News

At its 28th Annual Meeting, Jake Sigal gave an inspiring presentation about the genesis of Livio Connect and what it means to be an entrepreneur in Michigan.

It sounded like a story from a textbook on entrepreneurship: Jake had been working for a Tier 1 automotive supplier just prior to the Great Depression. Sensing the writing on the wall, he left his good-paying, full-time job to start a business in his guest bedroom. Making matters even more interesting was that his first product was targeting a service that was largely unknown, Pandora Radio.

In 2008, Pandora had millions of early subscribers, but they were still relatively unknown. That did not deter Jake. He recognized the potential of Pandora to change the radio landscape and leveraged his experience with automotive electronics to make a $200 (retail) desktop radio for Pandora. With Jake’s background in consumer electronic product development and manufacturing, this was the easy part. The hard part was figuring out all of the necessary business and corporate development tasks starting a new company. Early on, he turned to SCORE, a program offered by the Small Business Administration, and his volunteer advisor helped him address these issues. Success followed – Livio sold several million dollars of products to the likes of Target, Costco and Amazon.

In 2010, with smart phone sales really taking off, Jake and his team realized that the future belongs to apps, so they pivoted and developed an aftermarket car kit that connected people’s apps to their vehicles.

Livio launched their car kit at the Consumer Electronics Show. Their booth was sandwiched between car suppliers and app developers. They learned that car suppliers wanted Livio software to connect Livio apps to their own vehicles. Separately, app developers wanted to connect their own apps to existing Livio hardware. This was ‘the ah-ha’ moment for Livio to create the Livio Connect API to connect 3rd party apps to multiple vehicles. This product and associated IP offered such value that Ford Motor Company acquired them in 2013.

With regard to the process, Jake had some advice to share with other entrepreneurs. First, building relationships with lawyers, bankers, other entrepreneurs and being in the entrepreneurial community brought opportunities to the Livio they could not have gotten on their own. Second, fund-raising takes a huge amount of time and it is time not well spent unless the targeted funds invest in the company’s space. Third, when possible, have your customer pay for your product development as they have a strong interest in seeing you succeed. And fourth, once you have built an initial sales pipeline, investors will become interested.

When asked what he enjoys most, Jake's answer was simply “Tomorrow“. The true enjoyment of having built Livio is that he surrounds himself with people who are similarly motivated, making coming into the office fun.

For more info on Jake check out his blog at JakeSigal.com or follow him on Twitter @JakeSigal

At its 2014 Annual Meeting, held at Ann Arbor SPARK Central on Thursday, 20 Feb 2014, NEF announced the winners of its 2013 Showcase Presenter awards. The awardees were:

  • Best Presentation was awarded to AdAdapted. Molly McFarland, CMO, announced that since having presented at NEF in March, 2013, AdAdapted has closed half of its seed round and expects the close the remainder by the end of Feb 2014. In addition, the company has landed a $200k contract with a major corporation.
  • Best Business Model was awarded to GAPRO (formerly GWizCon). Herb Gibson, CEO, indicated that since his NEF presentation in June, 2013, they have raised equity and are working with partners to validate their business model.
  • Best Technology was awarded to Avegent. Edward Tang, CEO, announced that since having presented at NEF in April, 2013, Avegant’s Glyph was names Best Mobile Device of the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show and the company has just completed a $1.5M KickStarter campaign.
  • Best Overall was awarded to ENT Biotech Solutions. Andrea Dickson, President, said that since presenting to NEF in May 2013, patents have been filed, a $1.5M round was closed, an FDA application was submitted, and animal testing has started.

At the February 2014 meeting the NEF Board, Jane DeLancey was elected to a two-year term as a director. Jane owns the design firm DeLancey Design that serves marketing and communications needs of a wide variety of clients.

Stew Nelson, NEF's VP of Program indicated that, “Jane’s commitment and dedication over the past four years to  NEF have made her  one of our `Elite` coaches. I know her  organizational, marketing  and design skills will make her a perfect addition to the Board. I look forward to serving with her.”

Jane began her career in the fine arts, but quickly switched to graphic design. After seven years working in the corporate environment for the in-house marketing departments of ADP Network Services and Gelman Sciences, she launched DeLancey Design in 1984. Since then she has worked for more than 150 clients across a broad range of indsutries on a wide variety of designs projects. Project scopes have included full website development; trade show booth design and construction; and corporate identities, direct mail campaigns, and brochures. With her strategic business partner, Chris Hippler of Capital Letters, she currently is focusing on marketing projects for the construction industry.

In addition to serving on a number of NEF coaching teams over the course of the past five years, Jane has also served as a coach for Great Lakes Entrepreneur Quest (now MiQuest).

