Roundup: GreenLight Winners, Develop the Mitten, WaitTime & More
Here’s a look at innovation news from across Michigan:
—Thanks in part to a $450,000 performance-based grant from the Michigan Strategic Fund, Huntington Bank announced it will invest $5.4 million in a downtown Flint expansion. The company plans to renovate its call center at the former regional headquarters of FirstMerit, which the bank acquired last year, and create 60 new jobs.
In addition, Huntington is reaching out to small businesses in Flint as part of the Pure Michigan Micro Lending Initiative, which loans up to $250,000 to business owners and entrepreneurs that are not eligible for traditional bank financing. Huntington has also pledged $20 million in Small Business Administration-backed loans to local small businesses as part of a $25 million economic development initiative in partnership with FlintNOW.
—Twenty-two Michigan startups participated in the annual GreenLight Business Model Competition, which was held late last month in East Lansing. At stake this year was $100,000 in prizes, the largest haul yet. The event included winners of regional GreenLight events in Detroit, Flint, Port Huron, and East Jordan. Without further ado, here are the winners:
Grand Prize ($40,000): MySwimPro
Second Place ($25,000): VADE Nutrition
Third Place ($10,000): Switched Source
Fourth Place ($7,500): MTBIsense
Fifth Place ($5,000): Pretch
Sixth Place ($2,500): Parabricks
Undergrad First Place ($6,500): Kulisha
Undergrad Second Place ($2,500): CarryCott
Undergrad Third Place ($1,000): Stir It Up
—Detroit startup WaitTime has signed what CEO Zach Klima calls a “partnership deal” with the Jordan Avakian Group, a consultancy founded by Jeffrey Michael Jordan, son of NBA legend Michael Jordan. The Jordan Avakian Group has invested an undisclosed sum in the company in exchange for an equity stake. More than investors, Jordan and his partner, attorney Sevan Avakian, will oversee marketing efforts and help guide WaitTime’s business strategy.
WaitTime, founded in 2013, uses crowd science and artificial intelligence technologies to power an app that helps sports fans find the shortest beer and bathroom lines while they’re watching live games. The Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers already use the technology at their stadiums, and Klima is hopeful Jordan’s NBA ties will help the company score more customers. Klima said in an e-mail that the company is currently in talks with several professional sports teams both domestic and international, and expects to announce new deals by the end of the year.
—Endeavor Detroit, the nonprofit organization that seeks to connect entrepreneurs to a global network of mentors, service providers, and investors, has added two new members. Kyle Hoff and Alex O’Dell, founders of the Motor City furniture startup Floyd, were selected last month by Endeavor’s international network of business leaders and investors. Hoff and O’Dell will now get access to the Endeavor network for mentorship and business assistance. Floyd is the first e-commerce company to join Endeavor.
—StockX, the Detroit-based “online stock market of things” startup, last week launched StockX TV, which it describes as the world’s first Web and television series focused exclusively on the resale sneaker market through the dual lenses of “data and celebrity.” Hosted by StockX CEO Josh Luber, the series will cover men’s fashion and culture, with guest appearances by sports and music stars. To watch the first episode, featuring DJ Steve Aoki, click here.
—This week, coding school Grand Circus announced its “Develop the Mitten” scholarship campaign. Open to all Michigan residents age 18 and older, the scholarship covers the full cost of a 10-week, full-time coding bootcamp beginning in June. Two scholarships will be awarded; one winner will attend the bootcamp at the Grand Rapids campus and one will attend the downtown Detroit campus. Applications are due by noon on May 3; click here to apply.
—Uber has opened a new Greenlight Hub in Oak Park in partnership with Belle Tire to “assist and support” its drivers, according to a press release. Staffed by eight Uber employees, it takes the place of Uber’s original metro Detroit facility. (The company declined to publicly release the address of the Greenlight Hub.)
—Avomeen Analytical Services has hired a new CEO. Mark Harvill, a Michigan native, comes to the Ann Arbor contract research company from Clinipace Worldwide, where he served as chief operating officer. Prior to Clinipace, Harvill also worked at Paragon Biomedical and Statprobe. Outgoing CEO Shri Thanedar is retiring, but will continue to hold a minority stake in the company and serve on its board of directors.