MN Cup winner Ping Yeh (center) is flanked by (left to right) Scott Litman and Dan Malin, the managing partners and founders of the MN Cup and Dave and Carolyn Cleveland, the MN Cup’s founding patrons.  

Ping Yeh, ’05 MBA, is the winner of the 2016 MN Cup with his business, StemoniX. Yeh was awarded the $50,000 grand prize at the 12th annual MN Cup awards celebration on September 22 at the University of Minnesota’s McNamara Alumni Center.

StemoniX is a company that conducts stem cell-based research and drug screening, which will lead to a new era of drug discovery and personalized medicine. The company is revolutionizing the production, growth and manufacture of human heart and brain cells for drug toxicity and efficacy testing.

Yeh, the co-founder of StemoniX, is a survivor of Hodgkins Lymphoma, which he was diagnosed with in 2012. After receiving a maximum toxicity treatment that cured his cancer, he learned the only way to test for heart damage as a result of the treatment was a post-measurement — there was no pre-test. This inspired him to use his knowledge of nanotechnology and ability to solve challenging problems like this with his company, StemoniX.

“Winning the MN Cup has been a long-held dream — we can’t quite believe it came true tonight,” Yeh said. “We have the opportunity for so much good to emerge from my own cancer experience, and look forward to continuing to challenge the status quo in healthcare to make breakthrough changes in the industry. Through our patented technology, we can minimize toxicity risks to patients and maximize their life after treatment. We will work to accelerate the customization of individual cancer therapies and drug treatments for the world— and we hope, play a part in the cure of diseases like cancer and Alzheimer's.”

In addition to the $50,000 grand prize, StemoniX also won $30,000 as the Life Science/Health IT division winner in August. At the final awards event, the company won $1,000 in an audience-choice vote after Yeh delivered an elevator pitch to the 800-person-plus crowd.

Other division winners with Carlson School affiliations also received monetary prizes at the celebration. Asiya, co-founded by Jamie Glover, ’17 MBA, the winner of the Social Entrepreneurship division, received $25,000 from the Carlson Family Foundation as the top woman-led business, and $10,000 from Meda for the minority entrepreneur with the most innovative business concept. Sezzle, a runner-up in the High Tech division, received $10,000 from Securian Financal Group as an innovation that shapes the future of financial services or life insurance through technology. Sezzle was founded by CEO Charlie Youakim, ’10 MBA. Paul Paradis, ’10 MBA, is its chief business development officer.

About the MN Cup

Organized by the Carlson School, the MN Cup is the country’s largest statewide new venture competition —supporting and accelerating the development of breakthrough business ideas across Minnesota. A record-breaking 1,500 entrepreneurs participated in the competition this year, which also introduced a new category — the youth division — for entrepreneurs aged 18 and younger. Thirty-eight percent of entries overall were from women-led teams, and 60 percent of entrants in the youth division were female.  Additionally, 34 percent of teams were led by University of Minnesota students and alumni, and eight percent were led by a military service member.

“We’re so pleased to connect the entrepreneurial vision and ingenuity of stellar Minnesota-based entrepreneurs with the resources and connections to help their businesses flourish through MN Cup,” said Melissa Kjolsing, MN Cup executive director. “Over the past 12 years, more than 11,000 aspiring entrepreneurs like StemoniX have participated in this competition, and our participants have gone on to raise more than $225 million to foster innovation and job creation in Minnesota. The 2016 competition yielded an unprecedented number of entrants, including record-breaking numbers of women, and a huge response in our newest category, the youth division.”