Ann Arbor’s University of Michigan to Invest up to $20M in Startups

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University of Michigan, Aerial View
U-M will invest up to $20 million in four startups that were born at the university.

The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor will make a $2.75-million initial investment into four institutional startups and could fund up to $20 million through subsequent financing rounds.

The startups all are based in Michigan.

MemryX was extended $1 million. Wei Lu, a mechanical engineering professor, and his team developed an in-memory computing system built to significantly outperform today’s CPU/GPU computing architecture for data-intensive tasks. Lu also launched Crossbar, another U-M startup.

Ripple Science was awarded $750,000 and makes web-based software to facilitate the recruitment and management of participants in research studies. It also helps with post-enrollment processes, such as tracking appointments and study tasks. The software was initially developed by Nestor Lopez-Duroan, a psychology professor.

GreenMark Biomedical got $500,000. It focuses on minimally invasive diagnosis and treatment of tooth decay. The technology involves small biopolymer particles produced from food-grade starch and was developed by Joerg Lahann, professor of chemical engineering, materials science, and engineering and biomedical engineering.

Finally, Give and Take received $500,000. It was co-founded in 2016 in Ann Arbor by Wayne Baker, professor of management and organizations. The company developed a software platform called Givitas that encourages collaboration, information sharing, and problem solving.

The funding for Givitas will be funneled into sales and marketing to bring the company to a broader market. Its customers include Google, Harvard University, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Morgan Stanley, General Motors Co., and others.

“What I saw was a need for a special-purpose platform devoted to generalized reciprocity. People think of it as paying it forward. You can do that with a number of these platforms but can’t do it well on a large scale. That’s why we developed Givitas,” Baker says of platforms including Yammer, Slack, Facebook’s Workplace, and one from Microsoft.

The U-M Board of Regents approved the investments Thursday through the Michigan Investment in New Technology Startups initiative. The fund is overseen by the U-M Investment Office, which was started in 2011 to invest directly in technologies and ideas developed by U-M researchers.

Eligible startups are primarily those that have licensed technologies that originated in faculty labs. Once a startup has secured an initial round of funding from a qualifying independent venture capital firm, it is eligible for funding from the initiative.

“The university’s commitment to supporting the success of its startup companies ensures that research discoveries created on campus have the opportunity to be brought to the market as new products that will improve our quality of life and enhance societal well-being,” says Kelly Sexton, associate vice president for research-technology transfer and innovation partnerships at U-M.

U-M Tech Transfer has helped more than 129 startups launch since 2010. GreenMark is a tenant in the office’s accelerator space, and MemryX plans to move in soon.

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