Through dedication, hard work, and community support, 13 Ann Arbor startups have positioned themselves as Accelerate Michigan (AMIC) semifinalists within striking distance of prizes and recognition that could lead to an inflection point in their growth.
These same 13 Ann Arbor startups have been or are currently SPARK clients though incubator or accelerator programs. They represent 36% of this year’s pool of semifinalists. Despite the pool shrinking from 56 in 2015 to 36 this year, the number of SPARK clients among the pool is slightly higher this year on a percentage basis. These companies have collectively raised over $3.5MM in funding and received over $140K of grants. They have, on average, six full-time equivalent team members and one pending patent.
Ann Arbor based companies have a history of performing well at AMIC. In 2014, Ann Arbor based SkySpecs won the grand prize, and has since parlayed that win into continued growth and expansion. That year, current and former SPARK clients took home 93% of the available prize capital. In 2015, an Ann Arbor company did not win the grand prize, but SPARK clients took $250k of the available $810k.
One dimension to this story is the rising prevalence of women in the Ann Arbor tech community. As Alex West wrote about in a previous post, women are underrepresented nationally in startup leadership, despite the fact that women lead companies perform as well or better than those led solely by men. Ann Arbor beats the national average of women working in tech, but we have a long way to go. One small sign of forward movement is that, again in a percentage basis, among Ann Arbor semifinalists, the percentage of women led companies increased from 20% in 2015 to 23% this year. Recently, Concentrate wrote in-depth about one of these leaders; Lisa McLaughlin is returning for a second straight year as a semifinalist after winning the IT sector award last year.
However, McLaughlin’s Workit Health is not the only Ann Arbor based company returning to AMIC this year; ContentOro was also nominated for a second year in a row. Both companies made substantial progress in the months between competitions: Both graduated from the SPARK Central Innovation Center into their own Ann Arbor office space and both continued to leverage SPARK Entrepreneurial Services, including the Digital Engagement Clinic.
The Digital Engagement Clinic is far from the only support provided to this select cohort. They have received more than $217k of entrepreneurial support through Ann Arbor SPARK. The bulk of this support has come in the way of 30 distinct Business Acceleration Grants in critical areas such as intellectual property protection, UI/UX, regulatory and scientific guidance, and branding and web presence development. Additionally, these companies have utilized the SPARK Intern Matching Funds program, microloan program, and Entrepreneurial Boot Camp, and the SPARK Central Innovation Center.
While it is impossible to determine which factors advanced and held back each judge’s score of a company, the resources SPARK and community partners have provided certainly expedited the companies’ significant progress over where they were last year. In a subjective contest measured in relative terms, that may be the difference between competing and winning the resources critical to exponential growth.
May the odds be ever in your favor, Ann Arbor AMIC tributes!