Michigan Business Challenge – Seigle Impact Track Round One Winners

Ann Arbor, December 3, 2018 – The Michigan Business Challenge (MBC), a campus-wide, multi-round business plan competition has announced the eight teams advancing in its Seigle Impact Track.

Ninety-five student teams submitted proposals for MBC, with 51 teams submitting for the Seigle Impact Track. After passing a qualifying round, teams advanced to Round One, which was held at the Ross School of Business on Friday, November 30, 2018. In the Seigle Impact Track, eight teams will now advance to Round Two, taking place on Friday, February 8, 2019. From there, four teams will advance to the Finals on Friday, March 15, 2018.

Eight impact teams will advance from Round One to Round Two:

  • BLIP – aiming to reduce the amount of time and effort women in rural Gujarat, India, spend to collect potable water, alleviating pain and reducing “time poverty.”
  • Dear Black Women – an affirmation movement and social network, online and offline, that grows the social capital of black women.
  • Dough – personalizing student loan management from matriculation through repayment to reduce debt burdens and default rates.
  • NeoHealth – a low-cost device that can be used to detect counterfeit antimalarials in developing countries.
  • Peerstachio – a peer-to-peer learning community platform that helps undergraduate college students improve their grades by connecting underclassmen with trusted upperclassmen.
  • Practical Prosthetics – providing affordable, accessible and functional 3D-printed prosthetics.
  • SubQ Assist – a task-shifting device to aid in the safe administration of subcutaneous contraceptive implants for people in rural areas.
  • ValCycle – an end-to-end reverse logistics platform that connects unused product to the people who need it most.

The eight teams feature students from Biology, Education Engineering, Computer Science, Information, LSA, and Michigan Ross. Additionally, 17 teams are advancing in the at-large competition, including Dough and SubQAssist.

The Michigan Business Challenge (MBC) is a campus-wide, multi-round business plan competition where student businesses have the opportunity to win cash prizes totaling over $100,000, gain feedback from leaders in the business community, and expand their business network. Ross’ Seigle Impact Track is sponsored by the Mark and Robin Seigle Entrepreneurial Innovation Fund and co-managed by Business+Impact at Michigan Ross, the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, and the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies. This track awards a $26,000 prize pool to the most compelling business plans that deliver social or environmental impact, and the top social impact team can win $15,000 at the finals on March 15.

Read about all of the Round One winners ZLI’s post “2019 Michigan Business Challenge Teams Advancing to Round 2”

Impact Hackathon Brings Together Global Leaders to Transform the Impact Economy

On July 12-13, Jerry Davis, Associate Dean for Business+Impact at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, worked with partners at Global Silicon Valley and the Stamps School of Art & Design to bring together entrepreneurs, investors, academics, corporate executives, policymakers, and others to discuss transformational ideas in impact. Using an architecture model known as a charrette, John Marshall of U-M’s Stamps School led subgroups in drafting solutions to the central question: “How can the impact economy create value beyond shareholder returns?” Subgroups then convened in a large group to hash out areas of common ground and disagreement.

Using a “hackathon” model over the course of a day, collaborative discussions addressed four focal questions:

  • How might we meet the social and sustainability challenges that are not being met by the current system?
  • How might we redirect efforts of initiatives that are falling short in the current economy and retool them for the impact economy?
  • How might we take advantage of new opportunities in the impact economy?
  • How might we accelerate existing initiatives in the impact economy?

Teams considered pathways for innovation within organization design, financing, impact business models, and through new dimensions. Participants were challenged to move beyond conventional approaches to solving problems or addressing needs.

The event was the beginning of a new Impact Task Force, founded by Michigan Ross and Global Silicon Valley (GSV). The ultimate goal of the group is to illuminate a path forward that enables new forms of enterprise and new models of funding to accelerate the pace of impact in the world. This and other annual events are designed to develop an ecosystem that will be at the forefront of sea change in the global economic system.

This July event was sponsored by Michigan Ross, Global Silicon Valley and Stamps School of Art & Design.

