U-M’s Desai Accelerator Picks Four Ann Arbor Startups for New Cohort

The University of Michigan’s Desai Accelerator, a collaboration between the school’s College of Engineering and the Ross School of Business, has chosen four startups for its summer 2017 cohort, the program’s second class this year.

The accelerator, which is open to all applicants regardless of university affiliation, is hosting two cohorts during the same calendar year for the first time since it launched in 2015—an indication, says managing director Angela Kujava, of the program’s accomplishments so far.

“Our success depends on strong relationships with supporters, partners, and mentors, and it’s always our focus to grow that,” Kujava says.

This time around, she says, 25 percent of the applying startups were led by women; 54 percent of applicants were from outside of Michigan; and 14 percent were from outside the United States. Despite these numbers, all four companies in the new class are based in Ann Arbor.

“We look at areas of risk, the size of the team’s vision, how the technology is a part of the company’s DNA, the team itself, and the go-to-market strategy,” Kujava says of the program’s selection process. “Are they coachable? We want them to be an excellent fit for our program and what we have to offer.”

The Desai Accelerator program, which runs through early October, provides each participating startup with a $25,000 investment, alumni mentorship, access to university interns for research and administrative help, and space in a downtown office co-located with Pillar Technology.

Desai teams also have access to entrepreneur-in-residence Michael Godwin, founder and managing director of Resonant Venture Partners, and will have the opportunity to participate in Steve Case’s Rise of the Rest competition and other local entrepreneurial events happening over the next couple of months.

Kujava says programming for the 13-week accelerator has been tweaked slightly to kick off with a week of visioning and reflection exercises to create tangible goals and milestones.

“It helps mentors give the teams more impactful advice,” she adds.

Now in its third year, the Desai Accelerator is supported by the Desai Sethi Family Foundation, the Davidson Foundation, the Wadhams family, and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Applications for the winter 2018 session will open in October. For more about the summer 2017 cohort, see the list below.

Ascape Audio: Creator of the wireless Ascend-1 ear buds, Ascape makes audio products. The Ascend-1 comes in a case that doubles as a charger and offers up to 14 hours of sweat-proof listening time; the ear buds also have a shape that twists to “lock” in the listener’s ears.

Find Your Ditto: The company’s app matches those who share chronic diseases like depression or diabetes for on-demand, in-person peer support. (We’ll talk more about Find Your Ditto later this week in an article about a recent health tech accelerator at Wayne State University.)

Gwydion: This virtual and augmented reality startup builds software for post-secondary education and research purposes. Gwydion has created a platform called Arthea that, according to its website, “allows users to project and interact with digital objects in the real world as if they were really there.”

TwoScoreTwo: An enterprise block chain technology startup, TwoScoreTwo’s products “target underserved and under-innovated domains” for faster, more secure low-friction commerce.

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