Hall of Fame

U-M’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem


Entrepreneur Sam Zell and Ann Lurie, widow of Robert H. Lurie, provided support to create the Samuel Zell and Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies in 1999, with the vision that the entrepreneurial spirit would spread across campus.

A decade later, U-M programs in support of entrepreneurship include:

  • Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies
  • Center for Entrepreneurship in the College of Engineering
  • Zell Entrepreneurship and Law Program
  • Venture Center in the Office of Technology Transfer
  • Medical Innovation Center
  • Business Engagement Center

This ecosystem of entrepreneurial activities and connections—including academic offerings, opportunities to meet and learn from successful and aspiring entrepreneurs, and venture funding, facilities, and services— is fostering a culture of innovation for students and faculty.


Specialized programs in entrepreneurship have been established across campus in the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, the Law School, the College of Engineering, and the Medical School.

The Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, at the Ross School of Business, engages undergraduate and graduate students in real world learning. Launched in 1999, the Institute has granted over $2.3 million to student start-ups, and spawned entrepreneurship centers at the Law School, Medical School and College of Engineering. The Institute was established with an endowment of $10 million from Samuel Zell and Ann Lurie, on behalf of her late husband Robert H. Lurie.

The Center for Entrepreneurship (CFE), in the College of Engineering, offers 14 entrepreneurship-related undergraduate courses and a nine-credit Program in Entrepreneurship that has enrolled more than 100 students since getting underway in 2010. CFE was founded in 2007 with a $1 million anonymous gift. Since inception 2,830 students have enrolled in CFE sponsored classes.

The Zell Entrepreneurship and Law Program will prepare law students to advise and/or develop business enterprises and establish a clinic providing much sought-after legal services for student entrepreneurs in university programs. It was established with a $5 million gift to the Law School from entrepreneur Sam Zell.

A unique professional master’s degree in entrepreneurship has been developed by the College of Engineering and the Stephen M. Ross School of Business as a joint program that will educate students on forming and managing high-growth potential, scalable businesses. The program’s first students will be admitted in 2012.

The Medical Innovation Center in the U-M Medical School assists faculty, alumni and partners in taking ideas through the early development stage toward commercialization. Established in 2008, the Center offers a fellowship program in biomedical innovation and also operates a Design and Prototype Lab. The first cohort of fellows launched a medical device company before their fellowship year had ended.

President Mary Sue Coleman launched a multi-year program to hire 100 new faculty in interdisciplinary teams in areas critical to innovation and entrepreneurship in 2007, such as information technology, energy technology and health sciences.


Celebrate Invention brings entrepreneurs, business leaders and university researchers together in an annual event to celebrate U-M inventors. Over 300 leaders from the venture, business and university communities walk through eight technology kiosks illustrating some of U-M’s recent entrepreneurial ideas and ventures. One of the premiere networking events of the year.

MPowered is a group created and run by students to expose their fellow students to entrepreneurship and support student ventures. The Center for Entrepreneurship serves as advisor to the group

The MPowered Career Fair gives students the opportunity to see what Michigan’s entrepreneurial ecosystem has to offer, and connects small high-growth enterprises with entrepreneurially driven talent. The event started in 2008; in 2011 it drew more than 100 companies.

eRes is U-M’s first entrepreneurial learning community. Students live with like-minded peers and immerse themselves in entrepreneurially-focused action-based learning. The eRes pilot began in the 2010-2011 academic year in Mosher-Jordan Residence Hall. eRes is an MPowered program.

CFE sponsors student visits to high profile companies and networking with entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and U-M alumni entrepreneurs during annual three-day trips to the San Francisco Bay area, New York and Chicago. The 50 to 100 student participants compete for the opportunity.

The Entrepreneurship Hour invites distinguished innovators to campus every week to share their stories. The speaker series is a class taught through the CFE, and an event open to the public. More than 420 students participated this year.

Entrepalooza, an annual event sponsored by the Zell Lurie Institute, introduces students to successful entrepreneurs with presentations and a “lunch and learn.”

U-M Tech Transfer utilizes several resources to connect entrepreneurs and other members of the business and venture communities to opportunities at U-M. Catalyst is a talent resource network employed by U-M Tech Transfer to connect entrepreneurs and other parties with our technology and venture opportunities.

Tech Transfer’s Venture Center employs a team of experienced entrepreneurs in its Mentors-in-Residence program, helping to connect technology and start-up projects to other entrepreneurs, businesses and venture partners. The Center also leverages relationships with over 250 premier venture capital firms and angel groups to assist entrepreneurs engaged with U-M opportunities.

U-M Vice President for Research Stephen Forrest created the Distinguished Faculty Innovator Award in 2007 to celebrate and encourage faculty entrepreneurship.

The Michigan Private Equity Conference brings together students, alumni and nationally recognized business leaders to discuss the current state of the marketplace. Begun in 2006, it is presented by the Center for Venture Capital & Private Equity Finance at the Zell Lurie Institute.


