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Through dedication, hard work, and community support, 15 of Ann Arbor SPARK’s clients have earned spots as Accelerate Michigan (AMIC) semifinalists against strong competition. These companies are within striking distance of prizes and recognition that could lead to an inflection point in their growth.

These same 15 startups represent 42% of this year’s pool of 36 semifinalists. The number of SPARK clients among the pool has risen over last on both numerical and percentage bases. These companies have collectively raised over $1.3 million in funding and received over $2.5 million of grants. They have, on average, three full-time equivalent team members.

One dimension to this story is the rising prevalence of women in the Ann Arbor tech community. As Alex West wrote about in a previous post, women are underrepresented nationally in startup leadership, despite the fact that women-lead companies perform as well or better than those led solely by men. Ann Arbor beats the national average of women working in tech, according to some sources, but we have a long way to go. One small sign of forward movement is that among Ann Arbor SPARK affiliated semifinalists, the percentage of women-lead companies has increased over the last three years. In 2015, women-lead companies accounted for only 20%; last year, the same metric was 23%; this year, 47% of Ann Arbor SPARK affiliated semifinalists are women-lead startups.

This year’s crop of semifinalists is not going at it alone. Rather, they have received significant community support, including from the University of Michigan, the Desai Accelerator, and Ann Arbor SPARK. The 15 startups referenced above have received more than $250,000 of entrepreneurial support through Ann Arbor SPARK. The bulk of this support has come in the way of more than 30 distinct business acceleration grants to support growth in critical areas such as intellectual property protection, UI/UX, regulatory and scientific guidance, and branding and web presence development. Additionally, these companies have utilized the SPARK intern matching funds program, microloan program, and Entrepreneurial Boot Camp, the SPARK Central Innovation Center, and Ann Arbor SPARK’s program with Eastern Michigan University, the Digital Summer Clinic.

While it is impossible to determine which factors advanced and held back each judge’s score of a company, the resources SPARK and community partners have provided certainly expedited the semifinalists’ significant progress over where they were last year. In a subjective contest measured in relative terms, that may be the difference between competing and winning the resources critical to exponential growth.


Good luck next week, semifinalists!