The judges for the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition deliberated for more than an hour and a half late Thursday night at Cobo Center in Detroit before naming mobility company SPLT the $500,000 winner.
“The candidates were so good and we had such a wide array of awards that trying to decide who should win the top prizes was challenging,” said Seun Oyewole, director of the Accelerate Michigan program.
Coming in second was Autobooks, which will receive $100,000. JOOL Health won $50,000.
Workit Health was awarded $25,000 for the People’s Choice award.
Student winners included Orindi Ventures, which won the grand prize of $10,000.
“We want to change the way people commute,” said Anya Babbitt, founder and CEO of SPLT, which relocated its company from New York to Detroit a year ago.
SPLT’s customers include organizations, corporations, universities and hospitals. Among its goals is to help keep 4.5 million Americans from missing medical appointments.
“There’s a real need for this product for the underserved, especially in Detroit where people with a medical appointment call a taxi that never comes,” Babbitt said during the company’s pitch.
Recently SPLT picked up its first customer in Mexico — Bosch. “Mexican factory workers were walking to work barefoot and women were getting raped on buses,” said Babbitt, a Crain’s 2016 40 under 40 honoree.
The pitch competition included a broad range of information technology, life science, health care and consumer product companies in various stages of their business lives.
ContentOro, in its pitch, said it wants to provide quality content for businesses that need information for their websites. “We want to be the first content marketplace like Getty Images is for photographs,” said Bob Chunn, founder and CEO of ContentOro. “We do all the content, editing, photography so there is no need for freelance writers or a marketing department.”
Floyd, a furniture company catering to millennials, makes such products as bed frames and tables using its Floyd Leg that require no tools to assemble Prices range from $450 to $700. “We will focus on a few core products and own it,” said Kyle Hoff, Floyd CEO and co-founder. Alex O’Dell is the COO and co-founder.
Lunar Labs aims to provide smartphones with no monthly bills. BrainFX wants to make it faster and easier to detect mild to moderate brain disorders. PawnGuru said it is making it easier for consumers to connect with pawn shops to buy and sell items.
The one-day event involved a larger role for Ann Arbor-based Michigan Venture Capital Association, whose members served as judges in the preliminary pitches. Thirty-six companies were narrowed to 10 finalists. Judges had the task of choosing the top winners in a short time frame.
This was the seventh annual Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. Invest Detroit managed the event. David Egner founded the entrepreneurial pitch competition in 2010 when he was with New Economy Initiative, which has been a major financial supporter along with the Michigan Economic Development Corp., Invest Detroit and others.