U-M Tech Transfer launched 93 start-up ventures from 2001 to 2010, many of which have had notable market success such as HealthMedia, HandyLab, Arbor Networks and Accuri Cytometers. U-M Tech Transfer created 814 agreements from 2001 to 2010, connecting U-M technology with entrepreneurs in new and existing companies. These metrics place U-M among the top 10 universities in the nation in spin-off activity and technology licensing.

U-M Tech Transfer programs to connect entrepreneurs and others to opportunities at U-M include Catalyst, a talent resource network and the Mentors-in-Residence program, seasoned entrepreneurs who help connect start-ups to other entrepreneurs, businesses and venture partners.

The U-M Venture Center, part of U-M Tech Transfer, launched a Venture Accelerator in early 2011 that already has attracted eight start-ups and expects to reach its 15-company capacity well ahead of schedule. The Accelerator, located at the North Campus Research Complex, houses spin-offs based on U-M technology. The Venture Center leverages relationships with over 250 premier venture capital firms and angel groups.

The Michigan Growth Capital Symposium is a venture capital event, sponsored by the Zell Lurie Institute, that connects high potential Midwest start-ups and university spin-outs with leading investors nationwide. Ten year statistics include: 300 companies presented; 200 raised capital totaling more than $1.7 billion; 60 exited successfully.

Clean Energy Venture Challenge, created in 2008, is a statewide venture creation challenge co-sponsored by DTE Energy and the Center for Entrepreneurship. CSquared Innovations, a lithium ion battery based on U-M Dearborn research, won the top prize in 2011 when two additional U-M ventures placed second and third.

Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition — an international business plan competition, initiated in 2010, that highlights Michigan as a venue for innovation and opportunity. U-M co-sponsors the event through the University Research Corridor. Four U-M ventures walked away with prizes.

TechArb, a business accelerator for student entrepreneurs, opened in 2009, inspired by student demand and supported by local businesses. Student start-ups compete for a six-month tenancy and must indicate serious intent to launch a business. TechArb supported 20 student companies in its first full year of operation (2010). Student companies raised $1.45 million in venture/angel financing and generated over $2 million in revenue. TechArb, sponsored by the Center for Entrepreneurship and the Zell Lurie Institute, currently houses 20 companies.

The 1,000 Pitches competition, instituted in 2008 by MPowered, quickly outgrew its name. The event attracted more than 3,000 ideas in 2010 from students who made video pitches through YouTube or at pitch stations set up across campus. The 10 winners each received $1,000.

Entrepreneurial Multidisciplinary Action Projects (EMAP). Student teams work in international and domestic entrepreneurial businesses. Potential projects include business plans, new product opportunities or market entry strategies. MAP is required of all first-year business graduate students.

The Dare to Dream grant program leads students through a six-month process that enables them to explore an idea, establish feasibility and launch a venture, with mentoring throughout. Support ranges from $500 to $10,000. Based at the Ross Business School, the program was expanded in 2007 to non-business students under a partnership with the Center for Entrepreneurship in the College of Engineering. In 2010 almost $90,000 was awarded. Lifetime nearly $900,000 was awarded to 760 students.

Michigan Business Challenge is a four-phase campus-wide business plan competition that comes down to four finalists to compete for top prizes with over $60,000 awarded throughout the cycle. The Ross Business School operates and funds the competition which attracted 73 teams in 2010. Ambiq Micro, the 2010 winner, already has attracted significant venture capital. Aggregated statistics to come.

Three student-run venture funds, the $5.5 million early stage Wolverine Venture Fund, the five-year-old pre-seed Frankel Commercialization Fund, and the newest, the first student-run (can we say “first”) Social Venture Fund are sponsored by the Zell Lurie Institute each year. Student and faculty entrepreneurs vie for support from the three funds. Successful exits by two U-M spinouts returned $2 million to the Wolverine Fund in 2010.

Tech Start, an 8-12 week full-time summer internship for graduate students from many academic areas, including Law, Engineering, Medicine, Business, and Information Technology, offers participants an intensive experience working on entrepreneurial projects. Sponsored by the Office of Technology Transfer.

Marcel Gani Internship program – part of the Zell Lurie Institute placed 17 students at 15 start-ups and venture capital firms across the U.S. in 2010.


College of Engineering Technology Development Fund offers awards of up to $50,000 to later-stage research activities related to proof of concept.

Coulter Foundation Translational Research Fund typically funds four new biomedical engineering projects a year at up to $100,000 per project.

The Life Sciences Institute funds translational research through its Innovation Partnership program.

The Michigan Institute for Clinical and Health Research (MICHR) Pilot Grant Program awards $50,000 to $250,000 for bench to bedside and bedside to practice translational research.

The Office of the Vice President for Research offers various grant programs including small scale and preliminary projects, core facilities and shared equipment and others.


