Accelerate Michigan Student Idea Competition offers $25,000

Have an idea you think is worth $25,000? The Business Accelerator Network for Southeast Michigan will be giving out $50,000 — including a $25,000 grand prize — for the top business ideas and concepts in its Accelerate Michigan Student Idea Competition.

“It is the first time something of this magnitude has been done,” said Jeff Barry, a consultant with the Macomb-OU INCubator. “I think there are going to be a lot of submissions.”

The Business Accelerator Network is a new, region-wide network for building and retaining new business in southeast Michigan. Comprised of Ann Arbor SPARK, Automation Alley, Macomb-OU INCubator, and Tech Town, the Network is supported by a three-year, $3 million grant from the New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan.

There is also a separate company competition for early-stage businesses that features a $500,000 grand prize. The student competition is open to any undergraduate or graduate students currently enrolled in two or more classes at a Michigan college or university.

Individuals or teams of any size must submit a one-page business plan by Oct. 22. Lauren Bigelow, a member of Accelerate Michigan’s media outreach team and executive director of the competition, said business plans should be concise, tout the advantages of the idea, describe its potential market, and explain how the idea will be put into action.

The ideas submitted must be original.

“The main types of companies we’re going to be looking for are scalable companies,” Barry said, meaning they should have opportunity for growth.

Barry said ideas relating to software, technology, and advanced manufacturing are most likely to be strong candidates.

“Less likely are lifestyle businesses like restaurants and cupcakes,” he said.

Twenty-five semifinalists will create a three-minute YouTube video that will serve as a visual pitch.

“Entertainment value in some of this is important because when you’re out pitching your business idea, being able to communicate that in a short time frame is important,” Bigelow said.

Semifinalists will also then select two to three team members to give a 15-minute presentation Dec. 9-10 at the University of Michigan.

Each presentation will be a more detailed pitch, followed by a round of questions from the judging panel.

An eight to ten-member judging panel will consist of investors, seasoned business people (and) members of the Michigan entrepreneurial community, according to Accelerate Michigan’s website.

The grand prize winner will receive $25,000 in cash. The first runner up will be awarded $15,000 and second runner up gets $10,000. Winners are free to spend the money as they see fit.

Though submissions that include projected financials and potential for intellectual property protection are at an advantage, Bigelow encourages anyone with ideas of any kind to enter.

“It’s not about the plan; for students, it’s about the idea,” Bigelow said. “You can never tell what ideas are going to be successful.”

As an example, she cites Richard Hunts, who made millions off his invention of the Flowbee, a machine that sucks up hair while cutting it. “His crazy idea made him very wealthy,” Bigelow said.

For this reason, Bigelow said the first round was purposely broad and doesn’t have “a lot of heavy lifting.”

“Part of this is, for the student side, to engage people in the process of entrepreneurship and introduce them to investors (and) resources…that students might not be aware of,” Bigelow said.

She added that the competition also gives students the opportunity to see what Michigan has to offer — “because there’s a lot.”

“Give it a shot,” Bigelow said. “What have you got to lose?”

To register, submit a business plan or to find out more information about the competition, visit and click on “Student Competition.”