Ann Arbor Start-ups Compete in ‘World’s Largest Business Plan Competition’
Several companies that Ann Arbor SPARK provides entrepreneurial services to participated in the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. Blaze Medical Devices, Ornicept, Patient Provider Communications, Plan Reaction, Showtown, TM3 and TurtleCell all vied for cash prizes in what’s been dubbed “the world’s largest business plan competition.”
Helping start-ups accomplish more is something these entrepreneurs looked forward to getting out of their AMIC experience. “The AMIC process has helped us take a much more critical look at every aspect of our business and forced us to reevaluate everything,” said Nick Turnball, TurtleCell co-founder and CEO. “This has helped us become much more aware of all of the minute details that need to be solved before our business becomes a reality. However, after going through this process we feel that we are much closer to being able to run a truly successful business.”
“The Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition shines a spotlight on the exciting startups that are changing the state’s economy,” said Paul Krutko, Ann Arbor SPARK president and CEO. “The Ann Arbor SPARK entrepreneurial services team supported our incubator clients as they prepared for the competition, helping them practice and refine their pitch, and offered them expert advice on what investors want to hear in a pitch. The result: Three companies that receive services from Ann Arbor SPARK were finalists in the competition, and two were awarded cash prizes.”
As a member of the Business Accelerator Network for Southeast Michigan (BANSEM), SPARK has been involved with the competition since its beginning and works hand in hand with the Growth Capital Network to organize the competition. SPARK’s role is to attract investors to the competition, prepare companies for pitching, and volunteer at the event.
TurtleCell and Blaze Medical Devices were both finalists in the competition, and Showtown was a student company finalist. PlanReaction won the IT industry award and a $25,000 prize. TurtleCell was awarded the AMIC “People’s Choice” award, and a $10,000 prize.
These businesses on the path to success represent the wide range of companies that are choosing to start up in Ann Arbor, including medical device, IT and alternative energy.
While there are differences in their business models and goals, the companies agree that working with Ann Arbor SPARK has given them a competitive advantage that had them feeling confident going in to the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition (AMIC).
Nate Lowery, CEO of TM3 Systems, said, “Since the time of our founding in 2012, Ann Arbor SPARK has provided support for nearly every aspect of our business, including financing, market research, business planning, talent development and more. Ann Arbor SPARK’s in-house team and network of advisors are invaluable resources that have allowed us to leverage our limited time and strengths, helping us to maximize our chances of success in both AMIC and beyond.”
Access to resources, especially experts that are helping these businesses develop and refine their pitches, is incredibly valuable, explained David Weaver, CEO of Blaze Medical Devices. “Even though you make ‘pitches’ all the time when fundraising, you don’t always receive constructive feedback on your messaging,” he said. “The practice sessions at Ann Arbor SPARK have always helped raise the bar on making the message clearer.”
All that practice and preparation pays off long-term, too, as these startups look forward to attracting the attention of potential customers, partners and investors.
“Events like AMIC are terrific for young developing companies like ours,” added John Freshley, Interim CEO of Patient Provider Communications. “They force us to think hard about our core value to our potential customers and the best way to communicate that value to both prospective investors and customers. Regardless of the outcome of the competition, we are winners by participating in the process.