Thursday, May 15, saw the latest iteration of the New Enterprise Forum’s “Pitch Pit” competition. Three budding entrepreneurs presented their early-stage ideas to a packed house and a panel of expert judges.

Wesley Steen, of Soup Spoon, demonstrated how his prototype spoons made eating dramatically easier for people with motor skill problems. One spoon had a built in suction capability to capture liquids that was especially impressive. Denis Foo Kune, of Virtalabs, explained how his malware detection device identified security threat through power fluctuations without violating hospital equipment warranties. After listening to his presentation, it was clear how his product fills a critical technology gap in using sophisticated equipment in operating rooms, critical care units and more. Karthik Raman, of Devices for the Elderly, showed how his ergonomic stool was the perfect tool for senior to safely and easily reach items on shelves. Through customer discovery his design gives the elderly what they want in counter intuitive ways to those of s who do not understand their core needs.

The judging panel asked numerous probing questions while also offering invaluable advice on how to move these business ideas forward. After much deliberation, the judges chose Denis Foo Kune of Virtalabs, as the winner of the $213 audience contributed award. The next Pitch Pit competition will take place on July 24 when NEF will host another group of entrepreneurs with compelling ideas. The session will take place at Ann Arbor SPARK, Lower Level, 330 E. Liberty Street, Ann Arbor.


Throughout the month of May, New Enterprise Forum coaches are providing presentation feedback to Michigan Growth Capital Symposium finalist teams. Taking place on June 17 & 18, the MGCS offers high-growth companies the opportunity to get their message out to a large audience of early stage investors and support providers. NEF’s focus on helping entrepreneurs communicate more effectively is designed to increase companies positive outcomes with potential investors attending the annual Michigan Growth Capital Symposium. Hosted by the University of Michigan, the symposium offers start-ups a good opportunity to network and present their message to an audience of investors that otherwise would not be easily accessible to them. The companies span a wide breadth of sectors, including medical devices, software systems, alternative energy, automotive, electronics and industrial processes.

Coaching teams are comprised of members from the Michigan Small Business Development Corporation as well as NEF board members. The teams meet with 30 or more companies over the course of two weeks for one to three hour sessions that may include follow-on sessions. Entrepreneurs refine their speaking points about what they do in a way that investors expect to hear and are offered suggestions for improvement from the coaching team. As a result of this coaching, the quality of the presentations over the past five years has dramatically improved.


The New Enterprise Forum is happy to announce the election of Shue-Jane Gallagher to its Board of Directors. Ms. Gallagher is highly experienced in issues related to start up businesses through her work at TechTown Detroit. Bill McPherson, President of the Forum said “Having Shue-Jane on our board will only work to strengthen and grow the positive relationship between TechTown and the New Enterprise Forum. We welcome her and look forward to her involvement.”

Sheu-Jane Gallagher is the Director of Entrepreneurial Services at TechTown Detroit, the business growth center located in Detroit’s midtown district. As director, she supports entrepreneurs developing tech-based startups. Sheu-Jane also works with local universities, including Wayne State and University of Detroit Mercy, to figure out how to take their research to the marketplace.

Prior to TechTown, Sheu-Jane has held various positions in the automotive industry with Ford Motor Co. and Decoma International, and taught mechanical engineering at Wayne State University. She holds a PhD in mechanical engineering from Rutgers University with a special expertise in biomedical engineering.

Sheu-Jane lives on Detroit’s east riverfront with her husband John and enjoys sailing on the Detroit River and bicycling on Belle Isle.

Project Startup Live is a series of entrepreneurship forums bringing together some of the best and brightest minds in three US cities. It is a new multi-platform brand initiative focused on supporting the new American entrepreneur. Following it’s appearance in Utah, Project Startup will appear in Detroit at TechTown before heading to Boston for the final show.

A live panel discussion will be followed by a pitch competition featuring three local businesses vying for $10,000 in cash prizes, two free years of Comcast Business services (ERV $10,000), and a free consultation with RocketHub CEO, Brian Meece.

This is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs to learn about what it takes to succeed whether they are currently being coached by a NEF team or not.

To learn more visit

On May 13, 2014 the MIT Enterprise Forum Great Lakes will launch their program: Space, STEM & The Stars, a discussion of the critical role of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) education plays in the on-going discoveries of new technologies. Panelists will relate how our exploration of outer space has led to advancements in areas as wide ranging as medical devices and alternative fuel to athletic equipment and communications.

Speakers will include Challenger Shuttle Astronaut Tony England, Cosmologist Katie Freese, CEO John Cole with NPR's Shellie Irwin as moderator. The event takes place from 5:30 PM - 9PM and will be held jointly at UM Dearborn, Borg Warner Auditorium (4901 Evergreen Road, Dearborn) and on the campus of Grand Valley State University, Pere Marquette Room, (1 Campus Way, Allendale, Michigan). Those unable to attend at those locations can connect remotely via the E-Attend portal. Registration is required, please visit for additional information.

