From U-M to SXSW

By Innovate Blue Student Associate Mathias Arkayin

For the third year in a row, the University of Michigan demonstrated its commitment to entrepreneurship and innovation at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. Commonly known as SXSW, the festival has earned a reputation as a breeding ground for new ideas and creative technologies. This 2-week celebration consistently attracts the most exciting established and up-and-coming artists, inventors, and entrepreneurs.

Michigan inventiveness was on full display during the SXSW interactive trade show, alongside such diverse company as Japanese robots, Singaporean government agencies, and French startups. The U-M exhibit, coordinated by the School of Information, showcased a wide range of student creativity, and highlighted all 19 schools and colleges.

Innovate Blue showcased the U-M entrepreneurial ecosystem with multidisciplinary student teams, who in addition to pitching their venture, told visitors about how they were able to leverage the diverse experiences and programs at U-M to turn their ideas into a reality.

Sophomores Muhammad Mazhari, Carson Covell, Ritwik Biswas, and Lawrence Yong pitched a mobile app that helps people make better voting decisions. Three graduate students, including CEO Anna Sadovnikova from U-M’s School of Public Health, presented their venture Liquid Gold Concepts, which aims to empower mothers to take control of their breastfeeding experience. College of Engineering and School of Information representatives demo’d several high-tech devices including a 3D printer, an Oculus Rift, and a drone. Representatives from the School of Engineering, the School of Information, the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, and the School of Public Health were on location, too.

Several U-M students had the chance to pitch their startup ideas before judges from the computer industry, venture capital investors, academics, and other entrepreneurs at the 2015 Innovation Pitch Competition on March 14. The contest was sponsored by the UMSI Entrepreneurship Program, the Ross Entrepreneurship Venture Club and the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas, and took place at the business school on the U-T campus the first Saturday of South by Southwest. Read more about some of the winning U-M pitches.

The event also brought together nearly 500 U-M alumni for quintessential Austin barbeque and networking. Recent graduates, current students, and seasoned alumni made introductions and shared stories, while students pitched their ideas and projects to the group.

Michigan’s presence at SXSW captured the energy and creativity of the university community. Students, staff and alumni reached a diverse range of forward thinking exhibitors – from promising startups, to established industry leaders. With the largest presence of any higher education institution there, U-M was a beacon for innovation and entrepreneurship in Michigan and our region, connecting with alumni and people from all over the world at this unique festival.

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