University of Michigan Student Startups Excel at World’s Largest Business Plan Competition

Shannon Beeman
April 18, 2016

More than $400,000 in Prize Money Awarded to Promising Young Companies in IT & Biotech Sectors

Ann Arbor, Mich. – April 18, 2016 – The Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business today announced that two University of Michigan student-run startups have been awarded substantial prizes at this year’s Rice Business Plan Competition (RBPC), the world’s largest and richest graduate-level business plan competition. Neurable and PreDxion Bio, the two winning teams, both started their successful business plan competition seasons at the Zell Lurie Institute’s Michigan Business Challenge, and together took home $430,000 in total cash prizes and investment dollars at RBPC, which took place April 14-16, 2016.

University Michigan Ross Rice Business Plan Competition Win Zell Lurie InstituteBeating out more than 400 original business plan submissions and 40 competing teams, Neurable took second place in the competition, earning the $50,000 Second Place Prize, as well as the OWL Investment Prize of up to $280,000. Co-founded by Ramses Alcaide (PhD Neuroscience ’16) and Michael Thompson (MBA ’17), Neurable has created the first non-invasive brain-computer interface (BCI) that allows for real-time control of software and physical objects. Neurable’s fully functional prototype incorporates proprietary, patent-protected technology developed at the University of Michigan’s Direct Brain Interface Lab. Neurable’s technology has already allowed people to control wheelchairs, robots and even a full-sized car in real time with no training and at a significantly lower cost than existing BCI technologies.

University of Michigan Ross PreDxion Bio Zell Lurie Institute Rice Business Plan CompetitionPreDxion Bio took home the $100,000 TiE Boston Angel Investment Prize. Co-founded by Walker McHugh (MSE Biomedical/Medical Engineering ’17) and Caroline Landau (MBA ’16) PreDxion Bio™ is a precision medicine diagnostics company with a beachhead product called MicroKine™, a patent-pending near-bedside diagnostic device that measures proteins in the blood of critically ill patients. MicroKine delivers this information in less than 30 minutes–ten times faster than that of any existing technology on the market–from a single drop of blood, providing physicians with the information to precisely tailor treatments to a specific patient’s immune response.

“The Rice competition is one of the largest and toughest competitions in the nation. Having two Michigan teams rise to the top of this very competitive field validates the notable talent and innovative technology coming out of our university,” said Stewart Thornhill, executive director, Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies. “The funding they’ve received from this competition, in addition to the feedback they’ve gathered and the network connections they’ve made, will significantly help both teams advance their ventures.”

University of Michigan Ross Neurable Zell Lurie Institute Rice Business Plan CompetitionIn the spirit of the Institute’s action-based approach to learning, intercollegiate competitions provide further opportunities for students to refine their plans, expand their networks, receive funding and learn about other aspects of their startup. Student teams from across the university receive in-depth training and support from the faculty and staff at the Zell Lurie Institute, including business development, refinement and presentation sessions. This guidance ensures students from multiple disciplines have the solid business foundation necessary to commercialize a great idea.

“The recognition and funding from a competition the scale of Rice is an amazing achievement for our team and for the growth of Neurable,” said Alcaide. “Everyone at the Zell Lurie Institute and the Office of Technology Transfer has provided invaluable support and expertise since day one, coaching and guiding us to a place where the judges and potential investors could fully recognize the promise of our technology. The additional mentorship and support from TechArb and the Center for Entrepreneurship set us up for success.”

“The entire PreDxion Bio team is overwhelmed by the show of support we received at Rice. The $100,000 we are taking home will be allocated to funding manufacturing devices that will revolutionize the way we treat and manage critically-ill patients,” said McHugh. “Our time at RBPC has shown us what an incredible place the University of Michigan is to start a student-run venture. The support we have received from the Zell Lurie Institute, Fast Forward Medical Innovations/MTRAC, the UM Coulter Program, the Center for Entrepreneurship and the Law School Entrepreneurship clinic has been exceptional and a definite driver of our success.”

Neurable and PreDxion Bio are among the many successes for University of Michigan teams on this year’s business plan competition circuit. Earlier this year, PreDxion Bio took home the Pryor-Hale Award for best business for $25,000 and the Williamson Award for $5,000 for the most outstanding business and engineering team at the Michigan Business Challenge, and Neurable was a finalist in both the Michigan Business Challenge and the Startup Competition at the University of Michigan. Student teams have also competed at the Thought for Food Global Summit in Zurich, the Venture Capital Investment Competition at the University of Colorado Boulder, the Undergraduate Venture Capital Investment Competition Global Finals at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, the Cardinal Challenge at the University of Louisville and the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. The RBPC ends the season for intercollegiate competitions, and the strong showing by Neurable and PreDxion Bio capped it off well for the University of Michigan.

For more information on the Michigan Business Challenge or related entrepreneurial student competitions, please visit