GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (September 21) – Last March, Grand Rapids-based NxGen MDx announced the immediate launch and availability of their COVID-19 test – one of the first available in Michigan. They’ve established partnerships with the Michigan Dept of Health and Human Services, local governments, and health care systems and are now conducting thousands of tests each day. It was not that long ago that the Michigan Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the Grand Rapids Smart Zone helped NxGen MDx launch its business through the Business Accelerator Fund (BAF) program, and is evidence that innovative Michigan small businesses are making significant contributions towards fighting the pandemic. In the year that followed, the Michigan SBDC, Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and the Smart Zone network partnered to support fifteen small businesses developing advanced technology to combat COVID-19.
This support was the result of BAF program modifications approved by the Michigan Strategic Fund in April 2020. The changes allowed for expanded services, expanded company eligibility and an expedited proposal and review process. This allowed the BAF program to quickly support companies developing technology with the potential to fight COVID-19. The technologies being developed by these small businesses include a therapeutic for acute respiratory distress, multiple methods for killing the coronavirus, advanced COVID-19 tracking software, and an oral vaccine. A complete list of the BAF COVID-19 technology companies is available here.
“The BAF grant came at the right time for us,” said Shadi Mere, CEO of Bedestrian. “With COVID-19, most startups are focusing their budget and resources to mitigate the uncertainty and risk that lay ahead, which may shift the priority or slow down crucial development. BAF helps us, with our Michigan suppliers, respond to COVID-19, and plant the seeds for emerging stronger.”
The Michigan SBDC launched the BAF program in 2012 in partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The BAF is available to participating business accelerators in Michigan’s statewide SmartZone network. These funds are used toward the delivery of specialized services that are not otherwise available from these business accelerators, to assist advanced technology companies throughout Michigan. A participating business accelerator will engage a third-party specialist – intellectual property attorneys, engineering firms, software developers, marketing consultants, etc. – to help advance the client’s path to commercialization, company success, and economic impact for the state of Michigan.
“The BAF COVID-19 Response program has been a huge benefit to the greater Ann Arbor startup Ecosystem,” said Bill Mayer, Vice President, Entrepreneurial Services of Ann Arbor Spark. “It allows us to support 16 companies with their recurring fixed costs, provide resources to 11 different companies that are working on COVID-19 related technologies, and assist one non-tech company to manufacture PPE. What is really amazing about this special program is that it works outside of the regular maximums by which companies are normally bound. This additional flexibility and focus on our local companies working to be part of the solution to this pandemic is part of why we exist as economic developers.”
The modifications to BAF also expand the Smart Zone accelerators ability to support their existing clients who were showing great promise prior to the pandemic but were then struck with severe hardship resulting from stay-at-home orders and other factors impacting the economy. The allowable use of BAF funds has been expanded to meet these company needs.
“The COVID-19 BAF grant funds enabled us to pay for our software maintenance and bug fixes for 1 month, extending our business runway,” said Lynn McCain, Co-Founder and Director of Operations for InheRET, Inc. “This is an essential expense required to keep our SaaS company up and running. Without our maintenance contract with Paquette Software, we would be unable to adequately service the patients using InheRET.”
A complete list of the BAF COVID-19 technology companies and activity through August 31, 2021 is available here.
About the Michigan SBDC
The Michigan Small Business Development Center provides consulting, business education, market research, and technology commercialization to new and existing businesses throughout Michigan’s 83 counties. Michigan SBDC services are available through the support of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). Entrepreneurs and small business owners may access the services of their nearest Michigan SBDC by visiting www.michigansbdc.org.
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