The Value of Accounting to Detroit and Local Entrepreneurs

by Aaron Ngo, Michigan Ross BBA ’20

Most people that know me well know that my parents were entrepreneurs. They owned a small Chinese restaurant near our home in the suburbs of Philly. Not coders hacking away on an app in the garage or MBAs pitching to a VC firm, they were local entrepreneurs — everyday people in the neighborhood who decided to start a smart business to create a living for themselves. Watching them, and countless others like them, drew me to get involved in entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan.

The experience thus far has been rewarding, I don’t regret anything. However I have noticed a large gap between what I used to consider entrepreneurship and the resources for students on campus. From what I’ve seen, most of entrepreneurship at Michigan focuses on the areas I mentioned earlier — tech companies and startups creating complicated software products. That’s not a bad thing (if you’re into that kind of stuff, more power to you), but I always felt like there was a disconnect between people like my parents and most of the entrepreneurs like my parents.

Let’s back up a bit and talk about my interests.

  • I’m a Philly native and a fan of everything related to Philly culture.
  • I’m a numbers guy and have always enjoyed math related courses (even if the grades don’t show it.)
  • I’m passionate about community building and social impact (i.e. a significant positive change that addresses a pressing social challenge.)

I’ve been reflecting a lot on these interests, my experiences, and life goals a lot this past year. I know I want to use my business education to make a social impact, but am still figuring the how part out. When the opportunity arose to join the Ross Accounting Outreach team, I thought it fit all of these interests and past experiences perfectly.

The Ross Accounting Outreach initiative is designed to help Detroit small businesses get their financials in order. We meet with small business owners every Friday to discuss their accounting needs. Everything from inventory turnover, developing cost structures of different products, and mapping out growth opportunities is fair game. But why exactly is creating a statement of cash flows or discussing costs of equipment considered social impact?

Well, by helping Detroit entrepreneurs and small businesses, we’re indirectly helping revitalize Detroit. With more small businesses in the community, more jobs are created and the economy is boosted. Retail businesses like restaurants in particular also make use of abandoned buildings and infrastructure. With an economy that has suffered after the Great Recession, this boost from entrepreneurs of all kinds is helping Detroit get back on track.

Local entrepreneurs benefit from our services because:

  • They’re completely free. All they have to do is sign up for an appointment on our website
  • Having properly organized financials helps businesses communicate important information to different stakeholders such as banks, grant writing institutions, and business partners. Many of the entrepreneurs we work with don’t have a formal business background, and so benefit from simply talking about this with us
  • Accounting tips and equations can help entrepreneurs see aspects of the business in new ways. Which products are the most profitable and to which customers are our marketing tactics the most effective? How long will it be until we pay off our loan? Can I afford another employee while I go on vacation?

Personally I as a student have come to appreciate accounting more after these few short weeks. It’s been a way for me to learn more about business and get acquainted with what social impact can look like. I’ve also had the opportunity to work more intimately with numbers. Seeing the entrepreneurs faces when they talk about their business or when they understand a new accounting concept is by far the most rewarding part though. Detroiters have a spirit about them that I’ve only experienced back in Philly. There’s a tough “roll up your sleeves” attitude that’s ingrained in the fabric of both cities.

“There’s a tough roll up your sleeves attitude that’s ingrained in the fabric of both cities.”

The genuine love for hard work and refusal to back down from a challenge that I’ve seen from the entrepreneurs is inspiring, and shown me that Detroit’s revitalization is well on its way. It’s also shown me social impact can take many forms — including behind the numbers of a financial statement.

To get more updates on Ross Accounting Outreach, you can follow the Center of Finance, Law, and Policy on Facebook or read up on the Detroit Neighborhood Entrepreneurs Project

See the original post on Aaron’s blog.

The Bottom-Up Media Revolution: How Social Entrepreneurs are Building Trust Between Communities and the Media

Laxmi Parthasarathy and Michael Gordon
April 12, 2018

Ashoka has partnered with Business+Impact to understand the new media landscape being forged by social entrepreneurs. These individuals work closely with their communities to address problems ranging from malicious actors sowing disinformation or hijacking media for nefarious purposes, to a lack of well-trained local journalists, and local citizenry having limited opportunities for public engagement. Based on a deep analysis of fifty Ashoka Fellows whose primary aim is addressing problems associated with media, the report shows the five overarching goals that unite their work and the various approaches they have adopted to achieve them.

