The Zell Lurie Institute Awards University of Michigan Student Startups Over $100,000

Shannon Beeman
February 22, 2016

Michigan Business Challenge and Dare to Dream Teams Take Home Top Prizes

What began with 100 student teams across the University’s 19 schools and colleges came down to one winner on Friday, February 19, at the Ross School of Business. Over the course of the four-month, multi-round Michigan Business Challenge business plan competition, student startup PreDxion emerged the winner and took home a total of $30,000 from the Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies‘ 33rd annual competition award ceremony.

“Prior to joining the Michigan Business Challenge, PreDxion did not have a framework or mechanism for pressure-testing our assumptions for market entry,” said Walker McHugh (MSE ’17), co-founder of PreDxion. “The competition, combined with amazing support from the Zell Lurie Institute, provided the structure and resources we needed to launch our venture and hopefully receive the financing necessary to bring our product to market.”

Founded by McHugh and Caroline Landau (MBA ’16), PreDxion fills a critical unmet need in acute care: currently, doctors using CAR T-cell therapy for high-risk cancer patients are unable to quickly and accurately monitor their patients’ immune response, increasing their risk of death. PreDxion’s groundbreaking technology, called MicroKine, solves this problem in 30 minutes from a single drop of blood and enables precision medicine in the intensive care unit for the first time. In addition to the Pryor-Hale award for best business for $25,000, PreDxion took home the Williamson Award for $5,000 for the most outstanding business and engineering team.

Michigan Business Challenge teams took their ventures, both for-profit and socially driven, through a rigorous four-part competition, shifting and reworking initial concepts to create a viable business plan. To guide student teams through this process, the competition process is supported by one-on-one coaching from Zell Lurie entrepreneurs in residence, individualized training through startup workshops run by the Zell Lurie Institute, and feedback from judges in venture capital and industry.

“Through programs like the Michigan Business Challenge and Dare to Dream, Michigan students apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to real-world situations,” said Stewart Thornhill, executive director of the Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies. “These opportunities allow students to validate their ideas in front of a wider community of entrepreneurs and investors. We’re proud of the tremendous entrepreneurial spirit and drive shown by the student teams, and are confident that the coaching and financial resources they’ve received from the Zell Lurie Institute will help them achieve even greater success as they pursue their business ideas.”

Michigan Business Challenge
The Michigan Business Challenge is a multi-round competition for students from across the University’s campus. The competition focuses on student teams testing real-world business concepts through engaging in customer discovery, vetting financial models, conducting market research, and developing a complete business plan. Over the course of the competition, $85,000 was awarded to winning teams.

In addition to PreDxion, the Michigan Business Challenge Winners include:

  • Gaudium, a video game development company focused on developing eastern-Gaudium Zell Lurie Institute Michigan Business Challenge Ross School of Business University of Michgianinspired gamesreceived the Pryor-Hale Runner-up award for Best Business for $10,000, the Best Written Plan award for $2,000and one of two Marketing Awards, sponsored by the Marketing Associates, for $2,500. The Gaudium team, comprised of David Cai (BS ’16), Amanda Li (MAcc ’16), Kevin Jeon (BA ’16), Ni Yan, and Andrew Yang, is looking to launch its first product, Armor Blitz, in late 2016.
  • AOE Medical, a durable medical equipment manufacturer, took home the Most Successful Undergraduate team award for $2,500 and one of two Outstanding Presentation awards for $2,000. Represented by Arianna Carley (BSE ’17), Eli Fox, (BA ’17), Christina Tang (BS ’18), and Brandon Boot(BSE ’17), AOE Medical is looking to create innovative solutions for bariatric patient transfer.
  • Sage & Gracea concierge service for those who are addressing or will need to address end of life issues, was awarded the second Outstanding Presentation award for $2,000Holly Price (MBA ’17), created Sage & Grace as a service and information portal for individuals with limited resources who require estate planning, hospice information, funeral planning, and burial options.
  • CARt, a social enterprise, received the second Marketing Award, sponsored by Marketing Associates, for $2,500. Represented by Ali Jensen (MPH ’16), Stacey Matlen (MPH ’16), Christine Priori(MBA/MPH ’17), Mikaela Rodkin (MBA/MS ’17), CARt coordinates rides for low-income, low-vehicle access individuals to get to and from supermarkets so they have increased access to healthy, affordable food.

The Social Impact Track
Debuting in 2015, the Social Impact Track, presented in partnership with Frederick A. and Barbara M. Erb Institute and the Center for Social Impact, showcases companies that prioritize social or environmental considerations. Four teams competed for the top prize during the finals on February 19.

The grand prize for $15,000 went to Kulisha. Founded by Eric Katz (BBA ’17), Kulisha is a sustainable aquafeed company that produces commercial-grade fish feed from insects to help small-scale aquaculture farmers in Kenya increase profitability while supplying the food insecure in the region with more healthy animal protein. Kulisha helps to divert food waste going into landfills, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and stop trawling. “The Michigan Business Challenge has given us mentorship and guidance to create a business plan that we can execute on,” said Katz.

StepFor received the runner-up prize for $7,500. Represented by Jordan Golshan (BBA ’17), Andy Jinseok Lee (MS ’17), and Hyorim Kim (BS ’17), StepFor maximizes the marketing value of every dollar spent on corporate donations by effectively engaging users through fitness-powered crowdfunding.

Dare to Dream Grants
The Michigan Business Challenge awards ceremony concluded with the announcement of the Dare to Dream Startup Grants. Twenty-three student teams were awarded funding and access to resources to test their entrepreneurial ideas, formulate business plans, and work toward launching their new ventures.

