TechTown Detroit’s new Start Studio for startups reveals winners, seeks innovators for fall session


Date: October 3, 2019
Contact: Robin Schwartz
Phone: (248) 508-5985


TechTown Detroit’s new Start Studio for startups reveals winners, seeks innovators for fall session

  • 34-year-old Oak Park man takes first place in pitch competition
  • Deadline to apply for Start Studio’s next round is Friday, Oct. 11


TechTown Detroit announced today that the creator of BRICKLAYR, an online construction equipment rental platform, has won first place in the first-ever Start Studio Summer 2019 Showcase pitch competition, the culmination of a one-of-a-kind, 12-week pilot program for Detroit-area tech entrepreneurs.

Start Studio’s experts helped participants test the viability of their business plans and mentored them through the initial stages of bringing their innovative ideas to life.

The showcase on Wednesday, Sept. 25, at Wayne State University’s Industry Innovation Center featured 12 Start Studio teams that presented their work to judges who selected first-, second- and third-place winners based upon the feasibility of their tech creations. All winners will receive more than $10,000 in business support services from major companies like Amazon Web Services, as well as cash prizes.

The winners are:

• First place: Brian Pollyn, owner of BRICKLAYR, an online construction equipment rental platform that allows users to compare rates from trusted local equipment suppliers.
• Second place: Brian Smith II and Jay Brown, creators of Gas App, an on-demand gas delivery app.
• Third place: Danielle Smith-Parker and Donnell Smith, creators of Detroit Maid, an online marketplace for on-demand home cleaning services.

The pilot program that began in July proved so successful, TechTown is now accepting applications for its fall Start Studio program, a 7-week incubator that begins October 23, 2019 at this web address. The deadline to apply is 11:59 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11.

“Start Studio is TechTown’s answer to Detroit’s unmet demand for idea-stage tech business assistance,” said Marlo Rencher, director of technology-based programs at TechTown Detroit. “We’ve found that tech entrepreneurs often don’t have the time, tools or expertise to take their ideas to the next level, and that’s where Start Studio comes in. We want to give Detroit’s next big tech startup every opportunity to succeed.”

Start Studio offers one-on-one coaching, technical assistance and group learning to help entrepreneurs refine their ideas, providing a catalyst for creative tech concepts that might otherwise never take off. Startups are guided through testing, research and the creation of a sample product.

Judges for the Start Studio Summer 2019 Showcase included Anna Brozek, CEO of Big Cartel; Chris Thomas, co-founder and president of Detroit Mobility Lab; Wendy Thomas, southeast region director for the Michigan Small Business Development Center; Lavea Brachman, vice president of programs for the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation; Lisa Katz, senior program officer for economic vitality and entrepreneurship for the William Davidson Foundation, and Paul Riser Jr., director of Detroit Urban Solutions at TechTown Detroit.

First-place winner Pollyn, 34, of Oak Park, who works in construction logistics, says the Start Studio experience was invaluable.

“For someone who wants to drive his or her business through tech, and they don’t know the next steps to take, Start Studio is the best place to go,” he says. “A lot of people build platforms without really understanding their customer. Start Studio helps you understand who your customers are, discover their problems and create the solution. The networking, resources and mentorship were really phenomenal.”