The five overarching goals include:

  1. Improving the infrastructure and environment within which the media operates
  2. Improving standards of reporting to strengthen the quality of journalism
  3. Ensuring the media is a vehicle for civic engagement
  4. Making the media a self-sustaining business
  5. Increasing media literacy by providing the public with diverse and representative content.

This work points the way toward stronger trust between communities and the media.

Download the full report: The Bottom-Up Media Revolution (.pdf)
 Read the article “Rebuilding Trust in the Media from the Bottom Up,” in The Conversation, based on this study

Michael Gordon interviewed Laxmi Parthasarathy about the highlights of this study in the video above (Youtube)

Center for Social Impact brings opportunities for community engagement, social entrepreneurship & more

April 5, 2018 – ANN ARBOR – Nitya Gupta of Michigan News posted an article on the Engaged Michigan newsfeed that discusses corporate social responsibility, social challenges, and the place of Business+Impact in developing leaders that will make a positive change in society. This article includes discussions about our Board Fellows Program, last year’s Change Agents Program, and our Social Impact Challenge experience.


Michigan Business Challenge Seigle Impact Track Winner Announced

Ann Arbor, February 16, 2018 – The winner of the 2018 Michigan Business Challenge – Impact Track is PedalCell, a developer of bicycle power for cell phones, and in the future other devices. The Impact Track competition, co-sponsored by the Zell Lurie Institute, the Center for Social Impact, and the Erb Institute, began in November with over 30 teams.  Ten semi-finalists competed on January 19 for the four finalist spots in this day’s competition.

Finalists included:

Adelie Stefanie Rubinstein (MBA ’19), Vanessa Lynskey (MBA ’19), Tracy Wolfbiss (MBA ’19)
Adelie is a digital platform that seamlessly manages parental leave for expectant mothers and fathers.

Canopy – Brandon Keelean (MDes ’18), Ann Duong (MHI ’18), Elisabeth Michel (MPH ’17)
Canopy is a web application that helps people talk about and make end-of-life healthcare decisions, and then share those decisions through a legal document.

FoodFinder – Jack Griffin (BBA ’19)
FoodFinder uses a web and mobile app to make it as easy as it should be for families in need to locate and learn about their nearest free food assistance programs.

PedalCell – Adam Hokin (BBA ’19), Anna Moreira Bianchi (MBA ’19)
PedalCell is a novel bicycle energy capture technology that rapidly charges smartphones for the bike share industry.

(Click on the links above to see interviews with each of the teams.)

PedalCell won first prize ($15,000) in the MBC Seigle Impact Track for its phone-charging bicycles.

PedalCell received $15,000 for first place, Canopy received $7,500 for second place, FoodFinder received $2,500 for third place, and Adelie received $1,000 for fourth place.

In addition, PedalCell won the Outstanding Presentation award, Canopy won second prize in the Elevator Pitch, and FoodFinder won first prize for their Elevator Pitch. Adelie was the winner of both the Showcase competition and the Center for Positive Organization’s Small Giants award.

The expert judging panel for the finals was comprised of:

  • Dick BeedonMacBeedon Group
  • Lauren Bigelow Optimal Impact
  • Angela KujavaDesai Accelerator

The Michigan Business Challenge is a campus-wide, multi-round business plan competition, of which the Seigle Impact Track is a subset focused on entrepreneurial student ventures focused on social  and/or environmental impact.  The competition is open to all students of the University of Michigan, and multidisciplinary teams are encouraged. The at-large Michigan Business Challenge is sponsored by the Zell Lurie Institute, and the Impact Track is additionally co-sponsored by Zell Lurie, Business+Impact, and the Erb Institute.

Canopy: Michigan Business Challenge – Seigle Impact Track Finalist Team

Who are the team members?

Brandon Keelean (MDes, ’18)
Ann Duong (MHI, ’18)
Elisabeth Michel (MPH, ’17)

How did you decide your team name?

The process was much like any ideation session, we wrote down a bunch of names (many of them bad) and then selected our favorite. Canopy stuck out to us because of its alignment to the idea of coverage and protection and it passed the receptionist test. (If we picked up the phone and said, “Hello, this is Canopy, so-and-so speaking…” would it sound good?)

