Innovation enthusiasts, tech aficionados, and industry leaders converged in Ann Arbor for this eagerly anticipated a2Tech360 annual series of events, which celebrated both innovation and community spirit in the region. This year, the lineup was comprised of 18 events, taking place at various venues in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti from September 14 through 22, inviting a broad spectrum of community involvement. Produced by Ann Arbor SPARK with the support of the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti SmartZone Local Development Authority (LDFA), a2Tech360 successfully brought together a diverse array of participants, where attendees not only enjoyed themselves but also forged valuable connections.
a2Tech360’s success was made possible through the generous support of its many sponsors, all of whom recognized the importance of fostering innovation and collaboration in the Ann Arbor region. With events that spanned various aspects of technology and innovation, the week underscored the diverse forms of community and innovation thriving in Ann Arbor.
Here’s a summary of the key events that took place during this weeklong celebration:
Invest360: Friday, September 15
Invest360 kicked off the a2Tech360 week with $200,000 awarded to promising startups. Tech innovators from the Ann Arbor region gathered at the University of Michigan Golf Course club house, where the spotlight shone on leading tech pioneers. Sponsored by ID Ventures, this event demonstrated the region’s commitment to fostering and funding innovation.
JustAir Solutions, dedicated to improving air quality awareness and promoting healthier living environments, won the People’s Choice award and impressed both attendees and judges with its innovative approach to air quality monitoring and pollution mitigation, securing a total $100,000 prize to further its mission of creating better breathing environments for communities and businesses.
Repela Tech took home the top prize in the mobility category for its groundbreaking work in developing a high-performance, eco-friendly marine antifouling solution. Curio Genomics claimed victory in the life science category by addressing pressing global challenges related to food security and sustainability.
FastTrack Awards: Friday, September 15
Ann Arbor celebrated in style as 19 thriving gazelle companies were honored at the 25th Annual FastTrack Awards. Sponsored by Rehmann and Northstar Bank, this event recognized the remarkable growth and success of local businesses and highlighted the impressive resilience and innovation flourishing within the Ann Arbor business community. DocNetwork, an Ann-Arbor startup helping youth-serving organizations keep kids safe and healthy through its electronic health record solution, celebrated its eighth FastTrack.
View all of the awardee videos here.
Michigan Angel Summit: Monday, September 18
The Michigan Angel Summit, held at the Kensington Hotel, brought together angel investors and entrepreneurs for insightful discussions and networking. This event, supported by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), highlighted the region’s robust investment ecosystem, fostering partnerships that drive innovation and growth.
The summit featured a dynamic agenda that included a keynote address by Jeffrey Sohl, director of the Center for Venture Research at the University of New Hampshire, company pitches, and dynamic panel discussions. The comprehensive agenda catered to the diverse interests and expertise of angel investors, fostering discussions and insights critical for successful early-stage investing.
Women in Tech: Monday, September 18
The sold-out Women in Tech event, produced in partnership with Shine & Rise and held at the women-owned Venue by 4M, was a triumph. It underscored the significance of diversity and inclusion in the tech industry, highlighting the contributions of women in technology while inspiring future leaders. The evening was generously supported by Comcast RISE, DaySmart, and MI-HQ.
With panel discussions, resource tables, breakout sessions, and countless networking opportunities, the event facilitated meaningful conversations and connections, leaving attendees inspired by the multitude of stories shared.
The event featured an impressive lineup of speakers who offered invaluable insights. Among them were Alison Todak and Kristina Oberly, co-founders of Shine & Rise, who brought their expertise to the forefront with the Insightful Conversations panel featuring Trey Boynton, vice president of inclusion and impact at Chief, Natalie Levy, founder and managing partner of She’s Independent, Ashley Oberheide, and Trista Van Tine, executive director of the Michigan Founders Fund. The Women in Tech event truly celebrated the strength and innovation that women bring to the technology sector while providing a platform for networking and knowledge exchange.
