The Innovation Fund is a $2.7 million effort to stimulate economic development and job growth among promising Detroit-area entrepreneurs and next-stage businesses with high growth potential. Awards of $25,000 will be distributed to start-up businesses to assist with market introduction and awards up to $100,000 will be given to advance the progress of emerging companies toward larger-scale equity funding. The larger awards must be matched dollar for dollar by the company to the Innovation Fund. Funding is provided by Macomb Community College’s Strategic Fund and JPMorgan Chase, as part of their $100 million commitment to Detroit’s economic recovery, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co.
“Entrepreneurs are helping to drive Detroit’s economic revival,” said Chauncy Lennon, Head of Workforce Initiatives, JPMorgan Chase. “JPMorgan Chase is proud to support these innovative businesses that will support job growth, skills development and innovation in the region for years to come.”
The companies funded by the Innovation Fund are required to provide internships or learning experiences for Macomb Community College students. Students will not only have the opportunity to develop valuable workplace skills, but will also gain first-hand exposure to the entrepreneurial process.
“This first cycle of the Innovation Fund awards attracted a dynamic group of entrepreneurs with a wide range of promising concepts in an engaging and competitive process,” said Dr. James Jacobs, President, Macomb Community College. “The robust level of participation and quality of applicants in our inaugural round of funding underscores the importance of the Innovation Fund’s unique approach – pairing early access to capital and education – to building a strong regional entrepreneurial ecosphere that accelerates economic development and job growth.”
The five companies awarded funding were selected from a field of 30 qualified applicants. They went through a two-stage process, pitching first to a screening committee. The highest-rated companies moved onto a Selection Committee comprised of area professionals with experience in business management, finance, law, marketing and technology, who made final award recommendations.
Receiving awards of $25,000, which are designed to support early-stage companies, are:
AQUASIGHT (Rochester Hills/ Oakland County) – A real-time intelligence solution for water pumping systems that can be applied to surface and ground water systems, as well as wastewater pumping stations, to identify performance issues that, once corrected, conserve energy and water. Currently, five percent of U.S. energy is employed in pumping and moving water, and 70 percent of this energy is related to pumping systems.
GAP Quality Systems (Southfield/ Oakland County) – An automated process for inspecting chrome-plated and high-gloss painted parts to replace the automotive industry’s current “human” visual inspection process. The computer-aided visual inspection process will allow for establishment of numeric standards recognized by both supplier and customer, reducing waste of parts and environmental impact.
KTISIS (Sterling Heights/ Macomb County) – A composite container system to enable fleet vehicles to use either compressed natural gas or liquefied gas. Leveraging NASA technology related to advanced composite materials and manufacturing technologies, the universal storage system maximizes the existing natural gas refueling infrastructure.
Receiving awards of $100,000, designed to advance the progress of emerging companies toward larger-scale funding, are:
MyFab5 (Ann Arbor/ Washtenaw County) – An online marketing platform that streamlines social media marketing for restaurants. The software provides a single dashboard that automates or streamlines creation of custom marketing plans, analyzing audience, generating leads, creating and publishing social media posts, tracking and engaging fans, and creating analytics reports.
TurtleCell (Ann Arbor/ Washtenaw County) – A thin-profile smartphone case with retractable headphones, designed as an all-in-one solution to tangled, broken and lost headphones.