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Macomb Innovation Fund announces $75,000 in awards to two Detroit-area technology startups

Southeast Michigan

Chickpea pasta producer Banza becomes Macomb Innovation Fund’s first awardee to contribute to fund replenishment

Two early-stage companies, one from Detroit and the second from Macomb County, will receive $75,000 in funding from the Innovation Fund Macomb Community College, Powered by JPMorgan Chase & Co.  Since July 2015, the Macomb Innovation Fund has awarded $1.675 million to 31 companies.

In addition, Banza, a 2015 $100,000 fund awardee, has exercised an early payback option and has restored $85,000 to the fund. The Detroit-based company produces gluten-free, high-protein and high-fiber pasta products.  The money will help replenish the Macomb Innovation Fund, supporting further awards to new technology startups.

“The Macomb Innovation Fund represents an important, ‘grow-your-own’ economic development strategy,” said James O. Sawyer IV, president, Macomb Community College.  “It leverages the skills, interests and innovation of community members as well as Macomb students in fostering a strong entrepreneurial ecosphere, and in advancing local economic investment and vitality.”

KTISIS (Sterling Heights/ Macomb County) will receive a $50,000 award, which is designed to advance the progress of emerging companies toward larger-scale funding. The company must provide matching funding and commit to paying back the award. A technology and manufacturing company, KTISIS is introducing an infinite traction system to increase vehicle stability at any speed and in any road condition.  The company will initially focus on the enthusiasts market, who value performance and speed, starting with radio-controlled vehicles and expanding to the all-terrain vehicle, utility vehicle, powersports, automotive performance aftermarket, motorsports and the original equipment manufacturer markets.  “At KTISIS, our goal is to develop and commercialize fun, exciting and game-changing technologies for the enthusiasts and mobility markets,” said Stephen Chue, founder and company principal.

Alerje (Detroit/ Wayne County) will receive a $25,000 award, which is designed to support early-stage businesses taking the initial steps in market introduction. Alerje has developed an epinephrine auto-injector that fits into a specially designed smartphone case. When the auto-injector is used, an integrated mobile app sends location and information alerts to a user’s programmed CareCircle, which can include 911, family, friends, caregivers and medical professionals. Users will also be sent a notification when the medication’s expiration date is approaching.  “It’s been an absolute advantage having Alerje headquartered in Detroit,” said Javier Evelyn, Alerje founder and CEO. “The ecosystem has been invaluable throughout the growth of our company from an opportunity and talent perspective.”

“Driving innovation through this program at Macomb Community College continues to produce exciting results and economic opportunity for young people in the area," said Chauncy Lennon, Head of Workforce Initiatives for JPMorgan Chase.

The two companies awarded funding were selected from a field of 38 qualified applicants. Each went through a two-stage process, pitching first to a screening committee. The highest-rated companies moved on to a selection committee comprised of area professionals with experience in business management, finance, law, manufacturing and technology, who make award recommendations.

The Macomb Innovation Fund is a $2.7 million effort to stimulate economic development and job growth among promising Detroit-area entrepreneurs and next-stage companies with high-growth potential. Funding is provided by Macomb Community College’s Strategic Fund and JPMorgan Chase, as part of the company’s $150 million commitment to Detroit’s economic recovery. The unique initiative provides mentoring and capital to early-stage businesses, as well as learning opportunities for Macomb Community College’s students.

To be eligible for the Macomb Innovation Fund, companies must locate within a nine-county region consisting of Genesee, Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, Shiawassee, St. Clair, Washtenaw or Wayne counties.  Information about the application process is available at www.macomb.edu/cie.

About JPMorgan Chase & Co.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. is a leading global financial services firm with assets of $2.5 trillion and operations worldwide. The Firm is a leader in investment banking, financial services for consumers and small businesses, commercial banking, financial transaction processing, and asset management. A component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, JPMorgan Chase & Co. serves millions of consumers in the United States and many of the world's most prominent corporate, institutional and government clients under its J.P. Morgan and Chase brands. Information about JPMorgan Chase & Co. is available at www.jpmorganchase.com.

About Macomb Community College

Macomb Community College (www.macomb.edu) is one of the nation’s leading community colleges, providing learning experiences to more than 44,000 students annually. Macomb grants the largest number of associate degrees in Michigan and nationally ranks in the top two percent in the number of associate degrees awarded by community colleges. The college’s comprehensive educational programming includes pre-collegiate experiences, university transfer and career preparation programs, bachelor-degree completion and graduate degree programs, workforce training, professional education and certification, and continuing education and enrichment opportunities.