Roundup: MiSpringboard, Free QL Demo Day Help, DetroitEd411 & More

Let’s catch up on the latest startup and innovation news from around Michigan:

—Birmingham-based Pairaphrase, a startup selling translation software that it says provides users more security and privacy than competing products, such as Google Translate, has won a grant from the state of Michigan. The company did not disclose the amount of the grant from the Business Accelerator Fund but said in a press release that it would use the new capital to conduct a third-party security audit and assessment of its web-based translation application. Upon validation, Pairaphrase’s goal is to pursue more business with highly regulated sectors—such as banking, healthcare, and government—that require third-party security audits.

TechTown Detroit is offering free help to entrepreneurs applying to participate in the upcoming Quicken Loans Demo Day competition, which will award $1.2 million to companies in three categories: start, grow, and scale. Staff from TechTown and Goldman Sachs 10,000 Businesses will provide hour-long, one-on-one coaching services to those who need assistance with sprucing up their application. The sessions will run from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. today, Thursday, and April 16-18, and are open to all entrepreneurs. Register here for a time slot. The deadline to apply for QL Demo Day is April 22.

—Wayne State University has created a new public information service that connects local residents to post-secondary educational opportunities via Facebook Messenger. Called DetroitEd411, WSU says the free chatbot aims to bolster the local workforce by providing guidance and resources addressing various educational tracks, including four-year colleges and universities, vocational training, GED classes, and community colleges.

Users can access the artificial intelligence-powered service, in which they’ll chat with “Spirit,” named after the Spirit of Detroit, to ask questions and get educational information. Created with students of all ages in mind, Spirit, which is administered by AdmitHub, can answer questions about everything from financial aid to housing and childcare. While tailored to assist those in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and Washtenaw counties, much of the content within DetroitEd411 can help anyone in need of post-secondary information. WSU created DetroitEd411 after receiving a Collaborative Opportunity Grant from the Coalition of Urban-Serving Universities, in partnership with the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.

MiSpringboard, the Varnum law firm program that provides free legal services to Michigan startups and mid-stage businesses, hit a milestone recently when it worked with its 500th entrepreneur. The program, which was started in 2011, also received an additional $1 million funding commitment from Varnum.

Attorneys who work on MiSpringboard serve individual clients, hold office hours at business incubators and co-working spaces, present educational programs for entrepreneur organizations, and travel across the state to work with regional Smart Zones and other economic development groups. Varnum says the program has so far worked with entrepreneurs focused on a variety of tech sectors from 100 different cities across Michigan.

The Cleantech Open, a national startup competition and accelerator aimed at entrepreneurs with solutions to improve the environment, curb emissions, and improve energy efficiency, is now accepting applications for its 2019 program. Since its inception in 2005, the Cleantech Open says it has trained over 1,200 early-stage technology startups through its annual business accelerator. Program alumni have gone on to raise $1.2 billion and create over 3,000 clean economy jobs, according to a press release. The deadline to apply is May 1.

Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the editor of Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET_AA

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