The Michigan Business Challenge (MBC) takes participants through the entire cycle of new venture creation from creating a strong pitch to conducting a marketing and financial assessment and writing a comprehensive business plan. Twelve teams of student entrepreneurs are one step closer to over $100,000 in cash prizes. Meet these innovative Wolverines in our spotlight series.
Green is reimagining the gift-giving experience, saving our users’ time and stress in the process. Green uses artificial intelligence to recommend gift ideas that are personalized to each and every user’s loved one. The team includes Devlin McConnell (MBA ’22), Cory Cooney (MBA ’23), Xinyi Wang (MSI ’22), and Karon Green (MSI/MBA ’24).
What was the origin of this venture? How was the problem or opportunity discovered?
The origin of the idea stemmed from our own challenges. We constantly struggled with gift ideas for the people that mean the most to us. The resources available to help ideate on a gift are either generic or obvious product placement ads. We asked ourselves, why isn’t there a better option?
What do you think will be the long-term impact of launching your venture?
Presenting someone with a thoughtful gift is a selfless and intimate gesture. It is a nonverbal way of telling someone that you love and appreciate them. However, our customers have stated that the experience is rarely enjoyable and often time-consuming and stressful. We hope to change that. By solving the current pain points around gifting, we believe we can realize our mission of making it easier for our users to express gratitude and love.
How did you form your team?
Our team actually formed by chance. We all signed up for a case competition that was run by the Business + Tech program at Ross. The competition assigned teams randomly and asked each team to come up with a viable business in 5 weeks. Our team coalesced immediately, and we each fed off of one other’s strengths. After the competition, we all agreed that we wanted to pursue the venture further.
How has participation in MBC helped move your venture forward?
The Michigan Business Challenge provides outstanding structure and guidelines to any startup. The program demands that we ask the right questions, back up our hypotheses with evidence, and push ourselves past our comfort zone. It has been an invaluable experience.
What has been your biggest takeaway from the MBC experience (so far)?
The best lessons that we’ve taken away from MBC has come from our interaction with the judges during the Q&A sessions. They pushed back on our assumptions, demanded additional explanation in key areas, and provided crucial feedback on our strategy and direction.
What are your plans following MBC? How would prize money help your venture?
Our goal by the end of the school year is get a pre-seed investment. So, the questions and feedback from these judges have helped us identify the weak spots in our pitch and grow forward. The prize money would help drive us toward our MVP launch. First, it would expedite the remaining coding and beta testing required to enter the market. Second, it would provide the resources to conduct additional experiments; those insights would de-risk our launch.
What advice do you have for other student entrepreneurs?
Find a group of people that you enjoy working with and that makes you challenge yourself. A great team is critical to sustained success.
2022 Michigan Business Challenge Finals
Learn more about these innovative University of Michigan startups by following the 2022 Michigan Business Challenge Finals on February 11 on ZLI social media. Cheer for your favorite team during the MBC final presentations and applaud the winners!