Inside the ACE ’17 Experience


The Annual Collaboration for Entrepreneurship event continues to be a huge success year after year! This year, approximately 500 entrepreneurs, investors and support professionals showed up at ACE ’17—a 25% headcount increase from last year. Additionally, based on feedback from ACE ’16, this year’s event offered more time for networking, more time to see the exhibits and more engagement!

ACE ‘17 involved 29 sponsors, 14 planning team members, 30 speaker and panel participants, and 34 competitors in the ACE ’17 Challenge. Hosts and participants saw an increase in networking and participation in breakout sessions. With speakers like Milton Roye Jr.,

Principal & CEO of 232 Advisors LLC and Co-Chair of the MI Innovation Alliance and Jason Mack, VP of Business Development at MTEC SmartZone, there was an exciting level of knowledge sharing, energy and engagement. The FAILURE LAB: An Entrepreneur’s Journey in particular was a popular session.

But by far the most exciting addition to the ACE event this year was the ACE ‘17 Challenge.


The ACE ’17 Challenge was a business investment competition between startup entrepreneurs who had the opportunity to present their businesses to hundreds of people. At the beginning of the event, each ACE attendee was given an investment chip with an allotment of “ACE Dollars” that aligned with their profession and investing experience. Entrepreneurs received $25,000, support professionals received $50,000 and investors received $100,000.

From the moment the event started, people began voting for the startup company they believed had the most compelling business story, innovative idea or greatest chance of success in the marketplace. Thirty-four startup entrepreneurs competed in the ACE ’17 challenge and represented a wide variety of industries and inventions. The startup companies included:

  1. Advanced Interactive Response Systems (AIRS) produces high-quality oxygen safety products that improve patient health and care-giver performance.
  2. Airway Innovations has designed and developed an endotracheal tube holder.
  3. is a cloud-based software that helps teams work together on anything, from anywhere.
  4. Business Link is a one-door, virtual collaboration platform for partnerships and patent licensing between businesses, corporate entities and Easter Michigan University.
  5. CLINGFISH PRODUCTS is a mechanical engineering firm that specializes in vacuum powered technology.
  6. ContentOro revolutionizes the way digital marketers and brands acquire content for marketing.
  7. Coupon Wallet is the world’s most advanced big-data analytics platform for mobile coupon marketing.
  8. Deeptalk is an AI company developing conversational systems centered around consumer-facing businesses.
  9. Epic Technology Solutions LLC specializes in web design, commercial server hosting an custom network applications for business and management services.
  10. epiSCI aims to revolutionize cancer therapies based on the differences between normal human stem cells and cancer stem cells.
  11. Invisi-Tag is an RFID asset tracking solution for commercial contractors.
  12. Fathom is an underwater drone that allows anyone to virtually dive underwater without getting wet.
  13. InfiniteKey enables companies to use a mobile phone as a secure, passive key for products and services.
  14. SPLT platform is a transportation solution working to change the way people meet and move in cities.
  15. StabiLux Biosciences has developed proprietary, high-brightness fluorophores for biomedical applications.
  16. TwoScoreTwo is developing products for hybrid Blockchains.
  17. PayLow Rate created a marketplace that allows for direct-to-consumer financing that is fast, simple and secure.
  18. Orindi Ventures LLC creates a cold endurance mask that captures heat and humidity.
  19. re-Contour is a patented post-operative dressing.
  20. The Ring Cam® camera is a miniature HD camera in an engagement ring box.
  21. The SafetySit is a medical device designed to support disabled or recovering patients who lack core muscle strength.
  22. sci_Zone is innovating satellite communications system.
  23. SciTech Development has enabled an anticancer agent that has been under development and study for decades.
  24. is selling safe and non-toxic refillable laundry solutions.
  25. SignOn provides an easily accessible online tool to practice ASL with a Deaf individual.
  26. Interactive is a full service provider of web and consulting services.
  27. LivePicture creates digital displays that immerse visitors in changeable “live” experiences.
  28. Map-N-Tour’s award-winning software builds 3D interactive maps that deliver a variety of content.
  29. Mi Padrino is a moderating organization specializing in crowd-gifting events for the Hispanic/Latino community.
  30. MyAaliyah LLC is a luxury convenience hair cosmetic company using new technology products.
  31. Navel Novelties makes an easel back frame that organizes body jewelry with a unique Nabel hook.
  32. Nirmal for Disruptive Eating uses high-pressure pasteurization to extend the shelf-life of the food items without preservative or additives.
  33. Oakland Aquaponics combines year-round indoor organic growing of vegetables and herbs.
  34. OPS Solutions is an augmented reality tool that makes factory floors smarter, safer and better.

Miche Rayment, Co-Chair of ACE ’17 said, “The purpose of having the ACE Challenge was not to just recognize the best [startup], the purpose was to help all of the entrepreneurs that we thought were ready to learn what it’s like to be pitching for investment for six hours. They had to tell their story and they learned so much. The comments from the 34 [participants] were highly excited about what they learned and what they were going to do next.”

Everyone involved—participants and voters alike—had nothing but positive feedback on the experience!


And the winner of the ACE ’17 Challenge was…AIRS!

Advanced Interactive Response Systems (AIRS) produces high-quality oxygen safety products that will improve patient health and care-giver performance. Oxygen system irregularities can lead to patient respiratory distress and even premature death. AIRS addresses these issues by ensuring the proper amount of oxygen is being delivered with their remote monitoring capabilities. AIRS digital health products will save time, money and lives.

AIRS | LTU Collaboratory

AIRS received the grand prize of a $5,000 check and in-kind services from contributing organizations that totaled $25,000 in value and included:

  • Talent Search Package from Amy Cell Talent
  • 7Cs Growth Readiness & Alignment Assessment from Automation Alley
  • Pitch & Diligence Review from BlueWater Angels
  • 6-Month Subscription to Tool Chest & Website from Everything HR
  • 4 Months of Support (One-On-One coaching, Lean Startup Workshops, Prototype Development) from LTU Collaboratory
  • 1-Year Small Business Membership from MTAM
  • Mentoring Sessions from Muskegon Innovation Hub
  • 1-Year Membership from Southfield Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Consultation Services from Tech Highway
  • Tool Chest & 2 Hours of Coaching from The Hire Effect

Why did AIRS win?

Miche Rayment believes it’s because they were one of the few startups that had all the components of a business that is investable in place—traction, IP, marketing, a clean and clear story. Another reason is because AIRS’ CEO, Valerie Obenchain knew it was important to make a very specific ask. “When people talk to her about her company, she would end the conversation with, ‘so, can I expect your investment?’” comments Rayment.

Discovering how to build your business and how to sell it to investors is all part of the startup journey. The ACE ’17 challenge was the perfect place for 34 startups to learn and grow, and for one lucky winner—get access to amazing resources that can help them take their innovation to market!

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