Guest post by Ernestine Lyons, Global EIR Program Manager and Amina Mohamud, student at Eastern Michigan University
The visionary founders of Snowbotix, Dr. Sasi Prabhakaran and team, developed an innovative all-electric, all-terrain robot capable of managing snow and ice problems. Snowbotix’s robots stand out because they address issues like safety risks, reduce labor, and reduce greenhouse gasses. The innovation hails from Michigan, which ranks 4th in the nation for funding research and development.
Dreaming of developing their company, the co-founders, immigrants from India, have long aspired to turn their vision into reality. However, developing their company came with some challenges.
Building a business can be an uphill battle, especially for immigrants who face challenges like obtaining visas, access to limited resources, and establishing a professional network. To navigate these challenges, the co-founders of Snowbotix have leaned on the support of the Michigan tech support ecosystem, utilizing two distinct programs in particular, the Global Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) Program through Global Detroit and the Global Epicenter of Mobility EIR Program administered by Ann Arbor SPARK. These programs serve to ease the journey for entrepreneurs to help them achieve their business goals by helping obtain visas, funding, and mentorship.
Notably, Snowbotix has been awarded the FLITE grant for pilot-testing their next-gen multi-utility robots for snow removal and sidewalk sweeping at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport. The company also secured a $200,000 grant with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).
Global Detroit presents a unique solution to the lack of federal immigration policy around an actual start-up visa. By teaming up with universities that have the ability to offer fewer limiting visas known as uncapped H1-B Visas, start-up founders are then employed part-time at the University as industry analysts. This process is more flexible because universities can apply and/or submit these visas at any time. Utilizing uncapped H1-B Visas is an easier way for startup founders to establish a legal pathway to remain in the United States while scaling and growing their companies without strict restrictions and the fear of deportation.
Snowbotix found additional support as they engaged with the Global Epicenter of Mobility (GEM)’s entrepreneur-in-residence (EIR) program, administered by Ann Arbor SPARK. Led by the Detroit Regional Partnership, the Global Epicenter of Mobility is designed to help build an inclusive and prosperous 21st-century mobility sector. The entrepreneur-in-residence program aims to keep executive-level talent within the industry by placing them with early-stage mobility companies to help achieve specific milestones.
Through the EIR program, Snowbotix collaborated with Richard Broo, a talented and experienced entrepreneur-in-residence with experience in customer identification and validation, project scope and management, new product development and commercialization. Broo will play a crucial role in Snowbotix’s project management efforts, overseeing and coordinating grants related to the development, prototyping, testing, and validation of the company’s all-electric, all-terrain, and all-season multi-utility robots. As part of the project management discipline, Broo will contribute to refining the project scope, creating, and executing a comprehensive project management plan, and capturing specific end-user expectations and requirements to ensure the project’s success.
“GEM EIR and Global EIR programs have accelerated our growth, connected us with the right people and resources, and provided crucial support in the early stages of building a disruptive business like Snowbotix. Michigan’s support for high-tech startups, coupled with these programs, has proven highly advantageous for our venture,” said Dr. Sasi Prabhakaran.
Since being placed, Broo has worked as a facilitator between Snowbotix and all relevant project stakeholders, including the Michigan Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry, Shophouse Park, DJ’s Landscape Management, the City of Marquette, Innovate Marquette, Northern Michigan University, and Invest UP. His expertise and support have been instrumental in ensuring the smooth and successful execution of Snowbotix’s initiatives, driving the advancement of their innovative multi-utility robots.
Dr. Sasi Prabhakaran stated that he “would strongly recommend fellow startup/founders to benefit from Global / GEM EIR programs like us,” citing how these programs supported Snowbotix by providing the resources and support necessary for growth and success.
Snowbotix is one of the many companies that have been able to grow by leveraging Global EIR and GEM EIR programs administered by Global Detroit and Ann Arbor SPARK. These programs foster growth in job creation, talent retention, and economic development, leaving a positive impact in Michigan.
If you’d like to learn more about the support infrastructure that the State of Michigan has to offer, or for more specific information about the Global EIR and GEM EIR programs, contact Ernestine Lyons of Global Detroit (email@example.com) or Ben Ernst at Ann Arbor SPARK (firstname.lastname@example.org).