HabitAware, which makes software and wearable technology that helps people with destructive, "body-focused" repetitive behaviors, won the first prize among nine finalists in the first "MEDA's $1 million Challenge" for minority entrepreneurs.
HabitAware, based in St. Louis Park, was awarded $400,000 in a competition that has bloomed to $1.475 million, thanks to additional sponsorship. Last fall, the company won the $50,000 grand prize in the annual Minnesota Cup business competition.
Ilerasoft of Chicago, which provides software that aids hospitals in managing their medical-equipment use by improving their capital planning and budgeting, was awarded $200,000 in financing.
Cytilife, a Minneapolis-based "smart campus" software platform that helps students and college administrators make data-driven decisions designed to reduce the dropout rate, was awarded $125,000 in financing.
Mobility 4 All, a St. Paul-based "kinder, gentler ride-hailing service" for seniors and people with disabilities, was awarded $125,000 in financing.
The challenge was conducted by MEDA — the Metropolitan Economic Development Association — a nonprofit minority business counselor and financier agency that has grown by millions in capital amid success and national recognition in recent years.
"We are very excited to award more than a million dollars in financing to all nine companies," said MEDA CEO Gary Cunningham in a prepared statement. "The competition was stiff for the top prizes. We look forward to seeing how [the winners] leverage this investment in their businesses."
Coinciding with the finals this week, JPMorgan Chase provided an additional $250,000 on top of the $1 million from the national NEXT Fund for Innovation. MEDA also made a $225,000 investment this week, bringing the total amount of financing awarded to $1.475 million.
"We know the importance of investing in minority-owned small businesses, so increasing Chase's commitment in this program was the easy decision," said Gavin Borowiak, managing director at Chase.
In all, more than 200 businesses across the country applied to participate, and 19 semifinalists made pitches last fall during Twin Cities Startup Week.
The competition was originated, with support from the city of St. Paul, to call attention to minority business investing and also to showcase successful young businesses helping to achieve parity for minority entrepreneurs, attract additional growth capital and contribute to U.S. economic growth.
More on the competition and MEDA is at meda.net.