Tell us briefly about your business idea.

At Canopy, we’re building digital tools to help families talk about and make end-of-life healthcare decisions in order to better prepare for the challenges that may come their way. We started working on it in response to real-world events—Brandon watched a friend struggle to make medical decisions on behalf of her uncle one night in the emergency room. As a team, we saw the potential to help people like her navigate the complexity of modern medicine better.

How has the MBC experience helped transform your approach to business strategy?

The competition provided a wonderful springboard and testing ground to change our business model and structure our thinking about how to bring Canopy to market. We’ve been able to learn from some of the wonderful mentors here at University of Michigan about best practices in business to move Canopy from an idea to reality.

What do you think will be the long-term impact of the implementation of this idea?

We hope Canopy can help reduce the barriers to talking about healthcare planning to help empower individuals and families from all walks of life to advocate for their loved ones with more information and less anxiety as they journey through healthcare.

What been your biggest takeaway from this experience?

We’ve learned a lot about ourselves as innovators, entrepreneurs, and leaders. We’ve stumbled and pivoted along the way, but being part of the entrepreneurship community here at the University of Michigan, we’ve been amazed at the support and collaboration we’ve received.

If you win, what will you do immediately following the competition?

Celebrate the win with the people who have helped make it possible and then keep moving. We’re building our minimum viable product right now and continue to talk to people about how to bring Canopy to life. We’re excited for what’s ahead.

Is there anything else you would like to tell us?

You can learn more about Canopy by visiting our website canopy.tools, following us on Twitter @canopytools or emailing us hello@canopy.tools. We’d love to hear your stories about navigating modern medicine and talking to family and friends about your healthcare wishes.

Join us on Feb. 16 to watch this team compete for the $15K grand prize in the Impact Track Finals!

Read more about all of the finalist teams: Adelie| Canopy | Foodfinder | PedalCell

PedalCell: Michigan Business Challenge – Seigle Impact Track Finalist Team

Who are the team members?

Adam Hokin (COO)
Anna Moreira Bianchi (Business Strategist)
Vishaal Mali (CEO)
Gar Waterman (Prototype Designer)
Alexis Baudron (Hardware Lead)
Tori Wu (Brand Manager)

How did you decide your team name?

The story behind the company’s name is quite simple. We wanted the name to resonate with the cycling community but also within tech as well. We eventually fell upon “PedalCell” as it was reasonably friendly, easy to pronounce, didn’t tie us to a specific market, and, most importantly, wasn’t taken!

Tell us briefly about your business idea.

The idea stemmed from a calling to fight global warming. But as teenagers, we realized that inventing technology to single-handily save the planet was infeasible. Instead, we built bike-powered phone chargers that inspire sustainable behaviors. Moreover, there are countless other applications for cyclist power we’re excited to explore!

How has the MBC experience helped transform your approach to business strategy?

We’ve made a ton of progress over these past few months, and the challenge helped us prioritize certain milestones. MBC especially pushed us to verify all of our assumptions and research to ensure that our business model created discrete value for our market.

What do you think will be the long-term impact of the implementation of this idea?

PedalCell’s bread and butter is its bicycle energy capture technology that awards riders consistent, high-power electricity never-before-seen on a bike. These innovations will allow power-demanding technologies, such as embedded sensors, IoT hardware, and smart city communication standards, to ultimately materialize on the bicycle.

What been your biggest takeaway from this experience?

MBC has opened our eyes to the entrepreneurial community U-M and Ann Arbor has to offer. We’re excited to continue to tap into these invaluable resources in the future!

If you win, what will you do immediately following the competition?

We’re currently deploying stationary bicycles with embedded phone chargers around campus! You’ll see them popping-up in Ross and University gyms. Check out our social media and website to see how you can charge-up, stay healthy, go green, and be one of the firsts to try PedalCell technology!

Is there anything else you would like to tell us?

MBC has been a remarkable experience for our team, and we are excited to continue the momentum! We appreciate the support we’ve gotten from the U-M community and encourage those who are interested to stay updated on our progress via @PedalCell social media handles and the new pedalcell.com!

Join us on Feb. 16 to watch this team compete for the $15K grand prize in the Impact Track Finals!

