On February 20, 16 startups met in a full Stamps auditorium on North Campus to battle in one-on-one match-ups. Each startup had to outshine another startup on its very own mentor’s team to earn a spot in the next round.

The startups had two minutes to pitch the results of their customer discovery efforts. The challenge was to show the mentors, and the audience, that in just under one month, they had tested, researched and challenged all pre-existing assumptions about their business. The goal? Prove that the problem being solved is one people actually care about. They were to do this by hitting the streets and immersing themselves in the real world with real potential customers. These 16 startups got into the nitty gritty of what it takes for a business to take off, learning directly from the people who could benefit from their products or services.

Some confirmed the market for their business, others took the opportunity to pivot and all around, the startups showed tremendous determination to talk to as many people as possible. The matchups were as follows (bolded team indicates who won the battle):

HiveLend vs. Healthy Share

Ballot vs. Lexika

Fruit Fairies vs. Go Green Technologies

Cook For Me vs. Better Hope

Medío vs. PuffBarry

DynamiX vs. Rush Trainer

Vaultd vs. Change of Mind

MatéBros vs. Bumper

Watch the teams compete here.

Opening with Hiveland vs. Healthy Share and ending with MatéBros vs. Bumper – it’s safe to say no choice was an easy one. All four mentors contributed their thoughts, but in the end, the two startups’ mentor chose the one that displayed the most progress and potential for success.

With the battle winners selected, eight startups remained; but, it wasn’t over yet. The audience had the opportunity to “save” one of the eight that were eliminated by the mentors. Each startup returned to the stage, and after a minute of voting, the audience decided to keep the dynamic duo of Fruit Fairies in the competition. Nine move on to the next round.

What should you expect to see in Round 3? We’ve upped the stakes.

Time to get real. This round is not about users or potential, it’s all about customers.  Yes, realcustomers: The people actually purchasing the product or service. Our nine startups are tasked with collecting as many pre-order commitments and/or transactions as possible to start bringing in revenue.

It’s hard to sell a product without a working prototype, so Round 3 will be a demo day. The remaining startups will not only report on their customer acquisition, but also show the audience how the actual product and prototypes will work, live.

To mix it up even more, Round 3 winners will be 100 percent determined by the voting audience. So, if you plan on attending The Startup on March 20 (1 – 2 pm in Stamps Auditorium on North Campus), make sure you check out the websites and social media channels of our nine growing startups. Your vote decides the fate of these startups, only three can move on to the final round. It’s on the shoulders of the audience to get to know these businesses and make an informed vote on who will get a top-three spot. We’ll see you there.

Team Amy Cell, senior vice president, talent enhancement, MEDC:

  • Fruit Fairies (Eric Jensen, Densu Dixon): a fruit delivery company focusing on providing students on campus with a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables at an affordable price.
    Follow Fruit Fairies on Facebook
  • Vaultd (Brett Mecham, Mitchell Vitez, Mikey Shen): an innovative storage service using web and mobile technology, enabling customers a superior way to store their belongings.
  • InFusion Technologiesformerly known as Go Green Technologies (Praveen Loganathan, Alex Cox, Daniel Pippen, Rinku Patel, Vishnu Pillai, Ashley Bock): year-round home energy systems comprised of solar panels, vertical axis wind turbines, and our hydrogen storage system that allows the homeowner to generate and store power all year round.
    Follow InFusion on Twitter & Facebook

Team Doug Neal, co-founder and partner, Michigan e-Lab:

  • Rush Trainer (Brent Griffin, Sam Dion, Maxim Markov): The Rush Trainer is a simple product that will sound an alarm after a set amount of time has passed from the beginning of a play,teaching players execute plays before most defenders have a chance to make a tackle.
    Follow Rush Trainer on Twitter & Facebook
  • Ballot (Muhammad Mazhari, Ritwik Biswas, Lawrence Yong, Carson Covell): connects political representatives and constituents by giving constituents access to simplified legislation in one localized place and the ability to vote on those bills and have their response directly relayed to their legislators
    Follow Ballot on Twitter & Facebook

Team Dawn White, founder, president and CTO, Accio Energy:

  • Bumper (Mason Wagner, Eamon Whalen): a mobile application that makes new social networking relationships possible by “scoring” your interactions with friends and acquaintances
  • CookForMe (Susan Syriac, Salma Umme, Masa Kaneko): an efficient online marketplace that matches busy professionals with cooking enthusiasts in the local community in order to conveniently provide affordable, nutritious home-cooked food for daily consumption.

Team Adrian Fortino, partner, Mercury Fund and Ryan Waddington, co-founder, partner, Huron River Ventures:

  • Hivelend (Nicholas Zajciw, Christopher Shepherd): the premiere pollination services marketplace. We provide the tools necessary to facilitate commerce between beekeepers and farmers.
    Follow Hivelend on Twitter
  • PuffBarry (Kyle Bettinger, Allison Powell): a device that would allow ALS, MS and MD patients to communicate with others bypassing the vocal cord system.
    Follow Puffbarry on Twitter &Facebook
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