U-M’s Desai Family Accelerator Announces Inaugural Startup Class

Last summer, the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and College of Engineering announced the creation of a new accelerator that would be open to any startup—no university affiliation required. Earlier this month, the Desai Family Accelerator selected its first cohort of five companies, and they’ll now spend the summer trying to refine and grow their businesses.

More than 72 tech startups submitted applications to the accelerator; 42 percent were from Michigan-based companies, 19 percent were led by female founders, and 31 percent had a connection to the University of Michigan.

“We were lucky to have a pretty well-rounded group of applicants,” said Kelly LaPierre, the accelerator’s managing director. “A good percentage had some sort of connection to the university, and one-third of the applicants were from Michigan. We were pleased to see so much interest outside of Michigan.”

Of the companies selected to participate in the first cohort, two are relocating to Michigan from out of state. Created to help early-stage tech ventures mature, the Desai Family Accelerator gives participants a $25,000 investment, office space in downtown Ann Arbor, student interns, and access to one of the largest alumni groups in the U.S. Funding and support for the accelerator was provided by the Desai Sethi Family Foundation, the Davidson Foundation, the Wadhams family, and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

“The space [accelerator participants will work out of] is truly incredible—it’s on the seventh floor and has great views,” LaPierre said, adding that the accelerator is located inside of Pillar Technology’s co-working space, called The Forge, on Fifth Street and East Liberty. “It’s great to be located at such an exciting company.”

LaPierre said a joint demo day, where Desai Family Accelerator startups will pitch investors, will be held in September with Coolhouse Labs, another startup accelerator that recently opened in Ann Arbor.

Here’s a bit more about the Desai Family Accelerator startups:

Scape: Founded by Ann Arbor native Mary Lemmer, a serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist who currently lives in San Francisco, Scape allows users with an empty plots of land to connect online and get matched with local gardeners, who then come and plant food crops according to the user’s needs. Scape also has programs for people who already have a garden but need help tending it, or want a home garden but don’t have the space. LaPierre said she’s excited that an experienced entrepreneur like Lemmer wants to be part of the accelerator.

Companion: This peer-to-peer safety app founded by two U-M graduates won the 2015 Michigan Business Challenge. Family and friends of U-M students can use the app to keep an eye on the students as they walk home late at night, and Companion also allows public safety organizations to analyze the resulting data to determine the best places to station police officers.

Diverse Note: Diversity is a hot topic in the tech world, and this website aims to bring job candidates from “the diversity community” and recruiters together to bridge the gap between those searching for career opportunities and those searching for candidates that fit their needs.

RunThatApp: RunThatApp is a platform that allows users to stream, demo, and share mobile apps within a Web browser before releasing them to the public.

Telemetrio: Digital tools that track fitness metrics have never been hotter, and Telemetrio plans to capitalize on that trend by offering users a broadcasting and statistics platform designed for recreational athletes.

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