Late last month, student-run startups from the Blackstone LaunchPad incubator gathered for pitch competition on the campus of Wayne State University (WSU). The startups were able to pitch for up to $5,000 in funding from the Warrior Fund, WSU’s pre-seed fund to support student tech startups. Blackstone, which operates on the campuses of WSU and Walsh College in Troy, MI, is dedicated to taking a raw business idea from any student and helping them shape it into a viable startup.
The four winners of investment from the Warrior Fund are:
SIB Medical: Aubrey Agee, Blackstone’s senior program administrator, says this startup is spun out of technology developed at Wayne State University. The tissue preservation device was invented by professors in the medical school, but three students, including one theater major, are attempting to commercialize it. The students plan to use their $5,000 in prize money to license the tech from WSU, and the first market they hope to penetrate is early detection of colorectal cancer.
AskSupportNow: Agee says this company was founded by one student and one non-student who both worked in the Detroit Medical Center’s IT department. They saw a lot of recurring issues on the job and decided to develop software that could determine some of common helpdesk issues and proactively make repairs. AskSupportNow serves consumers through its online help desk. Agee says the company, which won $5,000, has 64 customers already and . Agee says companies must prove scalability to receive an investment from the Warrior Fund, which is exactly what AskSupportNow will begin working on.
Girls With Guts: Agee says this company was founded by a young woman who has inflammatory bowel disease. She had undergone several surgeries to treat her condition and, in the process, linked up with others with the disease and created an online support group for girls and women. Now, Girls With Guts is looking to add in-person, local support to go along with the web support groups. The company will use its $5,000 investment in pursuit of this goal.
Signal Techtronics: Started by engineering students, this startup has invented a special kind of LED lightbulb. The Warrior Fund awarded the founders $2,000 for their efforts. “They’re applying for a patent now,” Agee says. “They’ve leased space at the Russell Industrial Center. They live there, so they they live, eat, breathe, and sleep LED lightbulbs.”
Agee noted that last year, the Warrior Fund had $25,000 to give out, and this year they’ve attracted a little more money to disperse. On top of the $25,000 grant from the Michigan Initiative for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the additional money includes $5,000 from Lakeland Ventures; $2,500 from Detroit Venture Partners, and $1,000 each from Bizdom and NextEnergy. All winners are from the Blackstone LaunchPad. Agee says so far, over the life of Blackstone, 280 business ideas have been submitted and 20 companies who have received mentorship are making a profit.
“The whole point of the Warrior Fund is to encourage the students to do the work and get them VC-ready,” Agee adds. “I’m really proud of our winners and I’ll work with them to make the business as competitive as possible.”