University students join Forbes Under 30 Summit for perspectives on innovation, entrepreneurship


A few lucky Wolverines joined the likes of Richard Branson, Jessica Alba, Ashton Kutcher, and Elon Musk at one of the most renowned events in innovation and entrepreneurship in the country — the Forbes Under 30 Summit on October 16-19.

Hosted in Boston, Massachusetts, the summit brings together innovators and entrepreneurs from all over the country, and features four days of motivational panels, pitch contests, music and food festivals. Several U-M students and alumni were among the 5,000 current and future leaders attending the conference—dubbed the world’s greatest gathering of young entrepreneurs and game changers.

They rubbed elbows with fellow innovators and heard from leaders in innovation and entrepreneurship from all walks life including Sound Ventures CEO Ashton Kutcher, Olympic champion Michael Phelps and model and author Chrissy Teigen.

Michigan engineering freshman Keiana Cave and Ross School of Business senior Eric Katz were among the U-M students there.

Meet Keiana

keianaA freshman from New Orleans, Keiana Cave is no stranger to innovation and entrepreneurship, with a number of accomplishments under her belt.

This past summer, she attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp. While there, Keiana worked with friends to found a startup that develops molecules to combat oil spills. With interests in chemical engineering, Cave aims to use her time at Michigan to further develop the technology.

Here at Michigan, Cave is involved in Ignite It, a start-up within the student organization M-Powered Entrepreneurship that hosts events on campus to highlight innovation and entrepreneurship opportunities at the University.

She is also the CEO of a growing startup called Meter. The app-based service aims to provide cost and location information for parking spots in downtown areas. Cave joined her partner to pitch the startup to Elon Musk during the Under 30 Summit, and hopes that the innovators and entrepreneurs she met there can help propel the company forward.

“This is a very big networking opportunity for my co-founders and me, so we hope to take advantage of that,” she said.

After the summit, Cave said she was especially impacted by a presentation from Ashton Kutcher, who discouraged attendees from expanding their startups too quickly.

“That’s something I’ve been having a lot of trouble with because when there are several companies trying to fund you all at once, it’s really hard to turn them down. But, sometimes you have to because it can be dangerous to allow your startup to scale too fast,” she said.

Cave will learn the results of her pitch to Elon Musk next week.  

Meet Eric

katzWhile Keiana is just starting her career at the University, Ross School of Business senior Eric Katz is getting closer to walking the graduation stage at The Big House.

With graduation nearing, Eric is investing more of his time into growing his small business, Kulisha, a sustainable aquafeed company. Partnered with students at Brown University, UCLA and the University of Nairobi, the company provides fish feed in the form of insects to aquaculture farmers in Kenya. Kulisha is the swahili word for “to feed.”

According to Katz, there is a huge lack of sustainable and high quality proteins in Kenya, with growing food insecurity. He said he and his team had to be innovative when thinking of alternative sources of protein for farmers.

“Right now, the way protein is sourced is really unsustainable. Fish are being caught from the ocean in really huge quantities just for commercial feed for aquaculture farmers, and that’s taking a heavy toll on the oceans. So we wanted to be innovative and think of another source of animal protein to be used for high-quality feed, and eventually found insects were a more sustainable version of protein,” he said.  

Kulisha has earned significant recognition since it launched in 2015. In February, the company won $15,000 as part of the Zell Lurie Institute’s Michigan Business Challenge. The Social Impact Track was sponsored by the Center for Social Impact and the Erb Institute.

Katz thought of the summit as a way to meet and network with other entrepreneurs outside of the University.

Written by Alyssa Brandon, Innovate Blue student writer.

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