U-M Desai business accelerator welcomes new managing director, eclectic new startups

The University of Michigan's (U-M) Desai business accelerator welcomed a new managing director last month, as well as a diverse cohort of five new startups ranging from a community healthy eating app to a recruiting network for college coaches.

Angela Kujava steps into her new role as Desai managing director after several years heading up marketing, innovation, and product efforts for Ann Arbor-based web and app design firm Logic Solutions. During her time there she realized her passion for supporting new technology companies, which she often worked with as a consultant. When the Desai position opened up, Kujava says it seemed like a natural fit.

"I have always loved the challenge of creating order out of chaos," Kujava says. "When you work with early-stage companies, they have a lot of moving parts, and many early-stage companies are working to manage that without the benefit of an established structure. What I get to do every day is help guide them and manage all those moving parts."

Kujava will guide an eclectic mix of startups in her first cohort. The new cohort includes Circadian Risk, which develops risk analysis software for mobile devices; FoodStand, an app for community-driven healthy eating challenges; Sahi Cosmetics, a makeup line designed for olive- and yellow-undertoned skin; ScoutDay, a recruiting network connecting high school athletes and college coaches; and Warmilu, which uses a therapeutic warming technology to create non-electric warming blankets for infants.

"Every cohort and every team brings a different set of experiences and different challenges, and right now we are looking to help them succeed with those challenges," she says.

Each company selected for the Desai program receives a $25,000 investment, office space in downtown Ann Arbor, and access to resources valued at more than $500,000, including legal and human resources services and extensive mentorship from the U-M alumni network. The 2017 winter program runs through April 21, followed by a Demo Day in May.

Desai was founded in 2015 as a joint venture between U-M's Zell Lurie Institute of Entrepreneurial Studies at the Ross School of Business and the Center for Entrepreneurship at the College of Engineering. Previous participants include personal safety app Companion, winner of the 2015 Michigan Business Challenge, and mobile swim coach app MySwimPro, which was named Apple Watch App of 2016.

This piece is part of a series highlighting local business growth in the Ann Arbor area. It is supported by Ann Arbor SPARK.

Eric Gallippo is an Ypsilanti-based freelance writer.

Warmilu photo courtesy of Warmilu.

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