Wayne State engineers well represented in Warrior Fund entrepreneurial pitch competition finals
The Wayne State University College of Engineering recently hosted the final round of the Innovation Warriors/Blackstone LaunchPad Warrior Fund Pitch Competition, a program that provides startup capital for scalable student, staff, faculty or alumni businesses. Three of the final four companies, all of which received funds, included members connected to the College of Engineering.
The Warrior Fund process began in October with a series of video submissions from aspiring entrepreneurs. The field was narrowed to a group of semifinalists who benefited from coaching sessions within the Innovation Warriors’ Blackstone LaunchPad entrepreneurship program prior to making a 10-minute pitch to a panel of judges in November. The finalists made one last presentation to outside investors in early December.
Industrial and systems engineering senior Iyinoluwa Omishope, founder and CEO of It Comes Naturally LLC received $5,000 for her product called Skin Shield, a natural and organic mosquito repellent. Omishope intends to distribute her product in the United States and donate it to African countries in order to combat the spread of diseases such as Zika. The funds she received will be put toward efficacy testing as well as marketing and sales. Omishope was enrolled in the DTX Launch Detroit summer accelerator at TechTown this year.
Sean Carroll presented on behalf of EnBiologics LLC a company he co-founded with fellow WSU biomedical engineering students Ramy Habib and Gregory Apers. Their product, HoneyCure, is a natural wound care ointment made from honey and antibiotics used by veterinarians. The company, which was featured in the college’s most recent Exemplar magazine, also received $5,000 to boost its marketing and sales efforts as well as inventory.
The team from MySwimPro, led by Mike Ilitch School of Business alumnus and former WSU swimmer Fares Ksebati, received $2,000 to translate the company’s mobile app into four other languages. MySwimPro tracks performance and metric data for competitive and leisure swimmers. The app has over 100,000 downloads and was voted 2016 Apple Watch App of the Year.
While mechanical engineering alumnus Julian Bates did not receive an award from Innovation Warriors, he was given a verbal commitment from Automation Alley to help develop C.A.F.E. (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) Clutch, a patent-pending, frictionless one-way clutch used in first gear of automobile transmissions and engine start/stop systems. Bates will receive assistance with proof of concept and customer relationship building, and also become eligible to apply for a grant of $10,000 or more.
“Since 2012, the Warrior Fund has been helping kick-start some of the city’s most promising student entrepreneurs,” said Aubrey Agee, acting director of Innovation Warriors. “Innovation Warriors and our partners will continue to work with these businesses, coaching them, connecting them to resources and keeping these great talents here in Detroit, where they will continue to contribute to the region’s economic vitality.”
Warrior Fund judges included Lori Mazurek from Comerica Bank, which is also the sponsor of the competition; Kwaku Osei from Cooperative Capital; Derek Edwards from Invest Detroit; Dom Holmes from Automation Alley; Justin Anderson from Solidea; and Gary Witus from Wayne State’s Anderson Engineering Ventures Institute.
“As a company committed to the success of Detroit and the small business owners that help drive that success, Comerica and its charitable foundation are proud to support programs such as the Wayne State University Warrior Fund,” said Janice Tessier, Michigan contributions manager for Comerica Bank. “We’re proud that our support of the Warrior Fund over the past four years has helped foster new and innovative entrepreneurs in Detroit and Southeast Michigan and is helping to accelerate the growth of small businesses in our community."
Innovation Warriors is Wayne State’s entrepreneurship hub, encouraging and supporting students, alumni, faculty, staff and the community at every stage of the entrepreneurial journey. IW is a program of WSU’s Office of Economic Development.