Team of Detroit Female Tech Entrepreneurs Capture First-Place Award in Start Studio Pitch Competition

Date: July 30, 2020




COVID-19 Forced Final Showcase Virtual for TechTown Detroit and Its Largest Program Cohort to Date


DETROIT –  TechTown Detroit today announced that the founders of The Lab Drawer ( have been awarded its first-place prize of $1,500 in the Start Studio Spring 2020 Virtual Showcase pitch competition.

The Lab Drawer is a monthly subscription box with science, technology, engineering, arts and math content delivered to the homes of middle school students around the country. It is led by an all-female team from Detroit comprised of Dr. Alecia Gabriel, Chinonye Akunne, MPH, and Deirdre Roberson, MSc. Together they possess more than 30 years of combined technical science and art education experience.

The Showcase final program presentation, held virtually this year on July 8, included pitch presentations from 15 tech-based startups across a wide range of industries, from athletic apparel to home improvement. All businesses embodied a core technology focus. Judges included representatives from Google, Rock Ventures and Frost Brown Todd.


“Start Studio provided us with immense knowledge and insight about our customers and their needs. It has changed the way we look at and approach our business,” said Gabriel, on behalf of the founders of The Lab Drawer.


The $750 second-place prize was awarded to Guild (, a marketplace that provides up-front pricing and licensed contractors for home services. The $250 third-place prize went to real-time sneaker release locater Sole Alert

( TechTown also introduced a new virtual People’s Choice Award, allowing the public to vote for their favorite pitch, with the $500 award going to Nextiles (, a textiles recycling company.


Start Studio’s 12-week program offers virtual one-on-one coaching from TechTown entrepreneurs-in-residence, along with technical assistance and group learning, to help entrepreneurs refine their ideas. It provides a catalyst for creative tech concepts that might otherwise never take off. Tech founders are guided through testing, research and the creation of a sample product.

The Showcase was the culmination of the third cohort of Detroit’s only idea-stage program for tech and tech-based businesses. Despite occurring in the midst of a pandemic, this spring session boasted the program’s largest application pool and cohort size to date.


“Now more than ever, we need to back the founders that are building the startups that will restart our economy here in the city of Detroit,” said Dr. Marlo Rencher, director of technology-based programs at TechTown. “We are building on a strong tradition of inclusion and innovation with this cohort. We will continue to support and accelerate their success.”


Applications are now open for the fourth cohort of Start Studio, which will begin Sept. 2, 2020. For more information, visit Start Studio is sponsored by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, New Economy Initiative and the William Davidson Foundation.


Start Studio Spring 2020 Virtual Showcase Winners – The Lab Drawer. From left to right: Chinonye Akunne, Alecia Gabriel and Deirdre Roberson



About TechTown Detroit

TechTown empowers Detroit-based startups and local businesses to start, stabilize and scale by providing resources, collaborative workspace and education for entrepreneurs that will further accelerate inclusive economic development across Detroit. Since 2007, TechTown has supported 2,700 companies, which created more than 1,600 jobs and raised more than $160 million in startup and growth capital. For more information, visit