University of Michigan Startup Wins $115,000 at Intercollegiate Competition

Shannon Beeman
February 23, 2017

AIM Tech receives first place for infant saving technology at the Cardinal Challenge

AIM Tech Wins Cardinal Challenge Michigan Ross ZLIA University of Michigan team focused on saving infants from respiratory failure in developing countries won the top prize at one of the premiere intercollegiate business plan competitions. This fantastic win almost didn’t happen due to flight delays. The Zell Lurie Institute’s associate director, Anne Perigo, drove through the night to ensure the U-M team made it to Kentucky in time to compete for the top prize.

The AIM Tech team, took the top honor on Feb. 19 at the Brown-Forman Cardinal Challenge, a business plan competition at the University of Louisville. AIM Tech was awarded $15,000 in cash and an additional $100,000 in prizes if the startup relocates to Louisville.

“The recognition from an intercollegiate competition like the Cardinal Challenge is a great achievement for our students,” says Stewart Thornhill, executive director at the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies. “The funding they’ve received and the connections they’ve made will help AIM Tech get this lifesaving product to market.”

AIM Tech Winners Michigan Ross Zell LurieAIM Tech was founded by Stephen John (MD ’19) and Aaron Steiner (MBA ’17). John grew up in Nepal and saw firsthand the need for a low tech, low cost ventilator to save infants in respiratory distress. Every year, 1M+ babies die of respiratory illness; 99% of these deaths occur in low-middle income countries. AIM Tech has developed an affordable, high quality, low-tech pressure ventilator. AIMtech’s patent-pending, award-winning NeoVent costs less than 1/100th the price of existing ventilators, is easy to use, and requires no electrical power.

The support the team has received through the Zell Lurie Institute at the Ross School of Business was instrumental to their win in Louisville. AIM Tech recently won the Impact Track of the Michigan Business Challenge (MBC), sponsored by the Zell Lurie Institute in partnership with the Center for Social Impact and the Erb Insitute. MBC the largest business plan competition at the University of Michigan.

“My experiences in programs like Ross Open Road and the Social Venture Fund were critical to our success in the Cardinal Challenge,” said Steiner. “On Open Road, I learned how to manage through the ambiguity that every entrepreneur faces. On the Social Venture Fund, I’ve learned how to balance a business’ social and profit goals. We wouldn’t have been as successful in this competition without those experiences.”

The NeoVent technology has been approved for clinical testing and the team plans to implement NeoVent around the world to save millions of infant lives. The first trails of this lifesaving technology are scheduled for Nepal and Malawi in mid-2017.

“Without entrepreneurship, any great clinical or engineering idea can’t really be scaled beyond your immediate network,” says John. “We want NeoVent to be used not just in one lab or hospital, but around the world.”