Michigan Ross Students Among First-Place Finishers in the 2021 Michigan Business Challenge
After competing through multiple rounds, undergraduate and graduate students at the Ross School of Business and across the University of Michigan effectively pitched their entrepreneurial ventures to win over $100,000 dollars in cash prizes during this year’s Michigan Business Challenge.
Presented by the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at Michigan Ross, MBC is an annual campuswide business-plan competition that exposes students to a rigorous, multi-phase business development and planning process. Held virtually this year, MBC continued to show a growing interest in entrepreneurship at the U-M — attracting diverse 70 student teams across a wide variety of disciplines from business to medicine, engineering, and law.
Participants in MBC are taken through the entire cycle of new venture creation, from writing a comprehensive business plan to composing a strong pitch. During each round, student teams pitch to judging panels of accomplished entrepreneurs and investors, which allows them to gain valuable feedback, win cash prizes, and expand their business networks.
“In what has been a pretty tough year, U-M entrepreneurs have shown themselves to be up to the challenge,” said Stewart Thornhill, Eugene Applebaum Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies at Michigan Ross and executive director of the Zell Lurie Institute. “Our winning student teams have demonstrated that they will not be stopped, and they have continued a long tradition of innovation and leadership. Entrepreneurs are calculated risk takers and, with support and guidance throughout the multi-round competition, our students have taken the measured steps and leaps of faith necessary to launch scalable ventures.”
The 2021 Michigan Business Challenge once again featured three tracks of competition to reflect the diversity of new ventures:
- The Seigle Impact Track recognizes the business that best pursues a mission-driven goal and aims to stimulate the creation of new businesses, products, or services that prioritize social and/or environmental considerations.
- The Innovation Track recognizes new ventures that offer a product, service, mobile application, or platform serving consumers or enterprises.
- The Invention Track recognizes ventures that have intellectual property at the core of their high-tech venture and aims to stimulate the creation of new businesses in life sciences, physical sciences, mobility, AR/VR, and more.
Michigan Ross first-place finishers
Co-founded by Amulya Parmar, BBA/BS ’22, and Varun Madan, BBA ’21, Lease Magnets — a virtual leasing platform that helps the 21st century apartment better showcase their property, reviews, and referrals online — won first place in the Innovation Track and received $15,000. The Ross undergraduate student startup was also awarded the $5,000 Williamson Award for Outstanding Cross-Functional Team, and the Sillman Undergraduate Team Award for $5,000.
Madan credited the ZLI community for helping his team advance to the finals and take first place in the competition.
“What enabled myself and my co-founder to get to this stage in the first place was the people,” he explained. “The aspects that don't get talked about enough are the mentorship and emotional support behind those programs – from ZLI’s Anne Perigo, Josh Botkin, Emily Zaycosky, Ellen Havdala, Sarika Gupta – the list goes on and on.”
Founded by Parker Martin, MBA/MD ’22, EpiSLS — a novel medical device enabling automated, in-vivo allergy testing with a rapid, safe, and reliable platform — claimed the $15,000 first place in the Invention Track. The innovative med-tech company also received the $5,000 Pinkert Healthcare Award for the student startup team with the most potential to improve the future of healthcare.
“It is great to have won MBC. Just participating was an incredible learning experience both for the technical components of writing a strong business plan, as well as the practice of crafting a compelling pitch to convince others,” said Martin. “I am emerging from the experience more confident in my ability to ‘sell’ my idea, and that is going to help me when it comes time to raise money or recruit more people onto the team.”
After starting his U-M journey at the Medical School, Martin said he decided to pursue his MBA at Michigan Ross with a very specific goal: to learn how to bridge the biotechnology gap necessary to bring good ideas from the lab into the clinic.
“I have not been disappointed. Resources like the Zell Lurie Institute and course offerings like Commercialization of Biomedicine have given me the opportunity to shape my own path,” he explained. "The range of options available at Ross have allowed me to tailor my experience, learning exactly the skills that will be necessary to succeed in the career I envision."
Other Michigan Ross winning teams
Surgical ComfORt, which aims to enhance efficiency and ergonomics of surgical procedures in constrained anatomic spaces by offering a surgical assistive arm with unprecedented maneuverability and versatility of tool attachment, was awarded $7,500 for second place in the Invention Track. This medical device startup was co-founded by Mark Farha, MBA/MD ’22; Lauren LaMonica, MD ’24; Devlin McConnell, MBA ’22; Christopher Tossas, PhD BME ’22; and Yuvraj Singh, MSE ’22.
EQuity, a learning and development venture to help advance racial justice by developing emotional intelligence, founded by Justin Woods, MBA/MSW ’21, took home the runner-up prize in the MBC Pitch Competition.