Innovation is the very core of the University of Michigan, from conducting breakthrough research and pioneering new technology, to fostering the talent responsible for bringing those advances to life and to market. In its tradition of forward-thinking leadership, the Ross School of Business’s Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies and the Center for Entrepreneurship at the College of Engineering today announced the appointment of Angela Kujava as the managing director for the Desai Accelerator, which supports new ventures at a critical stage in their development with funding, office space and mentorship, among other resources and guidance.
U-M alumna appointed as managing director of Desai
Kujava is a proven, strategic leader who brings nearly a decade of experience working with entrepreneurs to Desai. Tasked with building on the past three years of success and bolstering the Desai Accelerator’s critical role in both the local and national startup ecosystem, Kujava will be responsible for the execution and development of the program, including mentoring and counseling the startups in the program and selecting and managing investments. She will also work closely with the region’s business and campus communities to further existing relationships for the benefit of not only the participating startups but also the broader entrepreneurial landscape.
“Entrepreneurs are running fast in many different directions fueled by creativity and energy. Receiving guidance and support at the right time is key to becoming a successful entrepreneur,” said Kujava. “We have exceptional startups in our Desai community, including several founded by Michigan alumni, and I am excited to begin the work of helping them reach the next stage.”
A Michigan alumna, Kujava most recently served as the director of innovation for Logic Solutions, a global application development firm, where she successfully led teams in nurturing, assisting and growing both developing and maturing companies. Throughout her career, she has been a champion for early-stage entrepreneurs and has crafted partnerships with entrepreneurial organizations such as the Small Business Development Center, TechTown Detroit and the Mobile Technology Association of Michigan. Her passion for entrepreneurship has extended to community initiatives including the Women’s Exchange of Washtenaw, Young Professionals Underground and 826michigan.
“Angela is the ideal leader to forge the future direction of the Desai Accelerator and help the program grow against the backdrop of an ever-evolving entrepreneurial landscape,” said Stewart Thornhill, executive director of the Zell Lurie Institute. “Her strong background in technology and startup consulting will be integral to the success of our entrepreneurs.”
“The success of the Desai Accelerator demonstrates the impact of the collaboration between U-M and the regional entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Jonathan Fay, interim executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurship. “We look forward to the continued success of the program, including opportunities for our students, under the direction of Angela.”
Five startups join 2017 cohort
More than 60 companies applied for the 2017 Winter cohort, and the most promising five—based in Michigan, New York and Boston—were invited to join the program to take advantage of the financial and mentoring resources available. The selected companies are:
- Circadian Risk – risk analysis software for mobile devices to prepare for criminal and terrorist incidents
- FoodStand – an app for community-powered healthy eating challenges
- Sahi Cosmetics – a makeup line designed for olive- and yellow-undertoned skin
- ScoutDay – a recruiting network that connects high school athletes and college coaches
- Warmilu – an advanced therapeutic warming technology company that provides non-electric warming blankets for infants
As members of the Desai Accelerator, each company will receive a $25,000 investment, office space in downtown Ann Arbor, Mich., access to resources valued at more than $500,000, including legal and HR services and extensive mentorship from the wide-reaching University of Michigan alumni network. The 2017 Winter program will run from January 24-April 21, and companies will participate in a Demo Day this May.
Past cohorts have included Companion, a person-to-person safety application that won the 2015 Michigan Business Challenge and has grown its user base to more than one million, and MySwimPro, a coaching app for swimmers named the Apple Watch App of 2016. Since its launch in 2015, funding and support for the Accelerator has been provided by the Desai Sethi (DS) Family Foundation, the Davidson Foundation, the Wadhams family and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).
For more information about the Desai Accelerator, or to apply for future cohorts, please visit desaiaccelerator.umich.edu.