Read more about all of the finalist teams: Adelie| Canopy | Foodfinder | PedalCell

FoodFinder: Michigan Business Challenge – Seigle Impact Track Finalist Team

Who are the team members?

Jack Griffin

How did you decide your team name?

Despite there being tens of thousands of places across the country that give out free food to those in need, there was no singular, reliable way to find these assistance programs. I wanted the name of my organization to be simple and representative of the problem it solves.

Tell us briefly about your business idea.

I got the idea for FoodFinder as a high-schooler when I couldn’t find somewhere to volunteer at near my home in Georgia. Since I had such trouble finding these assistance providers, I wondered how hard it must be for those actually in need of the assistance offered at these locations.

I want to make it as easy as it should be for someone struggling with hunger to find a helping hand. The heart of FoodFinder’s value comes from our platform’s ability to combine the speed and privacy of an online tool with the care, compassion, and reliability of a human.

How has the MBC experience helped transform your approach to business strategy?

As a nonprofit, I’ve primarily spoken with donors (rather than investors) when it comes to demonstrating the value of FoodFinder. However, thanks to the MBC, I’ve gotten much better at highlighting FoodFinder’s strength as a business in addition to our positive social impact.

What do you think will be the long-term impact of the implementation of this idea?

In the long run, FoodFinder should be an institution of the food assistance space. Countless organizations already contribute so much to feed the less fortunate, but FoodFinder will act as a rising tide that can support all other efforts in the fight against hunger.

What been your biggest takeaway from this experience?

My biggest takeaway from the Michigan Business Challenge has been defining my own style of presenting. I’m really thankful to have had the opportunity to compete and to welcome others into our vision of a hunger-free America.

If you win, what will you do immediately following the competition?

Winning the Impact Track would mean a lot for FoodFinder. Not even a week after the competition, I’ll head home to Atlanta for Spring Break and get to work with our development team on making FoodFinder more capable of helping food insecure families than ever before.

Join us on Feb. 16 to watch this team compete for the $15K grand prize in the Impact Track Finals!

Read more about all of the finalist teams: Adelie| Canopy | Foodfinder | PedalCell

Adelie: Michigan Business Challenge – Seigle Impact Track Finalist Team

Who are the team members?

Stef Rubinstein
Vanessa Lynskey
Tracy Wolfbiss

How did you decide your team name?

Adelie penguins are a species with strong parental instincts. The parents take turns watching their young and fishing for food. These penguins embody everything we hope to achieve with Adelie – supporting mothers and fathers through the parental leave process and empowering them to move forward in their careers.

Tell us briefly about your business idea.

Stef served on the Women’s Network of the New York Times, where she saw the complexities of the parental leave process firsthand. Adelie stemmed out of the belief that the process can and should be easier for parents, and that technology can achieve that.

We hope to make the process easier on parents, both logistically and emotionally, so they can spend their time on what’s really important. So far, there is no direct-to-consumer solution on the market. Adelie empowers women and men to take control of their parental leave, without having to rely solely on a manager or HR business partner.

How has the MBC experience helped transform your approach to business strategy?

Our MBC experience has been immensely helpful in shaping our business strategy. Our unique business-to-consumer-to-business (B2B2C) approach has been informed by thoughtful conversations with MBC judges each step of the way. The various iterations have helped build Adelie into a powerful resource for expectant parents.

What do you think will be the long-term impact of the implementation of this idea?

We believe Adelie will fundamentally change the experience of taking parental leave. We will clarify, streamline, and demystify the process to ensure that no expectant parents feel isolated or alone. Over time, Adelie will shift norms about parental leave. We’ll create a community of empowered working mothers and a collection of valuable data with which to advocate for universal paid family leave at the federal level.

What been your biggest takeaway from this experience?

It’s incredibly important to listen carefully to the needs of your users, and then be willing to pivot based on what you’re hearing. We’ve uncovered new pain points and problems we never knew existed and have incorporated them into the product, leading to an even more compelling solution for our users.

If you win, what will you do immediately following the competition?

Go for a celebratory drink! And then take a long nap.

Join us on Feb. 16 to watch this team compete for the $15K grand prize in the Impact Track Finals!

Read more about all of the finalist teams: Adelie | Canopy | Foodfinder | PedalCell