U-M Regents Award $500,000 to Ross Professor’s Startup

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The University of Michigan will make a half-million-dollar investment in a startup founded by Ross Professor Wayne Baker, with additional funding possible in the future.

The Board of Regents approved the investment, along with three others, on Thursday through the Michigan Investment in New Technology Startups initiative. The MINTS fund, which is overseen by the Investment Office, was started in 2011 to invest directly in technologies and ideas developed by U-M researchers.

The regents awarded $500,000 to Give and Take, an Ann Arbor-based company co-founded in 2016 by Wayne Baker, the Robert P. Thome Professor of Business Administration, professor of organizational behavior and human resource management, and professor of sociology. The company developed a software platform called Givitas that encourages collaboration, information sharing, and problem solving and transforms workplaces into communities of productive generosity.

“I am thrilled to have my university involved,” Baker said. “My dream is it would be useful for the university.”

The MINTS funding will be funneled into sales and marketing to bring the product to a broader market. Its customers include Google, Harvard University, Blue Cross-Blue Shield, Morgan Stanley, General Motors, and others.

Other platforms including Yammer, Slack, Facebook’s Workplace, and Microsoft teams offer their own pros and cons, but are all ways to tap into a network, Baker said.

“What I saw was a need for a special purpose platform devoted to generalized reciprocity,” he said. “People think of it as paying it forward. You can do that with a number of these platforms, but can’t do it well on a large scale. That’s why we developed Givitas.”

The other startup grants range from $500,000 to $1 million, and all will help accelerate Michigan-based businesses that directly contribute to the state’s economy.

Eligible startups primarily are those that have licensed technologies that originated in faculty labs. Once a startup has secured an initial round of funding from a qualifying independent venture capital firm, it is eligible for MINTS funding.

“The university’s commitment to supporting the success of its startup companies ensures that research discoveries created on campus have the opportunity be brought to the market as new products that will improve our quality of life and enhance societal well-being,” said Kelly Sexton, associate vice president for research-technology transfer and innovation partnerships at U-M.

“These four investments in startup companies located in Ann Arbor will accelerate the growth of our region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

Read more about the grants