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Michigan Venture Capital Association Announces Nominees for 2023 Annual Awards Dinner

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August 14, 2023 (Bloomfield Hills, MI) — Michigan Venture Capital Association (MVCA), the trade association for the venture capital and angel community in Michigan, today announced the nominees for the 2023 MVCA Annual Awards Dinner. The event will be held on Thursday, September 28th, from 6 pm – 10 pm at The Fillmore Detroit to celebrate the achievements of the Michigan entrepreneurial and investment community.

“We are excited to celebrate our 16th annual awards with such a great list of nominees that embody the growth we see in Michigan,” said Ara Topouzian, Executive Director of MVCA.

The awards ceremony recognizes the capital events that are fueling the growth of Michigan’s companies, significant investment milestones enabling companies to grow and excel in Michigan, companies that are producing groundbreaking solutions in their sectors, and organizations working to engage with their communities and enrich local economies.

MVCA members will be voting to select the awardee for each category and the five awardees will be announced live at the dinner on September 28, 2023. The MVCA Annual Awards nominees are:

Capital Event of the Year – Venture Capital Fund

Recognizes the significant financing milestones that enable companies to grow and excel in Michigan. The following nominees are Michigan-based venture capital firms that are fueling growth and innovation in the state.

Capital Event of the Year – Portfolio Company

Recognizes the significant financing milestones that enable companies to grow and excel in Michigan. The following nominees are Michigan-based portfolio companies that are fueling growth and innovation in the state.

Up-and-Coming Company of the Year

Recognizes Michigan companies across all stages of growth that are producing groundbreaking solutions in their sectors. The following nominees are making a national impact by transforming legacy industries.

  • Claira: Katie Hall founded Claira in 2020. The company completed a $5M Seed round in 2022, backed by Heartland Venture, Invest Detroit Ventures, Trend Forward Capital, Connetic Ventures, and Northern Michigan Angels. Claira employs more than 20 people, has more than 10,000 engaged users, and has been recognized by Forbes, New Enterprise Forum, MIT, and is on the Renaissance Venture Capital 2023 Startup Hotlist.
  • InvestNext: In Feb 2023, InvestNext closed a $8.25M Series A led by Whitecap (Canada) with participation from DVP, Grand Ventures and ID Ventures. Company on pace for sustained 2x+ growth rate.
  • Payload: Payload’s growth in the open-source community skyrocketed over the last year with their GitHub stars growing from ~600 prior to summer 2022 to over 10,000 prior to summer 2023. Their growth in the open-source community enabled their oversubscribed raise of $4.7M in September 2022 and Payload continues to actively grow their business.
  • Voxel51: In the past year, Voxel51 has become a viral sensation and mission critical product in the AI tools space, with over 1.3 million user installs and 3,000 GitHub stars. Voxel51 is now the machine learning data quality and visualization product of choice for major customers such as Google, Intel, Microsoft, GM, PepsiCo, and Philips.

Community Impact Award

Recognizes organizations, events or individuals that create the meaningful, effective connections necessary to build Michigan’s entrepreneurial economy. The following nominees promote collaboration and provide critical resources for the growth of Michigan’s entrepreneurial and investment community.

  • Centrepolis Accelerator: Centrepolis Accelerator has not only demonstrated a significant positive impact on the local community but has also exhibited a unique methodology that consistently achieves outstanding results. One of the standout aspects of Centrepolis Accelerator is their steadfast dedication to promoting diversity and inclusivity. Their unwavering commitment to DEI is reflected in their impressive track record of supporting underrepresented entrepreneurs. As an accelerator, Centrepolis has gone above and beyond to ensure that their program is accessible and inclusive, resulting in an outstanding achievement: half of their founders and startups are underrepresented entrepreneurs.
  • Michigan Founders Fund: A founder-led organization, the MFF is focused on providing their perspective to the VC community as well as lobbying at the state level to grow entrepreneurship in Michigan. The MFF lives and breathes a “founders-for-founders” mentality, with a focus on driving the growth of diverse, equitable, inclusive, successful startups and advancing civic leadership in Michigan.
  • Michigan Rise: Michigan Rise is extremely active in addressing early capital shortage in Michigan and investing in very promising young companies. Michigan Rise supports entrepreneurs and technology startups across Michigan through capital support, coaching, assistance with grant funding and more.
  • TechTown Detroit: Since its founding in 2000, TechTown has become a central hub connecting entrepreneurs to the resources they need to launch and grow businesses. Based in Detroit, TechTown has provided programs, education, and resources for early to growth-stage small businesses and tech entrepreneurs in Michigan. They invest in Metro Detroit’s small business owners and entrepreneurs by providing professional development, expert advice, and access to peer networks through entrepreneurial education programs. Technology-based programming, like Start Studio and Incubator, validates early-stage businesses and gets them off the ground and growing.

Entrepreneur of the Year Award
Recognizes organizations and individuals that have fostered a vibrant entrepreneurial community in Michigan. The following nominees are innovators who are setting the stage for the next generation of startups and entrepreneurs in Michigan.

Lifetime Achievement Award
The Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes the achievements of individuals who formed the foundation of Michigan’s entrepreneurial and investment community.

  • Joseph (Skip) Simms (Ann Arbor SPARK Vice President & Managing Member of Michigan Angel Fund)
    Skip Simms has been the administrator of the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund since its inception in January 2007. Prior to his role as the Fund administrator, Skip was Director of the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti SmartZone Business Accelerator program, a program which assists start-ups through access to business resources including consulting, funding and business plan development. Before joining SPARK, Simms was President and Partner with the Ralph Wilson Equity Fund, a venture capital fund-of-funds that deployed more than $33 million of investment in five venture capital firms. Investments included both direct funding in five companies and venture funding in three Michigan-based funds.  Simms’ responsibilities included making recommendations regarding return projections and exit strategies and negotiation of observation rights to the boards of all the direct investments.  Prior to his career in venture investing in 1999, Simms had served in management positions in the television industry where he managed mature television stations and started one from concept. He is a charter member of the Michigan Venture Capital Association and is on the board of the New Enterprise Forum, a volunteer group of executives who coach and mentor start-up companies on their investor presentations. Skip retired earlier this year from An Arbor SPARK but is still a consultant for the Michigan Angel Fund.

CLICK HERE to purchase tickets. $200 for MVCA Members and $275 for non-members.