The Life Science/Health IT division winner of the MN Cup, StemoniX, was awarded the $50,000 grand prize at the 12th annual MN Cup awards celebration. The prize was announced at a ceremony Thursday evening, Sept. 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.
Co-founder Ping Yeh 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”
“Winning the MN Cup has been a long-held dream — we can’t quite believe it came true tonight,” said Ping Yeh, CEO and founder, StemoniX. “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.”
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.
In addition to winning $30,000 as the Life Science/Health IT division winner in August, as the grand prize winner, StemoniX claimed an additional $50,000 in seed capital and a number of professional services and other benefits to help build its business.
“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”
“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, executive director, MN Cup. “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.”
Winners from each division received up to $30,000 in seed capital. Runners-up from each division received $5,000 in seed capital. The eight MN Cup finalists in competition for the grand prize were:
- Energy/Clean Tech/Water: Activated Research Company
- Food/Ag/Beverage: SelfEco Garden
- General: Berd Spokes
- High Tech: Vugo
- Life Science/Health IT: StemoniX
- Social Entrepreneurship: Asiya
- Student: Minnealloy Magnetics
- Youth: ExpressionMed
In addition to the grand prize, the Carlson Family Foundation awarded $25,000 to the top woman-led business, Asiya. Meda also gave $10,000 to Asiya, as the minority entrepreneur with the most innovative business concept. Securian Financial Group provided $10,000 for an innovation that shapes the future of financial services or life insurance through technology — Sezzle; Capella gave $10,000 to the most innovative education technology that promotes learning solutions or builds 21st century skills, FanSchool; AARP awarded a $5,000 prize to Farmhouse Market for an innovation that improves the lives of low-income seniors; and MDA presented $12,000 in in-kind prizes to four Food/Ag/Bev Division teams including SelfEco, Bolton Bees, Far North Spirts and True Dough.
DaBomb Bath Fizzers, a division runner-up and StemoniX, both won $1000 in an audience-choice vote after delivering elevator pitches to the 800-person plus crowd at the U of M Thurs. night. Entries for the 2016 MN Cup were due in May. Judges selected semifinalists from each division to develop more comprehensive business proposals in June. Later, three finalists from each division were chosen to present final business plans, from which, in late August, narrowed to the final eight.
The competition is free to enter and each year encourages applications from a wide range of businesses, entrepreneurs and inventors. More than 11,000 Minnesotans have participated in MN Cup since it began in 2005. Finalists since 2005 have gone on to raise more than $225 million in capital to support the development of their ideas, create jobs, and broker numerous business partnerships, collaborations and distribution agreements.