The Dare to Dream grant program has three phases, and students may enter their business at any phase. The first phase, a Venture Shaping grant of $500 sponsored by the Mayleben family, allows teams to determine how to transform identified opportunities into businesses. More advanced teams may apply for a $1,500 Assessment grant to establish the feasibility of their business, or a $5,000 Integration grant to move their company toward launch. Grants are awarded in the fall and winter terms.

Applebaum Dare to Dream Assessment Grants of $1,500:

  • The Broke App (Christina Czuhajewski, MSI ’16; Michelle Fiesta, MSI ’15; Prashant Iyer, MSI ’16; Kristen Sheppard, MSI ’16; Jacqueline Wolf, MSI ’15): A redesigned version of current mobile banking applications for banks to use to teach college students how to build wealth for the future based on their current spending approaches
  • CARt (Ali Jensen, MPH ’16; Stacey Matlen, MPH ’16; Christine Priori, MBA/MPH ’17; Mikaela Rodkin, MBA/MS ’17): A rideshare program to connect low-income, low-vehicle access individuals with healthy, affordable food
  • Cheekycase (Briana Feng, BBA ’18): An innovative accessory company that specializes in smartphone cases
  • HiveLend (Noah Hirschl, LSA ’18; Nicholas Zajciw, LSA ’17): An online marketplace enabling the pollination industry to reach a new level of efficiency to add stability to the current food system
  • Morning Brew (Michael Kessler, BBA ’17; Simon Mody, BBA ’18;  Austin Rief, BBA ’17): A free daily e-mail newsletter written by millennials for millennials that acts as a quick, conversational and quality read to keep business-minded students up-to-date on all things business
  • Perfarm (Louis Roberto Sodre, MBA ’16): A cloud-based farm management software solution for Brazilian farmers
  • Saturnup (John Desilva, CSE ’16; James Hamet, BSE ’16; Howard Sobel, BBA ’16; Ittai Svidler, CSE ’18): A mobile app advertising solution that drives brand lift and makes app monetization simpler
  • Woodside Distributors (Alex Glassman, BBA/BSE ’18; Mitchell Kasselman, BBA ’18; Rami Kadouh, BBA ’18; Danny Sheridan, BBA ’18): An online distributor that buys products at wholesale prices and resells them on,, and for a competitive price leading to single digit profit margins with high revenues

Mayleben Family Venture Shaping Grants of $500:

  • Academy Analytics (Rami Sherman, JD ’17): Scalable facilitation of congressional information access and communication between clients and Congress members with a focus on big data
  • Argo (Dania Abdulhamid, CSE ’18; Andrea Kopitz, LSA ’18): An application that will empower students to initiate conversation with others in real life through a gamified, challenge-based coaching process
  • Athena (Ally Stewart, MBA ’17): Connects young professionals with high quality career coaches in minutes
  • (Mauricio Kalil Steinbruch, MBA ’17): A platform that allows users to create their own customized, high-quality labeled craft beer within a few clicks
  • Bishop (Anthony Nelson, MBA ’17; Rishabh Sharma, MBA ’17): Helps part-time international students on work visas get student loans on their own merit
  • Catalyst (Westley Hoffman, BA ’18): The first crowdfunding website exclusively for social entrepreneurship
  • Community Power Company (Takashi Takizawa, MBA ’17): A small-scale power retail company with ONEF members working to develop the first power autonomy in Japan
  • Crystallize (Alex Park, JD ’17): A social networking platform for venture shaping that both new and career entrepreneurs can use
  • EatLikeMe (Udai Mody, MBA ’17; Michael Thompson, MBA ’17): A Yelp competitor that offers restaurant recommendations based on reviews from consumers who eat like you
  • Flowgram (Elizabeth LaCroix, MBA ’17; Aditya Pradhan, MBA ’17; MacCalvin Romain, MBA ’17; Antonio Scaramuzzino, MBA ’17): A SaaS platform for designing and collaborating on complex cloud architectures
  • Kozy (David Bickel, MBA ’16; Marco Hidalgo, MBA ’16; Brandon Hodges, MBA ’16; Atsunori Kaneshige, MBA ’16; Kozue Yuzawa; MBA ’16): A platform that brokers peer-to-peer luxury goods sharing
  • Kulisha (Eric Katz, BBA ’17): A sustainable aquafeed company that produces commercial-grade fish feed from insects to help small-scale aquaculture farmers in Kenya
  • NELO (Chiedozie Okafor, MBA/MA ’16): An online tool and app designed to improve the number of students who graduate in a position to be competitive for the type of job they want
  • PostPlay (Jared Weisman, BBA ’17): Conveniently connects sports fans with the Top 25 plays by and for the user
  • Sage & Grace (Holly Price, MBA ’17): A concierge service for those who are addressing or will need to address end of life issues
  • Zenith Fitness (Catherine Cheung, MBA ’17; Joe Price, MBA ’16): A personal energy management application that tracks energy in and energy out across the four dimensions of wellness: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual

The Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies and its Center for Venture Capital and Private Equity Finance bring together a potent mix of knowledge, experience, and opportunities from the front lines of entrepreneurship and alternative investments. The student learning experience is further enhanced through internships, entrepreneurial clubs, and events that serve to provide viable networks and engage the business community. The School’s three student-led investment funds, with over $6.5M under management, immerse students in the business assessment and investment process. Founding Board Members include Samuel Zell, Chairman of Equity Group Investments and Eugene Applebaum, Founder of Arbor Drugs, Inc. For more information, visit the Institute at