U-M Competition Helps Earliest Stage Startups Refine Business Models

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found the industry-standard CAPTCHA method to be too vulnerable to hackers, is one of the most successful veterans of the Michigan Business Challenge. The company completed its Series A round of funding in July with investments from U-M’s Frankel Commercialization Fund, the First Step Fund, and Detroit Venture Partners (DVP). A few weeks ago, the company moved into its new digs in downtown Detroit’s Madison Building, which is owned by DVP’s Dan Gilbert.

Founder Tyler Paxton said he had the basic idea for Are You a Human before he started taking business classes at U-M, but participating in the Michigan Business Challenge two years in a row helped refine his vision.

“You can actually develop your business plan as you go along,” Paxton said of the competition’s multi-round format. “You can incorporate the feedback you get as you go along, which allows you to truly build your company instead of just tuning it for the competition.”

Faley said that’s exactly the point of the Michigan Business Challenge. “That’s the beauty of it—we wanted the barrier of entry to be low so we can raise the bar constantly as we go through it, and it seems to be working,” he said.

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