Her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree is from the University of Michigan. She also studied at Art Center College of Design and California College of Arts.

Organizers of the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium (MGCS) today unveiled preliminary plans for the 2014 conference, the premier event where leading U.S. venture capitalists and angel investors meet the 'Best of the Midwest' in emerging, high-growth start-ups. As one of the longest running programs of its kind, the decades' old symposium is expected to bring together more than 450 attendees including top investors from across the country, executives of early stage and emerging growth companies seeking $1-20 million in funding, and related stakeholders. The event will be held at the Marriott Resort in Ypsilanti, Mich.

New this year, the Great Lakes Entrepreneur's Quest (GLEQ) will host its 14th annual statewide business plan competition award's reception on June 17 prior to the start of the MGCS. The first place winner of the GLEQ's mid-year emerging company category, announced in January, will receive an invitation to present at the MGCS. "We are really excited about the coordinated timing of our events," said GLEQ executive director Diane Durance.

Now in its 33rd year, the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium has served as a critical catalyst for innovation and a champion of entrepreneurial investment opportunities in the region.  In addition to presentations from approximately 40 early stage and emerging growth companies seeking funding, MGCS will feature keynote speakers and panel discussions led by some of the nation's leading investors and entrepreneurs.  The sessions will provide insight on venture capital and investment trends, as well as provide industry snapshots of emerging growth sectors such as life sciences and technology.

"Michigan ranks as one of the most proactive and most admired states, in terms of what has been done with a relatively small amount of capital," said Kelly Williams the global head of Credit Suisse's Customized Fund Investment Group and keynote speaker at the 2013 Symposium. She added that the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium epitomizes the unique collaborative atmosphere and supportive entrepreneurial environment that has contributed to the state's success.

The state of Michigan currently has 25 venture capital funds providing growth capital to promising start-ups spawned by university research discoveries and inventions across various academic disciplines.  This growing network is bolstered by savvy global investors who are willing to look farther afield to source new deals, including in the Midwest. This ramped-up connectivity bodes well for the region's reputation as an innovative community and a source for high-potential technology and social-networking investment deals.

The Symposium is hosted by the University of Michigan's Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the Ross School of Business, with support from the Michigan Venture Capital Association. Sponsors for the 2014 event are currently being enlisted, with packages ranging from $1,000-$10,000. 

Applications for companies to present will be available online January 1, 2014. For more information or to become a sponsor, please visit www.michigangcs.com.

About the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium (MGCS)

MGCS is the original university-based venture fair, which was first held in 1979. This nationally attended two-day event provides an opportunity for investors to connect with up-and-coming Midwest businesses and learn about emerging technologies. The Symposium offers the opportunity to build relationships with an unparalleled business network of distinguished private equity industry leaders, leading university research faculty, and entrepreneurial business professionals. MGCS is presented by the Center for Venture Capital & Private Equity Finance or the Zell Lurie Institute at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business with support from the Michigan Venture Capital Association and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

The inaugural NEF Pitch Pit event was held in conjunction with ACE '14 (www.ace-event.org) on Thursday, 30 Jan 2014. NEF Pith Pit is an event that is loosely modeled after ABC's Shark Tank. For this first event, there were three contestants:

  • Mary Beckerman – Recipe Manager System
  • Diana Chen – Crowdsourcing Legal Help Platform
  • Xavier Clemons – The New Credit Card Shaver

After delivering their four minute pitches, our panel of judges

  • Martin Dober, Vice President for Invest Detroit
  • David Gregorka, Venture Partner at Baird Capital
  • Charlie Moret, Managing Director for Tech-Based Entrepreneurship at Tech Town

provided feedback to help the budding entrepreneurs and selected a winner. The judges selected Diana Chen, Crowdsourcing Legal Help Platform, as the winner; and the audience selected Xavier Clemons, The New Credit Card Shaver, as being their favorite. For her efforts, Diana was awarded cash pot, which totaled $218.

For those wishing to participate, or for those simply wanting to watch the festivities, keep an eye on the NEF website - we are planning four more NEF Pitch Pit events during the upcoming year.

Members of the New Enterprise Forum will coach the Semi Finalists from the Michigan Business Challenge, providing feedback regarding their investor pitches on February 14 at the Ross School of Business. To learn more about the competition, inclusing eligibility requirements, etc., please visit http://www.zli.bus.umich.edu/events_programs/busplan_competition.asp.

