Highlight: Innovation Week 2024 and the Bob Mark Pitch Competition Winners

This year marks Michigan Tech’s eighth year hosting Innovation Week. 

Innovation Week at Michigan Tech was started by a group of University Innovation Fellows (UIFs) in 2017.  At that time, UIFs hosted meet-ups, design thinking challenges, and events to get folks thinking innovatively.  Throughout the years it has evolved, but one thing remains the same, Innovation Week is a celebration of innovation at Michigan Tech. 

The week’s events included presenters from as far as Texas and Traverse City, Michigan as well as right here within Houghton. With the option of both in-person and virtual events, entrepreneurially-minded individuals had the opportunity to join us for one or all events. Husky Innovate kicked off the week with a presentation from our keynote speaker, Dr. L. Brad King, CEO and founder of Orbion Technologies, who shared his journey with Orbion including key insights for startup founders.  On Tuesday, Nate Yenor with the Office of Innovation and Commercialization shared opportunities for startup collaboration resulting from research here at Tech.  Wednesday, former IBM Corps. executive and Michigan Tech alum John Soyring (EE ‘76 &  Honorary Doctorate ’06) provided us with fresh insights from the world of investing and the opportunity presented through impact investing.  On Thursday, Dr. Ashley Sloat, president of Aurora Patents gave us a crash course on careful contracting with key points founders should take into consideration as they start working with developers and investors. Friday, Dr. Len Switzer, associate director of Enterprise shared entrepreneurial opportunities for both founders and technical teams through the Enterprise and Husky Innovate programs. 

In addition to the stellar line-up of workshops and presentations, Husky Innovate hosted Innovation Week’s main event Wednesday evening – the Bob Mark Business Model Pitch Competition, which is a tribute to the late College of Business Professor Bob Mark.  For the 18th year, community members from across the region, including innovators, entrepreneurs, faculty, staff, students, and alumni, joined to hear students pitch their business models.  Ten teams pitched to win in three categories; Business Model, Social Impact, and Breakout Innovation with prizes totaling $6000.  There was a lot of energy and anticipation in the room as teams pitched and waited for scoring.  After two hours of pitching, the judges selected their winners and the audience selected their favorite.  Congratulations and thank you to all the student contestants and winners! 

Business Model Category

First place and Breakout Award winner Viraj Mane with judge Jason Mack

Presented by the College of Business with thanks to sponsors Rick and Jo Berquist, and Dan and Jane Green for sponsoring the Audience Favorite award. Student pitches were judged by how well the solution addressed the customers’ needs, the path to revenue, and the overall presentation.

  • First place – Viraj Mane with DocCraftAI ($2000)
  • Second place – Alex Nosalik with The Eternitee ($1000)
  • Third place- Nirmal Raja Karuppiah Loganthan with Jarvis-Vision ($500)
  • Honorable mention –  Aliyah Maxwell Abrams with Sunny Buddy ($250)
  • Audience Favorite –  Alex Nosalik with The Eternitee ($250)

Social Impact Award Category

Sponsored and presented by Gates Professor Dr. Elham Asgari, College of Business. The social impact category examined the significance of the social problem and how well the solution addressed it.

  • Olamide Ayeni with HOPCYKU  ($1,000)

Breakout Innovation Award

Presented by Jason Mack, Vice President of Business Development, MTEC SmartZone, and sponsored by the MTEC SmartZone and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The breakout innovation award considered the solution’s novelty, ease of implementation, and time to implementation.

  • Viraj Mane with DocCraftAI ($1,000)

This event would not be possible without support from our Michigan Tech I&E collaborators and community.  Thanks to our team mentors, with special recognition to Michigan Tech alum Joseph Corso (EE ‘77), Founder and President of TouchPoint Inc., for hosting regular Office Hours mentoring sessions throughout the year with Husky Innovate students.  

Thank you to our Bob Mark Business Model Pitch Competition judges: Northern Michigan University Professor Corrine Bodeman, Michigan Tech Professor Elham Asgari, Michigan Tech Professor Charles Wallace, Michigan Tech alum Dan Green (BA ‘83), Michigan Tech alum Jason Mack (MBA ‘13), and Pavlis Honors College External Advisory Board member Carolyn Yarina.   We appreciate your time and expertise in helping our students improve their pitches. 

Thank you to our prize sponsors.  The business model prizes are sponsored by the College of Business (COB), Rick and Joe Berquist, and Dan Green and Jane Mooney.  The Social Impact Award is sponsored by Dr. Elham Asgari, COB, Gates Professor of Entrepreneurship, and the Breakout Innovation Award is sponsored by MTEC SmartZone and MEDC

Thank you to our emcee, Jordan Craven, Management of Information Systems (MIS) and Computer Science (CS) and startup founder of Sizelogic.  Thanks to our marketing team, Jessie Neece, and marketing intern Eugene Agyei.  Thank you to our production team, Sound and Lighting Services, and the Pavlis Honors College team for supporting this event.  Thank you to our presenters and participants who helped to make the week a success.  We appreciate your time and contributions to 2024’s Innovation Week.

Thanks to all who attended our Innovation Week events! We look forward to next year’s events!

Husky Innovate is a collaboration between the Pavlis Honors College, the College of Business, and the Office of Innovation and Commercialization.

If you are interested in additional opportunities, check out our Husky Innovate Events Page.  Please feel free to reach out to huskyinnovate@mtu.edu for more information.