U-M Tech Transfer, the unit responsible for commercializing University of Michigan research discoveries and innovations, will create the Accelerate Blue Fund to provide seed capital to nascent U-M startup companies. The nonprofit, philanthropic fund will be initially funded with $250,000 in donations secured for this purpose. A fundraising effort is being launched with a goal of at least $20 million in additional gifts. The fund will begin accepting startup investment applications after it has raised $2 million.

The new fund fills a gap for seed capital for startups whose products have early market validation, a strong value proposition, a feasible commercial path, at least one founder focused on the venture, and a good chance at follow-on funding or exit within two years of securing seed capital.

The Accelerate Blue Fund will be supervised by a fund manager and guided by an investment advisory board. The board will be chaired by Chris Rizik, a Law School alumnus and CEO of Renaissance Venture Capital. “It’s wonderful to see U-M bring additional investment capital into our ecosystem,” Rizik said. “It is addressing a critical need.”

For more details see The University RECORD.


Valerie Obenchain, founder of Advanced Interactive Response Systems (AIRS), was notified in August by officials in Australia that she had been granted a patent for the company's main product, an oxygen flow monitor for those using oxygen tanks. News of this latest milestone for the Michigan-based company was covered in an article in Crain's Detroit Business. The company already has patents in the US and is anticipating FDA approval in the near future. Obenchain has previously raised over one half million from investors and is now pursuing a Series A funding round.

Valerie Obenchain was the Showcase presenter at the New Enterprise Forum in November 2014. Obenchain, a registered respiratory therapist, said at the time that "NEF set me up with an amazing coaching team that helped with AIRS' presentation. They gave me guidance on how to tell the story about why AIRS was started."

Crain's Detroit Business reported that Venture Investors LLC has closed on its latest fund, the $75 million Venture Investors Health Fund VI LP. Crain's quotes Jim Adox as saying "In our prior funds, we invested in a mix of health care and technology. For this fund, we made the decision to go 100 percent to health care." Jim Adox is based in Ann Arbor and will be the executive managing director of the fund. The article goes on to explore the recent history of Southeast Michigan's strength in health care venture investing.

The New Enterprise Forum has also seen a surge in healthcare-focused startups in recent years. Several founders of healthcare startups have benefited from NEF coaching. Showcase presenters with healthcare solutions have included InheRET, Genomenon, Workit Health, Spellbound, Advaita, eScapes Network, Smile Bond, Pathware (MedKairos), EagleView Imaging, and Carrot Pass. Several of these companies have gone on to successful fund raising rounds while others are still in the process of pitching to potential investors.

CEO Kim Gamez and Mi Padrino were the subject of a enthusiastic article published online by Forbes Magazine on September 4, 2019. Entitled "Diverse Cultural Celebrations Are A Huge Market Opportunity", the article by Geri Stengel relates the origin story of the Ann Arbor-based startup and describes how the company to has grown to serve 500,000 users with the help of $1.5M capital raise.

Kim Gamez was the Showcase presenter at New Enterprise Forum in July 2017. Mi Padrino® is an event planning service to help parents and families organize, plan, and fund events celebrated in the Hispanic tradition, including Quinceañeras.

Ann Arbor-based Genomenon has won a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). Funding from the grant, valued at $152,946, will go toward creating a platform for producing and sharing “micropublications” across the genomics research community, as well as continuing Genomenon’s efforts to automate variant interpretation based on data from published studies. The news was covered in Clinical OMICS .

“This grant allows us to build on the work from our last successful NIH funding to increase the automation of variant interpretation and allow users to rapidly share their findings across the scientific community.” said Genomenon’s Co-founder and CSO, Dr. Mark Kiel in statement on the company's website. “This automated micropublication platform will help accelerate the sharing of knowledge as more and more genomic research is being published every year.

Genomenon's CEO Mike Klein was the Showcase presenter at New Enterprise Forum in June 2017. Earlier this year, Genomenon announced that it had completed a $2.5M equity financing round. Investors in that round included IrishAngels, H. W. Kaufman Group, and all of Genomenon’s earlier investors.

Team posters, banners and other Michigan basketball memorabilia provide a colorful theme for the decor of Anne Perigo's office at the Ross School of Business. It is perhaps not too surprising that an Ann Arbor native who graduated from Pioneer High and has a BBA from the University would be an enthusiastic fan of the hoops team and of both departing coach Beilein and incoming coach Howard.