President Mary Sue Coleman was appointed a founding co-chair of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, created by the U.S. Commerce Department in 2010 to support President Obama’s innovation strategy by helping to develop policies that foster entrepreneurship and technology transfer.

Vice President for Research Stephen Forrest has chaired Ann Arbor SPARK, the Ann Arbor region’s economic development organization since 2009.

U-M was selected as one of six universities to collaborate in a new national Advanced Manufacturing Initiative recommended by President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

U-M was the driving force behind the University Research Corridor, created in 2007 as an alliance of the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University. The URC was formed leverage the assets of Michigan’s three research universities to accelerate the state’s economic transformation.

The University Research Corridor formed a strategic alliance with Business Leaders for Michigan to form Accelerate Michigan in 2010 with the aim of placing Michigan among the “top ten” states for accelerating economic transformation and cultivate entrepreneurial activity.


Student entrepreneurs
Undergraduate engineering student Allen Kim was named Entrepreneur Magazine’s 2010 Entrepreneur of the Year for his firm, Bebarang. Called NetFlix for baby clothes, the company is a rental service for quickly outgrown baby duds. Bebarang received critical early support in the TechArb student accelerator.

Start-up Are You a Human took second place in the national Rice University Business Plan Competition, the world’s largest and richest competition for graduate students. The company developed a game-based human authentication tool to compete with tools such as CAPTCHA. It plans to move from its current offices in the TechArb student accelerator to space in Detroit after obtaining a $750,000 venture capital investment.

Student start-up Regenerate won first place in the first-ever Accelerate Michigan business plan competition in 2010, a $100,000 Think Green prize in the Rice University business plan competition and $27,000 in the U-M Zell Lurie Institute Dare to Dream competition. The business is based on a technology that composts and captures energy from food spoils at the restaurant kitchen level.

Mobiata, housed in its early days at TechArb, reached a reported $2 million in sales before being purchased by Expedia in late 2010.  Mobiata created the popular FlightTrack mobile application.

Faculty entrepeneurs
Health Media was founded in 1998 by U-M faculty member Victor Strecher based on U-M intellectual property. The company became a subsidiary of healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson in 2008. HealthMedia provides tailored health coaching, online.

Nanobio, founded in 1999 by U-M faculty member Dr. James Baker, is developing vaccines and treatments based on nanotechnology. The company has obtained more than $100 million in investor support, including a partnership arrangement with GlaxoSmithKline, the world’s fourth largest pharma company by revenue.

Arbor Networks, an Internet security firm founded in 2000 by Prof Farnam Jahanian and then-doctoral student Robert Malan, was acquired by Tektronix Communications in 2010.  The company is a leading provider of security and network management services, including more than 70 percent of the world’s largest Internet service providers.

Engineering professors Khalil Najafi and Kensall Wise played a role in 10 start ups that grew out of the U-M microsystems program. The companies, based on solid state sensors and microsystems, include Integrated Sensing Systems, NeuroNexus Technologies and Enertia.

Alumni entrepreneurs
Larry Page, co-founder and CEO of search engine giant Google, earned a B.S. degree in engineering with a concentration in computer science from U-M in 1995. Google AdWords has an office in Ann Arbor.

Eric Lefkosfsky and Brad Keywell, founders and founding investors in Groupon. Both earned undergraduate degrees in 1991 and Law School degrees in 1993 from U-M.  Lefkofsky founded a business while still a U-M undergrad.

Bill Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, earned a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering in 1975. He currently is a partner in the venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byer’s Green Tech Practice.

Tony Fadell, a key initiator of the iPhone and the iPad products at Apple, started three companies before graduating from U-M with a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering in 1991.


  • The Ross Business School is ranked No. 3 in the annual Top 25 Graduate Entrepreneurship Programs listing by the Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine.
  • Across the university, more than 1,500 students participated in the more than 100 courses offered at U-M related to entrepreneurship. More than 5000 students participated in entrepreneurship activities in 2010-11, in classes, competitions, public events and more. One survey showed more than 15 percent of incoming freshmen had started a business before enrolling.
  • The North Campus Research Complex, a two million square foot array of office and laboratory space, was acquired by U-M in 2009. The complex, formerly a Pfizer R&D center, houses the Venture Accelerator and serves as a locus for many of the university’s economic development efforts.
  • The University of Michigan Business Engagement Center, the Medical School Business Development team and the College of Engineering’s Corporate Relations office collectively serve as the front door to businesses seeking to identify and access U-M resources. Together, these offices manage more than 1,000 active relationships with companies ranging from entrepreneurial start-ups to Fortune 500 enterprises.
  • The U-M Medical School Business Development team connects faculty with external collaborators and helps both navigate the most efficient path to accelerate research from “bench.”
  • U-M innovation is fueled by a research program of more than $1 billion, consistently one of the five largest in the nation. The synergy of highly ranked programs across U-M’s 19 schools and colleges, and the advantage of proximity offered by programs in Business, Engineering, Law and Medicine, enhance U-M’s vibrant environment for entrepreneurship.