Student Teams Compete for Record $100,000 in Cash Prizes at Annual Business Plan Competition

Shannon Beeman
December 1, 2017

The Michigan Business Challenge marks its 35th anniversary with largest prize pool and new awards

Michigan Business Challenge 2017 Zell Lurie Institute University of Michigan RossOver the course of the next three months, more than 100 students will compete for top honors and a record high of more than $100,000 in cash prizes in the 35th annual Michigan Business Challenge, the multi-round business plan competition hosted by the Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies. Round one of the competition kicks off today, debuting two new prizes: the Small Giants Positive Business Award – a $2,500 prize sponsored by the Small Giants Community and Center for Positive Organizations – and a $5,000 Undergraduate Award, sponsored by Daniel Sillman, CEO of Relevant Sports.

The Michigan Business Challenge takes student entrepreneurs through new venture creation in a multi-phase business development and planning process. Open to all current undergraduate and graduate students from across the University, proposed businesses may be for-profit or non-profit, and offer products or services to either consumer or industrial markets. Notable companies from previous years’ competitions have included SAHI Cosmetics, which recently earned a $100,000investment from AOL founder Steve Case at the Rise of the Rest pitch competition; PreDxion Bio, which recently graduated from the Y Combinator summer 2017 program; Neurable, which received more than $2 million in investments to build brain-controlled software for AR and VR following a second-place finish at Rice Business Plan Competition; and Companion, which was featured on the first episode of Apple’s reality TV series “Planet Of The Apps.”

“There’s no shortage of entrepreneurial talent at the University of Michigan, which makes each year’s competition more exciting than the last,” said Stewart Thornhill, executive director of the Zell Lurie Institute. “The cornerstone of business education is putting classroom lessons into practice, which is exactly what the Michigan Business Challenge asks participants to do. While the financial resources and new prizes we’re debuting are critical to the growth of these student startups, feedback from judges and lessons learned from their peers will be crucial to these entrepreneurs as they set out to launch their businesses.”

Michigan Business Challenge Winner 2017 SahiIn addition to the new Small Giants Positive Business Award, which will honor the team with the business plan that most effectively incorporates positive business practices, teams whose businesses pursue a mission-driven goal may be chosen in round one to compete in the Seigle Impact Track – with prizes totaling more than $26,000 – sponsored by the Mark and Robin Seigle Entrepreneurial Innovation Fund. Awards will also be given to the best cross-functional team, teams with impressive marketing efforts, the most successful undergraduate team, and those with the best written and best presented business plans.

More than 60 student teams competing today were selected to advance from last month’s qualifying round. As part of today’s activities, each will make a three-minute pitch to a panel of judges that includes successful entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and angel investors from the local business community. Approximately 20 teams will be chosen to participate in round two in January, where they’ll give a seven-minute presentation, followed by 10 minutes of questions from the judges. The culmination of the Michigan Business Challenge will be the semi-final and final rounds, set for February 16.

For additional information on the Michigan Business Challenge competition, deadlines, process and eligibility, visit