By Eric Gallippo, originally published on Southeast Michigan Startup, November 13, 2016
Three Ann Arbor companies took home a combined $100,000 in prize money at the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition in Detroit.
Digital wellness platform developer JOOL Health was the biggest winner of the three, placing third and winning $50,000. Movellus Circuits and Workit Health each won $25,000 awards in the University Research Highlight and People's Choice categories, respectively.
This year's semifinalists for the state's largest business plan competition were narrowed down from nearly 200 applicants across the state and also included Ann Arbor's ContentOro, PreDxion Bio, and ShapeLog.
More than $1 million in cash and prizes were awarded, including a $500,000 grand prize for SPLT. The Detroit-based mobility company took advantage of intern placement and business incubation resources at Ann Arbor SPARK's Central Innovation Center earlier this year.
Movellus' prize money will go toward more protection for the intellectual property behind its semiconductor chip optimization software, which has already netted three major customers and significant interest from Silicon Valley, according to chief operating officer and cofounder Muhammad Faisal.
Faisal launched the company three years ago while finishing his doctorate in electrical engineering at the University of Michigan. Today, Movellus employs five full-time and four part-time employees in its downtown Ann Arbor office. Faisal credits the U-M networking community with helping get the company to where it is now.
In his pitch to the Accelerate panel last week, Faisal said we all benefit and depend on more powerful, less expensive electronics released every couple of years, thanks to regular advances in chip technology. But the physical space on those chips isn't unlimited real estate, and it's running out.
"There's a need for software and architectural innovation, and that's exactly what we do," Faisal says.
Using Movellus' algorithms, Faisal says developers can produce chips that consume less power, cost less, and get to market faster.
A new release is due out from Movellus in early 2017, and there are plans to open a "customer- and investor-facing office" in California in the next six months. Faisal says the company will continue growing the engineering side of its business in Ann Arbor.