There were four entrepreneurs who pitched at the January NEF Forum. First up was Colt Correa of Digibit who brought his family to demonstrate how Digibit games keep kids engaged, exercising, and entertained. The product is not WiFi dependent, is battery powered, and is intended for the Nintendo users 8 - 15 years of age.

Curtis McFall, of Camp Gig was next and explained how his employment platform meets the needs of summer camp owners in locating talented employees. The platform is a data base of domestic staff including profiles, photos, and videos where employers can search to fill openings.

Erin Barbossa of Intuissa followed Curtis and explained that there is a lack of preventative mental health therapy programs in the industry. Stress causes $500 billion in lost productivity. Her solution is a B2B program offering proactive, individual, and on-sight psychotherapists to mitigate problems before they occur.

The last presenter was Brad Wilson of Write About. As a teacher, he observed the lack of interest students have for writing because traditional methods to encourage them are boring. Students want to write about things that interest them. Thus, the Write About platform was born to encourage students to write by suggesting topics. Students who participated increased their writing frequency by 50%. Early adopters are teachers who encourage school districts to purchase. 

The judges had their work cut out for them, but decided that Brad Wilson of Write About was the winner of the $230 prize. Congratulations to Brad and all of the entrepreneurs for a great job. 

At the January NEF Forum, Chris Lin, CEO of Mandy and Pandy, explained how his teaching tools makes learning Chinese fun for young children. China and the U.S. are the world's largest economies and largest trading partners. Kids who learn Chinese will have a competitive advantage in the future global economic environment. Yet, there is a large shortage of Chinese teaching programs in the U.S. language education industry. The Mandy and Pandy Curriculum was developed for American kids to have fun, engage, and learn interactively as opposed to rote memorization. Included in the materials is a unique character training app that teaches kids how to correctly write Chinese characters. Chris has identified several school districts to sell his curriculum. So far, Mandy and Pandy has traction with Dexter, Ann Arbor Districts, and Oakland County Schools. Look for them on Amazon.  A TV show is planned to launch in 2021 to achieve rapid revenue growth for the company. Visit them at: 

On Jan 11, 2018 in an Xconomy article, Sarah Schmid Stevenson let readers know what the exciting progress has been for Cahoots, a new 24,000 square foot technology hub located on Huron Street in Ann Arbor. Read More 

In an article by Avni Patel Thompson, published by Geekwire on Jan 7, 2018, a caution flag is thrown onto the field of advisory boards for startups. Everyone has opinions. It is the up to the entrepreneur to discern which advice they should take. But how do you tell the difference? Read More

In a Jan. 3, 2018 article on the Xconomy website, Benjamin Romano wrote about what six west coast tech leaders thought about the most important 2017 developments in their areas of expertise which included machine learning, digital health, blockchain & cryptocurrency and computer science. Read More 

In a Jan. 2, 2018 article on the Ann Arbor SPARK website, Joe Licavoli gave an interesting review of what is new at SPARK East.  "The big news is that in 2017 not only did we paint the inside and outside of SPARK East but the Ann Arbor Ypsilanti SmartZone was one of only three SmartZones in Michigan to receive a 15-year funding extension. You will see some substantial changes at SPARK Est in 2018 but rest assured that we will still have the same great coffee! Read More 

Here are some key statistics on how NEF made a difference in 2017:

  • NEF provides coaching and business plan review support to over 14 programs and events.  
  • In the past year, NEF-coached companies secured over $24.7M in equity funding!
  • This is in addition to $2.5M in government funding.
  • NEF coaches approximately 12 companies a year. A company who completes the program does a final presentation at our monthly forum. 

NEF also provides coaching, judging, teaching and business plan review for a variety of competitions and entrepreneurial programs:

TechTown DTX, Desai Accelerator, Michigan Angel Fund, SPARK Education Series, China Business Challenge, Ann Arbor SPARK Boot Camp, Wayne State Entrepreneurial Program, Zell Lurie Entrepreneurship Challenge, Michigan Growth Capital Symposium (MGCS), Annual Collaboration for Entrepreneurship (ACE), Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition (AMIC), Crain's Detroit Homecoming Urban Entrepreneurship Showcase, Global Automotive and Mobility Innovation Challenge (GAMIC), and David Brophy's Financing Technology Commercialization course at University of Michigan 

  • Other awards and recognition for NEF-coached companies
    • Advanced Interactive Response System - top 2017 ACE prize
    • MySwimPro $40K grand prize at the Green Light Michigan Business Model Competition; named the Best App of 2016 for the Apple Watch
    • Melius Outcomes - 2017 MedHealth Summit prize
    • Varsity News Network – one of Endeavor’s 34 high-impact entrepreneurs at its 66th International Selection Panel (ISP)
    • Civionics - ‘Elite Entrepreneur’ on the TiE list of Top-20 Early Stage Startups at TiEcon Midwest
    • Ten of the 36 semi- finalists and 2 of the finalists for the 2017 Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition (AMIC) are NEF-coached companies
    • Seven of the 2017 Michigan Growth Capital Symposium (MGCS) presenters were NEF-coached companies
    • Civionix and Genomenon selected as finalists for Rise of the Rest

In a recent email, Candace Chapman, ContentOro VP of Marketing, shared the good news. “We are thrilled to finally be able to announce a strategic partnership we have been working on for months! The news is out that we are now partners with NewsCred, the global leader in enterprise content marketing, and they love what we do! We have already been working with them to find content for several of their enterprise customers - Content they cannot get themselves. This is a huge validation of our product and future potential! Please Note! We have extended the Netcapital raise period to December 23. [We] thank all of you for your continued support of ContentOro.”

“Here is the release:

ContentOro was coached by NEF and presented at the forum in September 2015. wins $25,000 as "Best of" Ann Arbor SPARK Boot Camp. 

December 07, 2017 03:32 PM Eastern Standard Time 

ANN ARBOR, MICH. - (BUSINESS WIRE) - At the conclusion of its latest Entrepreneur Boot Camp, Ann Arbor SPARK awarded its $25,000 Best of Boot Camp prize and Breath of Life its $10,000 runner up prize. The winners were selected by an esteemed panel of experts, based on the business's investor pitch. Read More

At the NEF November forum meeting, Scott Taylor, Steve Schwartz and Michael Sherman changed things up a bit when discussing Entrepreneurs’ Tech War Stories. Each of them put the audience in the entrepreneur’s driver seat by using real-world examples of company technology dilemmas and then asked the audience to choose what they would do. The room was divided into two groups and then asked to defend their position. In each of the scenarios, more information became available and the audience could change sides based on new facts. For those who changed their positions, they were asked why. Needless to say, they kept us all guessing. It was surprising to learn how similar the points of the audience and the entrepreneur’s management team were. In the end, the audience was told what position the company chose. However, some of the decisions will not play out for years to come which highlighted the point of the exercise in that entrepreneurs make decisions today that can sink the business tomorrow. It all depends on the information available at the time of the decision and the flexibility of the company to adapt to changes in that information to either stay the course or chose a different path.