University of Michigan's Desai Accelerator kicks off Summer 2018 cohort

By Meredith Bruckner - Community News Producer

Members of the 2017 cohort (Photo: Desai Accelerator)

ANN ARBOR - It may be summer break, but this week University of Michigan's Desai Accelerator welcomed six startup teams into its Summer 2018 cohort.

The accelerator, a joint venture between the university's Ross School of Business' Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies and the College of Engineering's Center for Entrepreneurship, invests $25,000 in each of the companies and nurtures the ventures as they grow beyond early-stage development and are ready to seek external investors.

The teams receive an office space in downtown Ann Arbor and are supported by mentors and University of Michigan interns.

The culmination of the program is Demo Day, when the teams will pitch their ventures to investors on Sept. 12.


Desai's offices at 301 E Liberty St. (Photo: Desai Accelerator)

The Summer 2018 businesses provided these descriptions:

  • Arbor Automation 
    • "An automated software service that improves manufacturing prototype hardware. Today, manufacturers spend countless hours reprogramming machine tools for new production runs. Arbor Automation reduces this turnover time to seconds by eliminating the need for manual programming, which decreases production costs, increases product throughput and prepares manufacturers for a future of fully automated machining."
  • Canopy
    • "A web application that helps families and individuals talk about and make end-of-life healthcare decisions and share those decisions with others through an advanced care directive. By supporting both individuals and healthcare systems through advance care planning services and legal documentation, Canopy provides value across the healthcare ecosystem."
    • Read: Ann Arbor SPARK awards $25K to startup Canopy at tech Boot Camp
  • Cheddur
    • "A social network for the average person to find, learn about and get started with digital currencies and services in a fun and easy way. It’s also an advertising platform for coin and service developers to promote their projects, get discovered and build communities of users and investors."
  • Jottful
    • "A tech-enabled service that creates and maintains professional, affordable and hassle-free websites for small businesses. Jottful makes it possible for every small business to be found and to tell its story online."
  • Mi Padrino
    • "An online application that makes the planning and paying for Hispanic events, such as quinceañeras, weddings and baptisms, easy and effective. Mi Padrino offers planning resources, personal event pages and crowdfunding features tailored to the Hispanic community -- a population that has been underserved until now."
  • Movatic
    • "A software platform that makes mobility hardware shareable. On the Movatic app, users can find, rent and pay for different mobility services -- and the app’s back-end allows for these services to be managed, pricing to be set, hardware to be maintained and customers to be supported."

The six companies were chosen from a diverse, competitive pool of applicants from 10 different states and six countries. Forty-five percent were from out of state, 33 percent had female founders and 60 percent had founders outside U-M.


Managing director Angela Kujava speaks at A2 Tech Trek 2017 (Photo: Desai Accelerator)

"Our applicant pool is more competitive each cycle -- it’s a testament to the quality of the experience our accelerator offers, as well as the strong entrepreneurial spirit that infuses the region," Angela Kujava, managing director of the Desai Accelerator, said in a press release. "There are exceptional resources to nurture startups here in southeast Michigan, from the world-class talent at the University of Michigan to the thriving, growing industries and global perspective that characterize the community. We are proud to be a part of this ecosystem."

Over the course of the 16-week program, entrepreneurs will have access to a staff of 10 interns (up from six in previous rounds). Interns will help execute business, tech and design projects. They will also enjoy meetings with industry leaders who will serve as mentors to the cohort.

"We want our startups to drive relentlessly toward their first $1 million -- which may be revenue, funding or both," said Kujava. "Our goal is to offer the right combination of mentorship, resources and programming to help propel our entrepreneurs to not only hit but exceed their milestones."

Applications for the 2019 year will open in December.

About Desai Accelerator

Since its launch in 2015, funding and support for the accelerator has been provided by the Desai Sethi (DS) Family Foundation, the Davidson Foundation, the Wadhams family and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). Alumni companies include Ash and Erie, which won an investment from Mark Cuban after appearing on “Shark Tank”; Gwydion, which recently closed its first seed round; MySwimPro, named 2016 Apple Watch App of the Year; and Companion, which was featured on Apple’s “Planet of the Apps” and received a $1 million investment from Lightspeed Venture Partners.

For more information, visit its website

About Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies

The Institute and its Center for Venture Capital and Private Equity Finance bring together an impactful combination of deep-seated knowledge, enriching experiences and strategic opportunities from the front lines of entrepreneurship and alternative investment. Students’ learning experiences are further enhanced through internships, entrepreneurial clubs, business competitions and campus-wide events that foster valuable networking and engage the business community. The Institute's five student-led investment funds, with over $8.5M under management, immerse students in the entrepreneurial business sourcing, assessment and investment process while pursuing their graduate or undergraduate degree at the Ross School of Business. Zell Lurie advisory board members include Samuel Zell, chairman of Equity Group Investments, and Pamela Applebaum, of Arbor Drugs Inc. For more information, visit the Institute’s website at www.zli.umich.edu.

About Center for Entrepreneurship

The Center for Entrepreneurship (CFE), part of the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan, provides academic programs, commercialization training and broad support resources for students, faculty and community members. Among its many initiatives, CFE co-developed and co-teaches the undergraduate Program in Entrepreneurship, the Master of Entrepreneurship and the National Science Foundation I-Corps program for faculty research commercialization. CFE co-manages the TechArb student startup incubator and provides overall support to Michigan’s economic development efforts. Its teaching philosophy focuses on experiential learning with an emphasis on the development of an entrepreneurial mindset, with resources such as structured venture incubation programs, global access to both internal and external advisors, mentorship, talent and funding. CFE’s mission is to ensure support for entrepreneurs from discovery through venture creation, and to enhance and expand an appreciation for entrepreneurial thinking for its students. For more information, please visit www.cfe.umich.edu.  

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