Could you describe your business in one minute or less? That was the task of 31 startup teams who participated in the first round of CFE’s newest program, The Startup. It kicked off last Friday in Stamps Auditorium with student teams pitching their business ideas, products and propositions to more than 300 of their peers and a panel of four local, successful mentors, hoping for a chance to become a part of a mentor team.

The tension in the auditorium was high as the audience anxiously awaited each startup team’s fate. With their backs to the pitching startups, each mentor had to decide during the one minute pitch if they would turn their chair around and add that startup to their team. From 31 participants, there were 16+ spots to fill – four or five for each mentor – and the competition was fierce. Would a mentor turn their chair around?

They did. Some teams even grabbed the attention of more than one mentor, in which case thementors had to pitch themselves for the startups to choose. 17 teams were selected to move to the next round of The Startup.  Here are the victors:


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


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

  • DynamiX Wheels (Olivia Rice, Arianna Carley, Eliyahu Fox): design and production of autonomous convertible wheelchairs that assist in the transport of patients from chair to bed and back as well as completing conventional wheelchair functions.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • Lexika (Gustavo Martucci, Noah Shutty): helps customers find specific terms in their audio files with an automatic indexing algorithm.


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

  • BetterHope (Marianna Kerppola, Kristen Sheppard): an online marketplace for products made with dignity. We curate clothing, gifts, accessories and home decor products that prioritize social justice and human rights in their supply chain.
  • 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.
  • FlexCharge (Shobhita Kramadhati, Jintao Chen, Luke Mykolenko, Daniel Marizio, Marissa Viscomi): aims to develop and supply energy harvesting textile to be incorporated in low power devices and systems.
  • MatéBros (Jordan Gaarenstroom, Syque Caesar, Samuel Mikulak): provides a healthy, delicious, and energizing tea! Founded both collegiate and Olympic athlete, MatéBros is about providing current energy drink and caffeinated beverage consumers with an alternative to unhealthy energy drinks dominating the market


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.
  • Medío(Robert Greenfield, Jacob Durrah, Evan Leung): Medío is a food exploration platform that connects users with tight budgets and tight schedules to better access and discover healthy, tasty, and reasonably priced meals nearby. Using the application, users can make food playlists, add category filters, and use mobile takeout for quick and easy food access.
  • Healthy Share (Tyler Ringler, Sarah Park, Sean Jones): a tiered funnel with fittings for industry standard mouth sizes for water/soda, liquor bottles and Gatorade/fruit punch, with a necklace attachment. Healthy Share is a personal product, so it provides an alternate bottle mouth, which you don’t share with anyone else.
  • PuffBarry (Kyle Bettinger, Allison Powell): a device that would allow ALS, MS and MD patients to communicate with others bypassing the vocal cord system.


Next up: Cage Match Battle. These teams will be tasked with a customer discovery challenge to prepare for the second round of The Startup, taking place February 20. The startups will compete against another startup on their mentor team to earn a spot as the “elite eight” for Round Three. Making it past each round gives these teams increased operating capital to grow and scale their business, visibility with peers and the community, and on-going mentorship as they duke it out to become the one left standing: The Startup. Stay tuned!

Follow the teams, and see what our audience has to say with #umichStartup

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