The evening promises to be an entertaining look at how technology for space exploration has not only affected our current lives but also promises to drive future entrepreneurial endeavors. 

Brad Edmondson will be speaking about his book, "Ice Cream Social: The Fight For Ben & Jerry's Soul", at Nicola's Book on Thursday, May 8, 2014 at 7PM. Mr Edmondson's book chronicles the challenges of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Company efforts to balance the founders desire to support social causes with the demands of sharing their success with shareholders, employees, distributors, suppliers and even their cows. The book provides a history of the company, from start-up in a renovated Burlington Vermont gas station to present day. The book highlights the challenges of the company staying true to its social mission after being acquired by consumer giant Unilever. Mr. Edmondson interviews numerous Ben & Jerry's figures, including current Chairman of the Board, Jeff Furman.

For more information please visit:

Nicola's Books is located in Westgate Shopping Center, 2513 Jackson Avenue, Ann Arbor Michigan (734-662-0600)

The Martin Prosperity Institute recently produced an interesting study of Venture Capital called  “Start-Up City The Urban Shift in Venture Capital  and  High Technology”.  It concluded that Venture Capital Activity and the businesses being funded are now being concentrated in larger metropolitan areas.  As expected the San Francisco and environs and the Boston to Washington DC Area saw significant investment and a large number of deals.  However, now New York City which previously was a large source of funds but not the location of the actual businesses has now become a home of many of these businesses. San Francisco actually led the country.   That and the fact that more of these businesses are actually locating in large cities is a new trend. 

Another that is of particular interest to us is that several cities with large universities are leaders on a per capita basis in both dollars invested and in numbers of deals.  So while Austin, Texas and the research triangle in North Carolina have always been leaders in investments and deals the study notes that Bolder Colorado, Lawrence, Kansas and Ann Arbor Michigan are significant for their activity. Ann Arbor placed 11th in the dollar amount of investment per 100,000 of population at $24.1M and 5th in the country with 6.4 deals per 100,000 of population.  

The New Enterprise Forum provides free investment presentation consulting services to early stage companies. If you are interested in learning more and taking advantage of our services, please visit and submit your contact information.

Ansgar Strother, CEO of A2B Bikshare, an Ann Arbor Michigan based transportation start-up focusing on healthy and green solution to urban commuting, announced a pilot project with the city of Fairbanks Alaska during his New Enterprise Forum Showcase presentation on April 17th. The initial phase of this project will include 250 bicycles and necessary docking stations.

Strother used his Showcase presentation to highlight the significant advantages that A2B has in the marketplace. By moving the technology to the bicycle and away from the station A2B projects 60% reductions in capital outlays for municipalities. It's patent pending, Smart-Bike, Dumb-Rack, system will allow consumers to rent bicycles with the swipe of a credit card and return them to any of A2B's stations.

The A2B Bikeshare management team consists of Ansgar Strother a University of Michigan educated engineer, along with Carl Vitullo (CTO) formerly of Barracuda Networks and MarketSource Inc. The team worked closely with a group of NEF coaches to prepare their investor presentation. 



Lee Gorman, a New Enterprise Forum Director since 2012, has been elected to the Ann Arbor State Bank Board of Directors.   Ann Arbor State Bank is a community bank which serves local small businesses and individuals with personalized customer service.

As an entrepreneurial service provider, Lee likes the symmetry of being involved with A2SB, which was a startup itself in 2008.  “The people at Ann Arbor State Bank are experts in small business, and they are dedicated to serving the local community.  Becoming more familiar with their work will allow me to help my startup clients understand what it takes to be bankable, and find the resources they need when they are ready.”

Lee works with many Entrepreneurial Service Organizations in addition to NEF.  She is an advisor and consultant at Ann Arbor SPARK, mentors at the Center for Entrepreneurship, and was 2011 Coach of the Year for Great Lakes Entrepreneur’s Quest.

Steve Schwartz, a serial entrepreneur, was recently elected to the NEF Board. Steve graduated from Kettering University (formerly General Motors Institute) as a Mechanical and Electrical Engineer. He founded his first company, selling used car parts, as a freshman in college. In 2007, he co-founded RateMyStudentRental, which sold private-label software to colleges and universities to help improve off-campus housing. He is now the managing member at Alfa Jango, which provides technology leadership and development resources for early-stage companies.

NEF Board member Diane Durance and President of MIQuest (formerly GLEQ) indicated that, “Steve is a past GLEQ winner of the New Business Idea award for and he will bring a lot of energy and a new perspective to the NEF Board.”