Fashion brand, sports trick app, and more among alumni startups in new U-M accelerator cohort

The Desai Accelerator, a University of Michigan program open to early-stage alumni startups, has just announced the five companies accepted into its 2022 cohort. Through the seven-month program the ventures will be connected with funding, tailored mentorship opportunities, national visibility, and other resources considered critical for achieving success.

Desai Managing Director Angela Kujava says the accelerator widened its candidate pool this year by extending consideration to alumni who didn't necessarily graduate in the last 12-18 months (the accelerator's usual window of consideration).

"We have a diverse mix of candidates not only based on their companies, not only based on their trajectory and their products, but also their ages and the experiences they've had," Kujava says.

One of the teams in this year's cohort is a group of three graduates who decided to solve a problem they first experienced during the pandemic – meeting new people in real life. They've created Dabl, a social app that connects users with shared interests. 

"They're addressing a challenge that our traditional social media is not meeting. There are some students who think the metaverse is sort of the opposite way of how they want to meet people," Kujava says. "They actually want to find a way to meet people IRL, in real life. Dabl is a solution for being able to do that, and one that is hyperlocal."

Another app-based venture is Infinite Degrees’ action sports trick discovery and learning app. It boasts thousands of easy-to-access videos and information related to skiing, snowboarding, skateboarding, and surfing tricks that are indexed and searchable. Users can search for tricks, learn through tutorials, watch pros in action, and even compare videos of the same trick side by side. 

"If you are somebody learning, you don't want to watch a two-minute video on YouTube. You want to see the actual trick and you want to practice it. That's what this technology is about," Kujava says. "Where it's going will be akin to the yellow yard line that you see on TV when you're watching football. It helps you understand the game and also helps you understand what tricks are being executed."

Also on this year's roster is Detroit Design and Technology, an information-as-a-service company that has developed a solution to verify or prove the identity of an individual rather than an online account. Called meUI, the startup's "identity assurance and access management solution" is something that Kujava says could make a big impact in preventing fraud.

"So many ID verification solutions are certifying the validity of an online account. Yes, there's an email tied to something, but meUI is something that actually proves the identity of the individual associated with it," she says. "One application of this solution is in property management. There's a lot of fraud in that sector, especially from renters who are not who they say they are." 

Helping people express who they truly are is important to another accelerator participant, PARDINGTON COLLECTIVE. The collaborative art, fashion, and lifestyle brand also aims to foster appreciation for art in fashion, shopping, and people's daily life experiences.  

"It's really innovative. A signature piece is a blazer with the inside lining fabric featuring the work of one of the artists in the collaboration," Kujava says. "In the future, in addition to fashion pieces, there will be artwork and also some lifestyle products for sale."

Rounding out the cohort is Standd, a knowledge management platform created by a lawyer. It helps attorneys organize, curate, and save information while they work. Kujava explains that a challenge, especially for litigators, is that the amount of knowledge from multiple sources can be overwhelming. 

"Not only might they be looking at references on a server, they might be looking at other older documents, texts, or emails. Standd is a better way to manage everything, and in time could have applications for other professions," she says.

Kujava adds that there is a common characteristic of deep personal commitment among all members of the new cohort.

'We have one founder who quit his job at BlackRock to work on this business. We have one founder who sold her house and put all the money into the business," she says. "There's a saying in startup investing that you bet on the jockey, not on the horse, and this is a group of winners."

Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at

Photo courtesy of Desai Accelerator.
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