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Sunday, 14 October 2012 00:28

Four West Mich. firms vie for Accelerate Michigan prize

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GRAND RAPIDS — ENRG Power Systems CEO Milton Roye hopes the third time is the charm for his company.

In each of the two previous years, his company grabbed $25,000 as the winner of the Advanced Transportation category of the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, one of nine sub groups in the contest.

ENRG Power Systems makes an advanced ignition system technology, which will increase the fuel economy of light- and medium-duty fleet vehicles from 14-21 percent. It also reduces greenhouse gas emissions from 15-55 percent.

“I’m hoping to advance beyond sector winner this year,” Roye said. “The first two years was our roll out. Now we’re building brand among investors.”

ENRG moved from West Bloomfield to Grand Rapids in February, a region of the state Roye described as “start-up friendly.” ENRG was given $5,000 in August by Start Garden, the latest entrepreneur incubator program developed by Rick DeVos. Roye hopes to garner some follow on investments from Start Garden when his 60 to 90 day evaluation period ends.

Other investors, including the Michigan Pre-Seed Micro Loan Fund and the Michigan Business Accelerator Fund and an unnamed California investor, have provided about $100,000, he said. He’s also received free legal help from Varnum LLP through the MiSpringboard program.

Roye’s company is one of three Michigan technology startups from Grand Rapids and one from Battle Creek that have been named semifinalists in the $1 million Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition.

Accelerate Michigan, now in its third year, is an international business competition designed to bring together later stage entrepreneurial companies with local, national and international investors. Top prize is $500,000 in cash.

Targeting entrepreneurs with mid-to-late seed-entrepreneurial businesses, the competition is designed to have an immediate and positive impact on Michigan’s economy and help create jobs.

This year, 300 applicants were narrowed to 53 semifinalists, of which four are from West Michigan. The prizes will be awarded at Orchestra Hall in Detroit on Nov. 15.

The prize money comes from the 21st Century Jobs Fund of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. The competition is reputed to be one of the largest business-plan competitions in North America.

This year, submissions were in the categories of information technology, alternative energy, advanced materials, next generation manufacturing, life sciences, medical devices, advanced transportation, and products and services.

The West Michigan semifinalists are: ENRG Power Systems LLC, Grand Rapids; Ideomed Inc., Grand Rapids; Micro-Laser Assisted Machining Technologies, Battle Creek; and TigerLAB, Grand Rapids.

Ideomed

Ideomed CEO Keith Brophy, a well-known West Michigan serial entrepreneur, has been working closely with Spectrum Health Innovations LLC to develop personalized managed health solutions, starting with the Abriiz asthma management platform. Abriiz is a website and companion mobile application tool designed to increase adherence to asthma treatment plans. The website is used by a parent or caregiver to define medication schedules, establish incentives and rewards, request alerts if doses are missed, record observations and monitor adherence. The mobile application, which is used by the child, delivers medication reminders, displays progress toward adherence incentives and encourages the child to enter other observations.

More than 22,000 doses of asthma medication have been delivered using Abriiz since January 2011.

Ideomed has received more than $1 million in investments from Spectrum Health Innovations, Brophy said, although he declined to be more specific. The company has not yet received other investments, but Brophy hopes to change that with the Accelerate Michigan competition. The company employs 15 people at its Grand Rapids headquarters in the Brass Works Building and a satellite office in Ann Arbor.

Brophy said Abriiz is targeted at self-insured employers, insurance companies and medical providers. Current customers include Spartan Motors and Metro Hospital. Additional products aimed at monitoring heart-failure patients and women’s health are also in development. Eventually, Ideomed would like to offer a portfolio of six to eight products, he said.

Micro LAM

Micro LAM is the brainchild of John Patten, Ph. D., the chair of the manufacturing engineering department at Western Michigan University. The company, operated by Deepak Ravindra, Ph.D., its chief technical officer, is based at WMU’s Business Technology and Research Park. The company also has a second office in Battle Creek.

Micro LAM’s patent-pending technology uses a laser source coupled to a diamond cutting tool to thermally heat and soften hard and brittle materials to render them more ductile, easier to machine and fabricate — in the process reducing tool wear — all of which leads to higher productivity in the manufacturing process.

The system in general consists of a fiber laser that passes through an optically transparent diamond-cutting tool and emerges at the cutting edge between the tool and piece being machined.

Patten said the company got its legs in July 2012 by receiving about $175,000 from the federal government via a National Science Foundation SBIR grant — and another grant from the WMU Technology Development Fund.

“The funding goes through December, and pays us to operate,” Patten said. “We hope to have sales by then. We’re looking for additional funding sources, including the Accelerate Michigan Fund.”

TigerLAB

TigerLAB, a sister company to Tiger Studio in Holland, is privately funded through company chairman Luciano Hernandez, who holds degrees in industrial design and technical illustration.

TigerLAB, run by Alison Keutgen, is an early stage respiratory device company. In 2012, TigerLAB launched the Oxygen Flow Diverter, its first FDA-approved respiratory device, into the market. Commercialization efforts for the Diverter are ongoing, paving the way for a pipeline of respiratory devices. The company’s second internally developed respiratory device is expected to be available for sale in early 2015. Beyond 2015, TigerLAB aspires to continue the growth of its respiratory products. The company has two employees and is working closely with a manufacturing partner, Keutgen said.

“We’re privately funded now,” she said. “That’s why we entered the Accelerate Michigan competition: to help solidify money for future development. It takes a lot of money to develop Class One medical devices.”

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Mike Brennan

Senior Writer

mbrennan@mibiz.com

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