U-M Announces Venture Shaping, Dare to Dream Grant Recipients

The University of Michigan’s Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies has awarded nearly $30,000 in grants to student startups as part of its Mayleben Venture Shaping and Dare to Dream programs.

Each year, the programs award up to $100,000 to student companies semi-annually. This round’s funded entrepreneurs are working in a wide range of sectors, including IT, mobile, healthcare, clean tech, and food tech.

Tim Faley, the Zell Lurie Institute‘s managing director, says the review committee was pleased to see such a broad cross-section of companies, with about 40 total applicants to the grant program. He notes that most of the Mayleben recipients are very early on in the development of their startups, and at the heart of them is a problem that needs solving.

“The ideas were all over the place,” he says, adding that part of his job was to help young companies change direction. “Sometimes we as reviewers had to step back and admit we hated the solution they came up with, but agreed that there was a problem that probably had some really good entrepreneurial answers.”

After student startups win a $500 grant, they are encouraged to further build on their ideas by identifying markets and gauging interest. Once the companies successfully do that, another grant of $1,500 can be awarded, with a final grant of up to $10,000 awarded to those startups that commit to launch and create a fully fleshed out business plan.

Faley compares the process to carving something out of stone. “In the beginning, you’re making big changes but at the end, you’re just refining,” he says.

The Fall 2012 winners of venture-shaping grants are:

  • 1MDReview.com: Website enabling consumers to make more informed choices about medical tourism.
  • A2Cribs: Website aggregating off-campus Ann Arbor rental property information.
  • Andean Berries: Company importing berries from Peru during U.S. supply scarcity.
  • BendOptic: Company producing tool for easier eye examination of the very young, elderly, disabled, and obese.
  • Cafe Esperanza: Addresses the lack of resources for creating a sustainable premium coffee industry in Honduras.
  • ContainEarth: Addresses the issue of single-use takeout container waste.
  • Focus Solutions: Makers of device and application for physical therapy and training.
  • Heapst: Tool to track product warranties and notify customers of product recalls.
  • J-Ro Productions: Promotion company helping musicians network and represent their brands globally.
  • Juxtaway & Company: Kiosk rental system to allow consumers to get books-on-the-move.
  • Manmade: Membership-based company targeting young professional men for home delivery of ready-to-cook meals.
  • Mutable Vaccines: Technology for creating “universal” vaccines that develop broad protective immunity.
  • OraGen: Test detecting any susceptibility or early existence of oral cancer.
  • Oasis: Online trial-matching platform to facilitate patient recruitment in China.
  • P2MD Communications: Messaging system to notify patients when a physician will be late.
  • Park-n-Rent: Alternative car rental company allowing those away traveling to rent their cars out for the length of their trip.
  • Reveneyes.com: Platform to join data across healthcare institutions to provide a single profit per visit for every patient encounter.
  • SISTAH Butters: Company developing natural hair care products for African American women.
  • SMRT Delivery: Technology preventing premature replacement of pipeline infrastructure.
  • Swadesh Clinics: Mobile health clinics for patients in rural India.
  • TBD Analytics: Comprehensive management tool for large scale infrastructure projects.
  • UniSprout: Crowdfunding website for university alumni to donate to student ideas and ventures.
  • Wintergreen: Stone aggregate technology to refine and normalize fly ash in Shanxi, China.
  • Yearney: Online marketplace enabling small tourist businesses to market to travelers.

A company called Dinner With, which is an online fundraising platform connecting charities to a broader donor base, won a $1,500 grant. Four companies won grants of up to $10,000: Exo Dynamics, which makes an active back-support system for surgeons and other professionals using technology developed at the university; PhotoSocial, creator of tool for organizing and sharing photos on mobile devices; Real Good Food, a large-scale food trading and sharing service; and Torch Hybrid, which has developed a control mechanism for use in marine hybrid engine applications.

The next round of grants will be announced in spring 2013. The Mayleben Venture Shaping grants are funded by Aastrom Biosciences president and CEO Tim Mayleben and his wife, Dawn. The Dare to Dream program is funded by Eugene Applebaum, founder of Arbor Drugs, Inc. and president of Arbor Investments Group.

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