Student-Led Startups Take Center Stage at U-M Business Competition

The Michigan Business Challenge, the University of Michigan’s annual business competition for innovative student-led startups, ended Monday after a four-month process that incorporated guidance from mentors and investors. Over the course of the competition, more than $100,000 was awarded to the winners.

This year’s big winner was precision medicine startup PreDxion Diagnostics, which nabbed $30,000 total in prizes. PreDxion says its key technology, MicroKine, can analyze a single drop of blood from cancer patients to measure their immune system’s response to treatment while in an intensive care or acute care setting. In addition to the $25,000 award for best business, PreDxion took the $5,000 prize for most outstanding business and engineering team.

The competition’s runner-up was Gaudium, a video game company focused on developing games that fuse Japanese art with Western gameplay. Gaudium won a total of $14,500 in prizes, including best marketing plan and best business plan.

The winner of the $15,000 social impact prize, which was co-sponsored by the Erb Institute and the Center for Social Impact, was Kulisha, a sustainable aquafeed startup making commercial-grade fish feed from insects to help small-scale aquaculture farmers in Kenya increase profitability. The runner-up social impact winner was StepFor, which snagged $7,500 for its platform that enables soliciting charitable donations through “fitness-powered crowdfunding.”

Rounding out the winner’s circle were bariatric equipment startup AOE Medical ($4,500); Sage & Grace, an information portal for those who need to address end-of-life issues like estate planning and burial arrangement ($2,000); and CARt, a service coordinating rides for low-income people without vehicles so they can get to the grocery store and access healthy, affordable food ($2,500).

Applebaum Dare to Dream grants of $1,500 went to CARt; the Broke App, which helps users save money by monitoring spending; Cheekycase, a maker of mobile phone accessories; HiveLend, an online network for beekeepers; Morning Brew, an e-newsletter directed at business-minded millennials; Perfarm, which developed management software for Brazilian farmers; mobile advertising startup Saturnup; and Woodside Distributors, which buys products wholesale and re-sells them online.

Sixteen teams walked away with $500 Mayleben Family Venture Shaping grants to develop startup ideas that included a mentorship matchmaking service for young professionals, peer-to-peer sharing of luxury goods, and a “personal energy management application” that tracks physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual wellness.

Many of the Michigan Business Challenge winners will now go on to compete in regional and national business plan contests.

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