million in cash for Michigan entrepreneurs. It’s funded with an initial grant of $750,000 from the New Economy Initiative and will be managed by Ann Arbor Spark on behalf of the region’s business accelerator network, which also includes Automation Alley, TechTown and the Macomb-OU INCubator.

Organizers are calling it the biggest business-plan competition of its kind, surpassing a similar one at Rice University in Houston, according to Detroit Free Press columnist Tom Walsh. The contest will cover 17 awards in nine categories, including several for students. Among them, a $5,000 prize for most-promising 140-character business description, a la Twitter. Another is a $25,000 award for entrepreneurs older than 55.

The competition will focus on early stage businesses that are farther along than just a business plan, Ann Arbor Spark President Michael Finney told The Detroit News.

The competition kicks off today and will culminate with an awards brunch in Ann Arbor on December 11. The Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition concludes with the University of Michigan vs. Michigan State University “Big Chill” hockey game at Michigan stadium and includes a pre-game tailgate party for all judges and participants.

Company submissions are due by Oct. 6; student entries are due Oct. 22. Judging will be done by a panel of investors and other business and academic experts. For more information, visit the competition’s website or connect with it via Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

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