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Underwater Drone Maker, Fathom, Wins Inaugural ‘Pitch Mackinac’ Competition

‘Pitch Mackinac’ Competition Shows off Michigan’s Entrepreneurial Spirit

With help from “Shark Tank” co-host and FUBU founder Daymond John, the 2016 Mackinac Policy Conference hosted its first-ever “Pitch Mackinac” competition, announcing Grand Rapids-based Fathom the winner of a prize of $5,000 and professional services from several Chamber members.

The underwater drone maker was selected through the Chamber’s partnership with startup incubator Start Garden. Fathom, launched by recent Hope College graduates Matt Gira and Danny Vessells, is producing one of the very first affordable and consumer-accessible underwater drones. Controlled through a smartphone app, the drone allows the most novice enthusiast to explore waterways 100 to 150 feet below the surface.

The runner-up participant, Detroit-based Detroit Ento, founded by Anthony Hatinger and Theodore Kozerski focuses on using locally raised insects—specifically crickets—as a sustainable source for high-protein food and livestock feed. In addition, the company is currently doing research into potential pharmaceutical uses for the insects as well. The duo earned a trip to the Conference after winning the inaugural “Pitch Detroit” competition at the Chamber’s 2016 Detroit Policy Conference in February.

In addition to the cash prize, the company will receive access to products and services donated by the Michigan Venture Capital Association, Office Depot and UPS; and a year of mentoring from one of Michigan’s well-known entrepreneurs, Paul Glantz, president of Emagine Entertainment.

The competition reinforced the 2016 Conference pillar of entrepreneurship, which aims to build and support a progressive and robust entrepreneurial economy in Michigan. Emceed by John and sponsored by Comcast Business Solutions, “Pitch Mackinac” was also assisted by judges Glantz; Patti Poppe, president and CEO-elect of Consumers Energy; and Paul W. Smith, host of WJR News/Talk 760 AM.