As Associate Director of the Zell Lurie Institute, Perigo is responsible for several non-curricular programs at the business school that promote entrepreneurial activity among students, including the Michigan Business Challenge and the Michigan Investment Challenge. "I love my job," Perigo says, citing her "great satisfaction in working with students, helping them to learn and to achieve their goals."

Perigo also serves on the board of the New Enterprise Forum, acting as a key liaison between the Institute and the non-profit group, finding opportunities for synergy between two organizations focused on promoting entrepreneurship. Perigo credits the NEF with helping to "build an entrepreneurial community" through its events and programs. As a naturally curious person, she enjoys participating in NEF coaching sessions where she often learns new things from the local entrepreneurs and from the other coaches.

Perigo's Ann Arbor connections run deep. Early in her career, she was responsible for commercial lending at a regional bank, supporting growing businesses in the area. Perigo and her husband have four children, all of whom attended Ann Arbor Public Schools, and also care for several pets.

Four startup founders gave fascinating presentations at the July edition of New Enterprise Forum but is was Raeanna Lewarne of who took home the prize. Judges praised her very thorough and confident presentation of her business plan for a website that connects medical and non-medical healthcare professionals with hospitals and other employers for contract work.

The judging panel included Kim Brown of Duo Security, Ashwin Puri of Invest Detroit Ventures, and Paul Riser Jr. of Techtown Detroit.

The enthusiastic audience gathered at Ann Arbor Spark on Thursday evening opened up their wallets and tossed over $300 into the prize money bucket.

Workit Health announced this month that it has been awarded grant funding through the Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) Access Points Project, managed by the Center at Sierra Health Foundation. This funding will be used to expand Workit’s digital medication-assisted treatment program in California, and launch pilot partnerships with emergency departments in key California counties.

“Workit Health’s digital opioid use disorder program allows us to go quickly into the communities lacking evidence-based care, and plug-in where needed with emergency departments and health care providers,” Lisa McLaughlin, Workit’s Co-Founder says. “We know MAT treatment works, and Workit’s outcomes show digital treatment is as effective as rehab.”

Headquartered in Ann Arbor, Workit Health is an addiction healthcare company offering online, on-demand evidence-based addiction treatment including telehealth medication for opioid use disorder. Co-Founder Lisa McLaughlin is a graduate of the NEF coaching program and was the Showcase Presenter at the July 2018 Forum.

University of Michigan startup InheRET Inc. has launched an online program that helps identify patients at risk for hereditary cancers without a visit to the doctor. InheRET’s cancer risk evaluation program was tested in a pilot at Michigan Medicine where more than 500 patients have completed the health history form. The program is now available to the general public and to health care facilities on a subscription basis.

InheRET Founder Dr. David Keren was the Showcase Presenter at the January 2019 New Enterprise Forum. Dr. Keren is enthusiastic about the help he got from the NEF coaching process. "It dramatically improved our focus and our pitch," he wrote recently.

The company has made great strides since that January presentation. “It’s amazing the progress that the InheRET team has made since launching the company this past December,” said Bryce Pilz, director of licensing for U-M Tech Transfer, quoted in Michigan News. “In just six month’s time, they’ve launched their hereditary risk assessment tool and are making a positive difference in the lives of people, and that’s incredibly gratifying to see.”

For more information about the company and its innovative services, visit

Invest Detroit Ventures (ID Ventures) recently announced that it has received significant philanthropic support to begin the effort to turn its First Capital Fund into a sustainable, evergreen fund that will support early-stage Michigan startups for years to come. With $3 million from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, $2.5 million from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC), and $11 million in assets funded to date, ID Ventures kicks off a fund-raising effort to pool enough philanthropic support to create a sustainable source of early capital for Michigan's diverse, under-represented entrepreneurs and technology start-ups committed to bolstering the local economy.

Patti Glaza, an NEF Board Member and senior vice president and managing director at Invest Detroit Ventures, observed that "With demand rising and availability of local seed capital extremely limited, we recognize a need to build greater funding capacity and to fill this critical funding gap today and into future decades."

Read more about this exciting development here.