Student startup Companion featured on the Today Show

Earlier this morning, Companion, a personal safety app, was featured on the Today Show.

Companion is a peer-to-peer safety network that allows people to stay safe by keeping in touch with others while walking from one place to another. The app, available now for free in the Apple store, prompts users to enter their location and ultimate destination and then select “companions” from the phone’s address book who will then be able to track the user’s journey. If the user strays from the path, the app will know something’s up and contact the user’s “companions” who can then alert police.

The Companion team is composed of Katie Reiner (BBA ’16), Danny Freed (BBA ’15), Lexie Ernst (BBA ’17), Nathan Pilcowitz (BA ’15), Kathryn Reiner (BBA ’16) and Jake Wayne (BSI ’16). The team won the Pryor-Hale Award for Best Business at the most recent Michigan Business Challenge, in addition to the Most Successful Undergraduate team award and the Marketing Award. Companion is also part of the current Desai Accelerator cohort.

To see the segment, click here. For more information on Companion, please visit their website.

Zell Lurie Institute to Host Women Who Fund Event

The Zell Lurie Institute, in conjunction with the Center for Venture Capital and Private Equity Finance, today announced it will host its first-ever Women Who Fund conference. Taking place Thursday, October 8 in the Regency Room at the Campus Inn located at 615 E. Huron Street in Ann Arbor from 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., the half-day forum, which includes a “marketplace” roundtable networking lunch, is designed to connect women-owned business leaders with women in the venture capital and private equity industry to further their access and availability to capital.

The event is aligned with Ross’ broader mission of increasing awareness among students about careers for women in finance and business by increasing access to those career paths through mentorships, coursework, action-based learning projects, professional development workshops and co-curricular programming.

The program will kick off with a keynote address from Alicia Robb, senior fellow, Kauffman Foundation and visiting scholar, UC Berkeley. Robb will share her assessment of the current state of private equity and provide recommendations for improving access to capital, how women can better navigate the investment landscape and how the community can impact changing the landscape to better support women. Robb received her MS and PhD in economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is an accomplished author on a variety of entrepreneurial topics, particularly issues surrounding women and minorities in business.

Additional presentations include a panel discussion led by female leaders on ways to position female founders in front of the appropriate investors as they work to grow their pipeline, as well as a session outlining the broad range of strategies, tools and tactics for women to keep in mind as they navigate a traditionally male-dominated profession. Other confirmed speakers include:

  • Kathryn Moos, Founder, Vrou
  • Beth Paretta, Team Principal, Grace Autosport
  • Mary Kramer, Publisher, Crain’s Detroit Business
  • Max Straub, CFO, Robert Bosch
  • Noel Dolan, Open Innovation & New Business Development, Senior Manager, Whirlpool

“This is a tremendous opportunity to bring together very recognizable women in the industry to connect with fellow female colleagues,” said David Brophy, director of the Center for Venture Capital and Private Equity Finance. “We have come a long way in the past few decades and to engage so many smart, talented and dynamic women all in one place makes it very valuable. The event is also a unique forum for our female students at Ross interested in the venture capital and private equity industry to meet and network with some of the best minds in the industry.”

For more information or to register to attend the event, please visit:

Alumnus’ startup, md Portal, Joins Health Wildcatters

We’re happy to share that md Portal has joined Health Wildcatters, a mentorship-driven seed accelerator.

Founded by Ross alumnus Paul Robichaux  (MBA/MPH ’14), md Portal is a telemedicine company. Its product, called MyDerm Portal, allows patients to quickly consult their dermatologist over the internet using tailored questionnaires and photos. Doctors can assess and provide treatment in less than two minutes, allowing them to grow overall patient volumes with a minimum time commitment.

Health Wildcatters is improving healthcare by supporting entrepreneurs and companies that are developing innovative solutions for the industry. Health Wildcatters’ 12-week program offers healthcare-focused startups an initial seed investment, as well as access to mentors, advisors, office space and strategic resources needed to help the startups grow.

“We’re very excited to join the Health Wildcatter program and looking forward to engaging with their incredible field of healthcare experts,” said md Portal CEO and cofounder Paul Robichaux. “It represents a significant opportunity for us to learn from experienced entrepreneurs and to accelerate our business’s growth in the dermatology market.”

md Portal was a finalist for the Dare to Dream grant in 2014 and winner of various awards in multiple Michigan Business Challenges. For more information on md Portal or the Health Wildcatters, visit md Portal’s blog.

The annual Entrepalooza symposium to feature keynote address from BBC anchor and best-selling author Katty Kay

The Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business is joining forces with entrepreneurship programs across the University to host the annual entrepreneurial symposium, Entrepalooza, on Friday, September 25 at the Michigan League, located at 911 N. University Ave. in Ann Arbor, Mich. This year’s symposium, “Entrepreneurship through the Kaleidoscope,” will explore how diversity in teams, ideas and backgrounds can empower an entrepreneurial journey. Katherine “Katty” Kay, lead anchor of BBC World News America and co-author of The Confidence Code, will deliver the keynote and offer insight into what it takes to create and inspire the confidence needed to take the risks involved in entrepreneurship.