The Michigan Business Challenge is a campus-wide, multi-round business plan competition thru which student teams have the opportunity to win cash prizes totaling over $60,000, gain feedback from judges, and expand their business network. 60 teams pitch to judges on December 6 and only 16 were advanced to the next round.The second round group of presented to a different judging panels on January 24, at which time only eight teams were selected as Semi Finalist. Ths fiinal presnetation to a third judging panel will take place February 21.

Teams that plan to pursue their business idea to fruition will have the opportunity to work with an NEF Coaching team formed in order to provide them more in depth coaching on their business plan, pitch, and executive summary. One of the 2013 teams that won an award, PhasIQ has recently completed NEF coaching and will be presenting at the February 20th Forum meeting.

At it 9 Jan 2014 meeting, the NEF's directors elected Viktor Brandtneris to a two year term as a director. According to Gerry Roston, NEF President, "Viktor's strong tes to SPARK and the national iCorps program will help extend NEF's visibility on both the local and national levels."

Viktor started his career in financial and strategic planning roles in the computer industry with IBM and Computervision. Subsequently he co-founded the Devonshire Trust Company, a Registered Investment Act of 1940 compliant financial services company. At this mutual fund company, his responsibilities centered on daily operations, investor reporting and regulatory compliance. SInce the sale of Devonshire, he has focused on consulting and coaching early stage companies, with an emphasis on employing a customer discovery based approach to business planning.

Viktor is fully entrenched in the local entrepreneurial community. He is an active member of the New Enterprise Forum Program Committee. Additionally, he has participated in the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps program as a business mentor and was recently named to the NSF’s national teaching team. He is currently the Director of Ann Arbor SPARK’s Entrepreneurial Boot Camp and a mentor to students in the Masters of Entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan.

Viktor has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania, (Economics & Psychology) and a Master in Business Administration (Finance & Marketing) from Boston College.

The premier Michigan event for Innovators came to downtown Detroit Tues., November 12 to Fri., November 15! More than $1 million in cash and prizes were awarded to early stage entrepreneurs to foster their growth within Michigan.

Companies coached by NEF were well-represented in the awards ceremony, starting with Varsity News Networks (NEF Showcase Presenter, Jan 2012) which won the $500k Grand Prize. Other companies that NEF has coached which won prizes were: AutoBike (Next Generation Manufacturing sector), ENT Biotech Solutions (Medical Devices sector), and PlanReaction (IT sector).

Keynote

Carla Harris, Mng. Dir. Morgan Stanley, brought to AMIC by Inforum. 5:00 p.m. “The changing landscape for women entrepreneurs and the increasing investment opportunities in Detroit and MI”

Gala Keynote

Tony Scott, CIO, VMware (previously with MicroSoft, Disney) 8:15 p.m. “How creative vision and leadership can profoundly shape the technology-enabled

Several NEF Showcase Presenters were among the semi-finalist companies: Eco-Fueling, Ornicept, Patient Provider Communications, ONL Therapeutics, GANTEC, MitoStem, Blaze Medical Devices, Algal Scientific, Coliant Corp., and Brio Device.

Event sponsors included New Economy Initiative for SE MI; SPARK Ann Arbor; Automation Alley; Macomb OU Incubator; TechTown Detroit; Pure Michigan; Quicken Loans; DTE Energy; Next En- ergy; Masco; Brooks Kushman; Cascade Partners; Growth Capital Network; Spring Management; El Sevier; MCRN; and Michigan’s URC.

For more info visit http://www.acceleratemichigan.org/

ACE ’14 – January 30, 2014 – Burton Manor, Livonia, MI

Join an exciting, forward-thinking community of innovators, entrepreneurs, and business leaders for learning, connecting, and fun! Sign up now for entrepreneur exhibits, the opportunity to pitch to a panel of judges, and break-out sessions on hot entrepreneurial topics -- along with great food and low-cost networking with 1000+ of your fellow regional entrepreneurs!

Ace will host the premier of NEF’s Pitch Pit for Entrepreneurs. Apply for a spot at https://www.messageblocks.com/pitch-pit. To register for ACE ‘14, visit http://www.ace-event.org

GLEQ News

Document Submissions for GLEQ Fall Business Plan Competition  are due December 16. Upload to www.gleq.org by 5 p.m.

The MI-SBTDC Greater Washtenaw Region has moved to the main campus at Washtenaw Community College, where it offers many excellent services for entrepreneurial companies. One-on-one counseling is a no-cost service for individuals who want to develop a new venture or improve, revitalize or expand their companies. Also available is an extensive library of online market research resources, as well as a full calendar of low-cost training sessions throughout the area on how to successfully grow your small business at all stages of development.

For information and schedule of MI-SBTDC seminars, please visit https://www.misbtdc.net/events.aspx

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