Mobility Summit: Tuesday, September 19
The Mobility Summit, a cornerstone event in the a2Tech360 lineup, was marked by a keynote address from Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist and an engaging fireside chat with Chief Mobility Officer Justine Johnson. Supported by the Michigan Office of Future Mobility and Electrification and RK Logistics, this event provided a deep dive into the future of mobility and spotlighted Ann Arbor’s pivotal role in shaping it.
The agenda encompassed an array of critical topics, including leading advanced aerial mobility in Michigan, exploring accessibility opportunities and challenges, addressing mobility and equity at a local leadership level, fostering connections in the mobility ecosystems of Ann Arbor and Detroit, as well as discussions on sustainability and the evolving workforce of tomorrow. This comprehensive approach ensured that attendees gained a well-rounded perspective on the multifaceted nature of mobility innovation in the region.
Tech Talk: Tuesday, September 19
Tech Talk, held at the iconic Michigan Theater, unveiled an exciting new format this year, featuring a curated group of four influential speakers who offered unique perspectives. Connie Chang, COO of ONL Therapeutics, addressed the formidable challenges of shattering the “bamboo ceiling” while Julie Cruz of Julie Cruz Studios candidly shared her entrepreneurial journey and the personal growth it entailed. Alex Simmons, hailing from Boon, explored the transformative implications of the gig economy on the future of work, and Marvin Yates Sr., a stalwart of the National Security Innovation Network, narrated his inspirational career voyage. The stage was set for these thought-provoking dialogues by keynote speaker Dug Song, who rallied the audience with a compelling call to invest in and foster entrepreneurship in Michigan.
Following the talks, a food-forward networking reception provided attendees with the opportunity to forge meaningful connections, enhancing the overall experience of the evening. This event was made possible through the generous sponsorship of Wacker Chemical.
Tech Trek: Friday, September 22
Wrapping up the week, Tech Trek served as a dynamic showcase of the region’s thriving tech ecosystem. More than 50 companies gathered in a street-fair style event, offering attendees a firsthand glimpse into the cutting-edge innovations taking place in Ann Arbor. Harkening to the early years of Tech Trek, three locations welcomed trekkers into their offices — FreightVerify, AdAdapted at Cahoots, and the University of Michigan’s new Center of Innovation. This event provided a unique opportunity for participants to connect within the local tech community, fostering valuable connections and insights. Special thanks to presenting sponsor Kapnick for its support.
Partner events constitute an integral part of the a2Tech360 lineup, enriching the experience for the community and fostering a collaborative ecosystem of technology enthusiasts, professionals, entrepreneurs, job seekers, and students. These events played a vital role in bringing together diverse perspectives, innovative ideas, and industry expertise.
From Celebrate Invention at the University of Michigan to the Third Place MusicFest, partner events spanned a wide spectrum of themes and interests. The Ann Arbor Film Festival’s and Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum’s involvement added a creative and artistic dimension to the tech celebration while events like “Develop Your Personal Elevator Pitch” and “Marketing and Brand Building in the Age of AI” provided valuable skills and insights for professionals in the tech industry.
Furthermore, the YpsiTasty Grub Crawl and the A2Zero Green Fair encouraged the community to engage with local businesses and sustainable practices, fostering a sense of connectivity and responsibility. Meanwhile, the A2BioSocial, New Enterprise Forum, and Entre-SLAM events offered platforms for entrepreneurial growth and artistic expression.
These partner events contributed substantially to knowledge sharing, networking opportunities, and talent engagement, making a lasting impact on the growth and vibrancy of the technology sector in the region. Their diverse range of offerings ensures that a2Tech360 remains a holistic and inclusive celebration of technology and innovation.
In the spirit of a2Tech360, participants left with not just new insights and connections but also a deeper appreciation for the rich tapestry of innovation in the Ann Arbor region. This celebration of community and innovation reaffirmed Ann Arbor’s position as a hub for tech enthusiasts and innovators alike.
Recaps, links to videos, photos, and more are available at a2Tech360.com.