A team from Michigan Technological University took the $30,000 top prize in the annual New Venture Competition, held last month at Central Michigan University.
The competition was hosted by CMU and co-sponsored by the Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship in Michigan Tech’s Pavlis Honors College.
A total of 29 student teams, 24 from Central Michigan, four from Michigan Tech and one team with members from both schools competed, competed for more than $77,000 that was awarded to seven different teams.
Tech mechanical engineering major Nick Dubiel took the $30,000 first prize for his company, Multi Dimensional Manufacturing. He was assisted in his pitch by scientific and technical communications major Morgan Crocker.
The pair won for pitching Metaloid, a metal-framed 3D printer. Dubiel describes Metaloid as a “large, fast Delta printer that can apply material eight times faster than any conventional printer without losing resolution and can process more materials than current desktop 3D printers.”
He says he’s been working on the business for about four years and decided to try pitching the idea to get some feedback. “It turns out I’m not crazy, and the investors really seemed interested.” So interested, in fact, that his idea took the top prize.
Crocker says their pairing was, essentially, made by chance. “I was paired up with Nick from an entrepreneurship class,” she says. “I was told he needed help polishing up his pitch for the competition and any help would be appreciated.”
When they got together, Dubiel walked Crocker through the very technical side of his 3D printer. In addition, she says she got a glimpse into something more than the nuts and bolts of a machine. “I really got to understand Nick’s passion behind it. He was so technical in language that I suppose it was perfect that I was part of the team.”
Crocker says it was her job to get everyone at the competition to not only understand what Dubiel was pitching, but also its significance. “Nick is the brains behind the team,” she says. “I was what he humorously calls ‘putting lipstick on the pig.’ We do make a great team, balancing out the technical with the front-facing content.”
While Dubiel acknowledges he and Crocker make a good team, he was still surprised. “I didn’t expect to win,” he says.
Jim Baker, executive director of innovation and industry engagement, was Dubiel’s mentor for the competition. “Nick received significant support through participation in Michigan Tech’s National Science Foundation I-Corps site program directed by Mary Raber and from the Michigan Tech Entrepreneurs Club,” Baker says.
He notes the top prize came with more than money. “Winning the prize for best overall business came with $30,000 plus a year of mentoring support for Nick and Morgan from Blue Water Angels in Midland.”
Dubiel said he initially thought the only way he would get his idea to move forward was by “using Kickstarter and figuring it out as I went along.” With his prize money and guidance from Blue Water Angels, he is finding more direction. “I’ve learned a lot, made connections and in general have a lot more options and opportunities than ever before.”
"I thought getting the prototype was hard work, but I am realizing that was the easy part."
Following the competition at Central Michigan, Dubiel pitched his company again, to Blue Angels, and while it was a significantly smaller event, he said he did made a few more contacts.
Up next for Dubiel and Multi Dimensional Manufacturing is paperwork — establishing an LLC and opening a bank account in order to receive the New Venture Competition winnings.
“After that I have a few designs that may be patentable, and I need to trademark my logo and name,” he says. He is also looking for a workspace and additional team members to help get Metaloid ready for a Kickstarter campaign.
Dubiel says there is much more to getting his company developed than he ever imagined. “I thought getting the prototype was hard work, but I am realizing that was the easy part. There is so much more, and in some ways I really don’t have a clue, but I will figure it out.”
Helping to figure it out are Baker and the resources at Pavlis. “I’ll be honest, I didn’t know about Pavlis until I went down for the competition,” Dubiel says. “But I was helped by many of their members through programs like I-Corps and in particular Jim Baker, who has been instrumental to my current success. I wouldn’t have been ready for the competition without them.”
With his winnings, and support from Pavlis and Blue Water Angels, Dubiel has every reason to be optimistic about the future. “I can’t wait to see what the next year or two has in store for me.”
Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.