Copyright 2024 SPARK

As summer comes to an end – in name only – the Ann Arbor innovation community is gearing up for a fall of Demo Days, pitch competitions, and the famous Michigan productivity season. Having hosted Paul Singh’s Results Junkies Tech Tour in August, Ann Arbor is expecting another visiting entrepreneur-turned investor to hit town in the coming weeks for a short stay which could ultimately be game-changing for one fortunate startup. 

Steve Case made a name for himself in the Dot Com boom by helping connect households across the country to the internet through a company he co-founded called AOL. These days Mr. Case travels around the country on a mission to prove that high growth companies can start anywhere in the county, not just a few coastal cities. In addition to his postulation, Steve Case puts his money where his mouth is by writing a $100k check to a company each time his tour bus stops. The entire initiative is called the “Rise of the Rest”, and it is stopping in our very own Ann Arbor this October 11th. 

The Rise of the Rest team has narrowed a very healthy crop of submissions down to eight semifinalists who will pitch Steve Case in the Michigan Theater in front of a crowd for their chance to be awarded the $100k investment. Of the eight semifinalists, six are current or former clients of Ann Arbor SPARK. 

  • Civionics improves manufacturers’ profitability by reducing downtime. 
  • Genomenon sells genetic interpretation software for diagnosing and treating cancer. 
  • Inmatech commercializes novel high-performance supercapacitors for energy storage systems. 
  • SAHI Cosmetics provides custom makeup for women of medium skin tones. 
  • Skyspecs automates predictive maintenance of energy infrastructure with drones. 
  • Warmilu provides non-electric warmth to those who need it most. 

It is interesting to note that of the above companies that only one is a purely software company, and one is a consumer product. The remainder have, at minimum, a hardware component, with or without software enablement. 

The University of Michigan is well represented in the finalists. All Six companies profiled above have U of M ties. One half are commercializing U of M technology, and the other half were founded by students. 

Five of the above semifinalist have also been semifinalists at the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, the largest pitch competition in the State. Skyspecs was the 2014 grand prize winner. 

I am looking forward to seeing which company ends up with the investment. No matter who wins, the Ann Arbor innovation community will come out on top. The fact that we have attracted high profile investors such as Paul Singh and Steve Case in one year is indicative of the strength and vibrancy of our community, and I believe we will continue to build on this success in the years to come. 

For more information and to attend the Rise of the Rest event click here.