The annual university-wide event brings together entrepreneurial leaders to share their insights and experiences with students from many areas of study, alumni, faculty and members of the broader business community. This year’s program is designed to celebrate and explore the ways diversity takes shape in entrepreneurship through TED Talk-style insights from entrepreneurs who are empowering the underrepresented, transforming social climates and exploring new industries. It is co-hosted by the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, the Center for Entrepreneurship at the College of Engineering, the School of Public Health’s Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship program, the School of Information’s Entrepreneurship Program, the School of Music Theatre and Dance’s EXCEL Program, and Innovate Blue, the University’s campus-wide entrepreneurship initiative.

TED Talk-Style Speakers Share Secrets of Success with Budding Entrepreneurs

Following Kay’s keynote address at 9:00 a.m., the half-day symposium will continue with a series of TED Talk-style sessions from a selection of Michigan’s most successful entrepreneurs. Following a “un-conference” format, each speaker will encourage an interactive session, focusing on areas including angel investing, food and sustainability entrepreneurship, technology entrepreneurship and arts entrepreneurship. Aaron Dworkin, dean of the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance and founder and president of the Sphinx Organization, a national arts organization that focuses on youth and minority involvement in classical music, will kick off this portion of the program. Other confirmed speakers include:

  • Nate Aschenbach, co-founder, GameStart,
  • Justin DeLay, CMO and co-founder, Tempo IQ, BBA ’05, MSI ‘12
  • Jill Ford, special advisor to Mike Duggan, head of innovation and entrepreneurship, City of Detroit
  • Mary Lemmer, CEO and co-founder, Scape, BBA ’10
  • Lisa McLaughlin, CEO and co-founder, Workit Health, MSI, MSW ‘08
  • Dawn White, CTO, co-founder and president, Accio Energy

For more information or to register to attend the event, please visit To receive event updates or share your thoughts from the symposium, use hashtag #epalooza on Twitter.

10th annual Private Equity Conference details announced

The Zell Lurie Institute and its Center for Venture Capital and Private Equity Finance unveiled today final details for its 10th annual Michigan Private Equity Conference. The “boutique” conference covers current and emerging topics in the nation’s credit markets that pose challenges and new opportunities for those in private equity and institutional investing. More than 250 private equity, investment banking and business professionals from around the United States and from the University of Michigan alumni community will be in attendance.

The conference opens with David HE of PAG Asia Capital and Yi Luo of Blackstone to discuss private equity developments in greater China. New to the agenda is a keynote address delivered by David Shapiro (’84 LSA), co-founder and managing partner of KPS Capital Partners – a firm that has established a reputation for constructive relationships with the workforce and their unions.

“Over the course of the past several quarters, private equity activity has continued to surge across the nation, and Michigan remains in the thick of that commotion,” said David J. Brophy, director of the Center for Venture Capital & Private Equity Finance at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. “This year’s Conference grants Midwest investors the opportunity to hear straight from the experts leading the charge creating networking and learning opportunities for those interested in accelerating their own private equity activity.”

Pre-conference events start on Thursday, October 8 with a golf outing at the University of Michigan Radrick Farms golf course. At 4:30 p.m., a Fireside Chat for students, “How to get into Private Equity Consulting,” will be hosted by Centerbridge Partners with the Center for Venture Capital & Private Equity Finance at the Ross School of Business. Panelists include Andrew Kunkel of Bain and Company, David Shapiro of the Boston Consulting Group and Chris Doughty of McKinsey and Company. A pre-conference dinner reception will be held at the Campus Inn for all conference registrants. On Friday, October 9, the formal conference program will run from 7:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Michigan Union on the University of Michigan campus.

Following HE and Luo’s presentation and a series of panel discussions, Shapiro will give the closing keynote address, and a networking lunch will be held. Panel sessions will focus on what LPs are looking for in today’s investment climate and the ins and outs of public policy as it relates to the investment world.

Online registration for the conference is open through Tuesday, October 6. For more information or to register, visit

Ross alumna’s entrepreneurial journey featured in USA Today

Jess Lively was only 15 when she started her own jewelry business in the 1990s, so it was no surprise that she went on to attend and graduate from the Ross School of Business in 2007 to strengthen her entrepreneurial skills. Post-graduation, instead of entering the corporate world, Jess decided to run her jewelry business full-time.

Jess’s story is part of a growing trend. According to a recent article from USA Today, 45% of business school graduates started their own companies from 2010 to 2013, which is double the amount from 2000 to 2009. As most entrepreneurs know, there are both pros and cons to starting your own business. To read about the pros and cons and learn more about Jess’ story, check out the article here.

Alumnus shares how to go from worker to entrepreneur

Yesterday, Praveen Suthrum, a Ross alumnus, published an article in the Economic Times of India on how to go that extra step to evolve from just a worker to an entrepreneur.

According to Praveen, “a worker waits for things to happen while an entrepreneur goes about making things happen. A worker expects someone to assign tasks and review performance. A worker depends on the organization to provide training and waits for the boss to applaud and reprimand. A worker yearns for higher paying jobs because money becomes the primary reason to work. An entrepreneur is the antithesis of the worker.”

While at U-M, Praveen founded Next Services, a company that provides cloud-based revenue cycle management services, mobile EHR, consulting and analytics for ambulatory surgery centers and specialist groups. Praveen received a $10,000 Dare to Dream grant to help get his company off the ground. He also presented at the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium in 2006.

To read more about how to elevate yourself to the title of entrepreneur, check out Praveen’s full article here.


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