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.

After more than thirty years in a very successful career as an ad man and business executive, David Maas is giving back. This Michigan native, car fanatic, and Wolverine fan now makes time to volunteer with the New Enterprise Forum and other organizations to help foster entrepreneurship in the Detroit and Ann Arbor areas. After hearing about the business coaching organization from several colleagues, David started attending NEF meetings in 2018 and found himself in easy conversation with a welcoming group of interesting people. Over the past several months he has thrown himself into NEF’s signature coaching process, working with a team of volunteer coaches to help a local entrepreneur refine his investor pitch. “I like the well-defined process,” explains David, “and the opportunity to make a difference.”

David was an advertising executive for decades with the J. Walter Thompson agency, working in several different industries, and then spent several more years as a general manager with a large auto parts company. In addition to his volunteer activities he also pursues consulting projects where his branding expertise can add value. As the winner of eight prestigious Effie awards over his career, David has now been asked to moderate final round Effie judging and to assist with the Effie Collegiate program.

David lives in Grosse Pointe with his wife Karen Fontanive who writes for the local paper and is active in community affairs. They both love to travel. Michigan football is also a passion, so David frequently travels to games with his roommates from his college days in Ann Arbor. David is always in the process of restoring one or more classic cars and recently shared a photo of himself with one of his favorites.

The 38th annual Midwest Growth Capital Symposium took place over two days in May 2019 and featured a number of companies who had completed the NEF coaching process and had previous experience as Showcase presenters at the New Enterprise Forum. MGCS is the longest running university-based venture fair of its kind. The MGCS company showcase this year featured 33 Midwest companies that are seeking seed, series A, and series B rounds of funding. More than 400 attendees were expected, comprising early-stage companies that span the Life Sciences and Technology sectors, angel investors, venture capitalists and technology transfer professionals from several dozen top-ranked Midwest Universities.  

Presenting companies that were graduates of the formal NEF coaching process included MiPadrino, Melius Outcomes, and Ripple Science. NEF members also supported most of the other presenting companies by meeting with them at the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies in the weeks ahead of the event, providing feedback on their pitch presentations. Several NEF members attended the two day event and were active participants in sessions at the Marriott Eagle Crest Resort in Ypsilanti.

NEF Board members caught on camera at the event included Paul Henchey, Francis Glorie, Gary Hessenaur, Lee Gorman, Scott Taylor, April Davis and Vic Havele.

Advaita Bioinformatics, provider of the industry-leading gene expression and genomic variation analysis platform, recently announced a new partnership with Millennium Science for distribution of Advaita’s software to research institutions and pharma companies across Australia and New Zealand. Millennium Science is replacing Qiagen’s Ingenuity products with iPathwayGuide and iVariantGuide products for all pathway and variant analysis. The deal is a three-year commitment. Millennium Science is converting its current clients to Advaita products and selling new cloud-based subscriptions to new customers immediately. For more information visit Advaita's website.

Advaita’s CEO Sorin Draghici was the Showcase presenter at the New Enterprise Forum in April 2018. Advaita recently celebrated the fifth anniversary of the launch of its world-class pathway analysis software, iPathwayGuide.


Spellbound Founder and CEO Christina York says, "You are never done working on your pitch." York was a Showcase Presenter at the May 2017 New Enterprise Forum and has been pitching practically every day since then.

In a video recently distributed by the Michigan Economic Development Council, the NEF alum shares this takeaway and other advice for startup entrepreneurs. York's other tips address maximizing the use of local and state resources in the early stages of company growth, and avoiding pitfalls related to company culture. For more tips, read the article on the MEDC website.


Spellbound is pioneering a new patient experience that improves patient understanding, cooperation, and satisfaction using augmented reality technology in pediatric care. Spellbound is now used by child life specialists, rehabilitation engineers and nurses across the United States and around the world in countries like Kenya and Japan. More information about Spellbound's solutions and its traction with customers can be found at

Ann Arbor SPARK recently recognized Groundspeed Analytics as its 2019 Entrepreneurial Services Company of the Year Award Winner. This was just the latest of many awards for this fast growing startup. Just a year ago, the New Enterprise Forum presented Groundspeed Founder and Co-CEO Jeff Mason with its 2017 NEF Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

Formed in early 2016, this innovative InsurTech company utilizes machine learning to transform unstructured commercial insurance documents into actionable intelligence. By making the process more accurate and efficient, insurance carriers and brokers now have a game-changing tool to advance their information advantage. Groundspeed closed a $30 million Series-B investment from Oak HC/FT in July, 2018. The investment is being deployed to accelerate product development and customer success.

As it started up, Groundspeed benefited from many services of the Ann Arbor entrepreneurial ecosystem, including Ann Arbor Spark's Entrepreneur Bootcamp and coaching by the New Enterprise Forum. Jeff Mason and his colleagues tell their story in a YouTube video.

A communal breakfast of waffles and bacon to kickoff casual Friday is just one of the many pluses of the new co-working space where April Davis now operates her Breakout Marketing Group, a consulting firm she founded 20 years ago. April enjoys the opportunities to chat with other professionals in the office while she works hard on developing her own marketing services business, focused on optimizing social media and customer engagement. Recently she treated a visitor to a fine cup of cold brew coffee while seated at her desk overlooking the Briarwood neighborhood in Ann Arbor.

April caught the entrepreneurial bug early in her life and started multiple enterprises in her home town of Buffalo, NY. She moved to Michigan in 2000 and since then has earned degrees in business and marketing from Washtenaw Community College and Eastern Michigan University. April works with companies in a range of industries but is particularly focused on mobility ventures in the automotive space. She hopes to expand her business into global markets over the next few years and is developing contacts in China and Brazil as well as Canada and England.

April joined the Board of the New Enterprise Forum at the beginning of 2019 and has quickly taken on an active role in the organization. She is currently the impresario for the NEF’s Pitch Pit competitions, recruiting budding entrepreneurs and experienced judges for these events that NEF presents every other month. April is also using her marketing skills to help expand NEF’s social media presence. April sees her volunteering with NEF as one important part of her broader effort to “invest in relationships” and “be a part of the ecosystem”, planting seeds that will blossom in the future.

In addition to all her professional activities, April makes time for nature walks and enjoys baking and wine tasting. If you are lucky you might even find one of her Aunt Hazel lemon pudding cakes at a local restaurant.