Roundup: Accelerate Michigan, Waymark, ACM, Detroit FinTech Bay, More

The holiday season will soon be upon us, but that doesn’t mean work is slowing down in Michigan’s innovation hubs. Here’s a look at recent technology and entrepreneurship news from across the state.

—The Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, hosted by Invest Detroit’s ID Ventures on Nov. 13, announced the 2018 winners selected from a field of 300 applicants. Most of the winning companies in the ninth annual pitch competition are based in Michigan, although some are headquartered in other states but have a sizable Michigan workforce.

The $500,000 grand prize and $10,000 people’s choice winner was VerteCore, a Natchez, MS, company that makes a wearable device designed to elongate the spinal column and reduce back pain. Second prize and $100,000 went to East Lansing’s GreenMark Biomedical, which is developing products using biopolymer nanoparticles produced from natural starch for the medical and dental fields. Winning the $50,000 third prize was Shoptelligence, the Ann Arbor-based shopping platform that uses artificial intelligence to surface customized “style discoveries.”

Ann Arbor’s SpellBound won the $150,000 woman-led prize for its digital storytelling that incorporates augmented reality to help children cope and get comfortable with medical treatment. MyNurse, based in Louisville, KY, won the $25,000 caregiver prize for its platform connecting home healthcare providers with patients and their families. Derq, a Techstars Mobility alum with offices in Dubai and Detroit, won the $20,000 social enterprise award for its technology that helps autonomous vehicles detect pedestrians and other objects in crosswalks. Ann Arbor’s S3D Precision Dispensing, which makes print heads for manufacturing next-generation electronics, won the $10,000 hardware prize.

Cruise Automation, GM’s self-driving vehicle division, has opened a new office in Seattle, where it could reportedly employ up to 200 engineers by late 2019. GM has been testing autonomous vehicles in the Bay Area, Arizona, and Detroit, but it doesn’t expect to add Seattle to the mix, according to a story in GeekWire.

Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow, a public-private group based in Detroit that promotes advanced manufacturing and industrial workforce development, has lent its expertise to Lifeline Firehose. The two have teamed to create a hose that makes it easier to deliver breathable air, as well as water and foam simultaneously, during a fire. The technology is currently being tested with the Grand Ledge Area Fire Department.

—Late last month, Derek Kan, Under Secretary for the U.S. Department of Transportation, traveled to Ypsilanti Township to tour the American Center for Mobility. During his visit, Kan heard more about Michigan’s role in developing autonomous vehicles, and he participated in a roundtable discussion with the center’s industry advisory board.

Kan’s visit was in conjunction with the recent release of the DOT’s updated policy paper on automated vehicles, Preparing for the Future of Transportation: Automated Vehicles 3.0, which the U.S. DOT says provides “a framework and multimodal approach to the safe integration of connected and automated vehicles into the national transportation system.”

JPMorganChase said it’s investing $1 million in Eastern Market, a hub for food entrepreneurs and others in Michigan’s culinary industry, to allow food businesses to build and expand their operations. JPMorgan has donated a total of $2.5 million to Eastern Market as part of its $150 million pledge to help rebuild Detroit.

Waymark, a Detroit-based startup that develops tools for managing online marketing campaigns, was awarded “best new tech” at the Digital Dealer conference in Las Vegas last month. Digital Dealer features “800 of the country’s highest grossing auto dealers,” the company said in a press release.

Waymark’s CEO ​Nathan Labenz pitched to attendees in a “Shark Tank”-style competition, winning a people’s choice award against competition that included Lyft and seven other companies serving the auto dealer market, the company added.

—Earlier this month, a group of Wayne State University business students vied for scholarships at the fourth annual Mike Ilitch School of Business elevator pitch contest. Each student had 90 seconds to share their business idea to a group of judges. The winners were Jenna Stafford ($1,000), Stella VanAcker ($500), and Anthony Giordano ($250).

—The Michigan Council of Women in Technology held its annual gala last week, where the organization recognized local women driving change for other women in IT careers or fields of study. At the gala, the MCWT named Judy Asher its woman of the year in technology. Asher is manager of cyber security governance, risk and compliance, and security and controls compliance at Ford. She has worked with the MCWT for the past 10 years and is the organization’s chief mission officer for university programs.

—Thanks to a $1 million charitable gift, Wayne State is establishing the Nancy Philippart and Thomas McGrail Center for Global Engineering Education. It will be the primary point of access and coordination for all international programs and global initiatives within the college, the university said in a statement. Existing programs will be merged within the center and geared toward four priorities: study abroad, research, internships, and service learning.

Detroit FinTech Bay, a co-working space and accelerator for fintech startups, has announced the first founding partner for its North American hub: Flagstar Bank. Flagstar is expanding its footprint in retail banking with the purchase of 52 Wells Fargo bank branches, a deal that’s expected to close in early December.


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