TechTown-affiliated startup accelerator takes home this $500K grand prize in national competition

What’s happening: The Ascend Energy & Mobility Accelerator has been awarded a $500,000 grand prize from the U.S. Department of Energy and its Office of Technology Transitions (OTT). The tech startup accelerator, a partnership between the Massachusetts-based VentureWell and TechTown Detroit, was one of four such grand prize winners selected at this year’s American-Made Energy Program for Innovation Clusters (EPIC) Prize from OTT.

What it is: The Ascend Energy & Mobility Accelerator is a six-week program for hard-tech startups in the energy and mobility sectors designed to help entrepreneurs take the next step from customer discovery to investment readiness and, ultimately, commercial launch. The ten startups that made up its initial cohort consisted of 10 Michigan-based or -affiliated companies, including three in Detroit: Cocoon Technologies Inc.; Energy Storage Safety Products International, LLC; and VMX Green.

Why it’s important: “Increasing resources for mobility- and energy-based entrepreneurs is not only timely but critical to the work of positioning Southeast Michigan as a powerful contributor in this space,” Dawn Batts, director of growth capital at TechTown Detroit, said when the inaugural cohort was first announced. “The Ascend program is not only an opportunity to support transportation, sustainability, and accessibility efforts, but also a way to encourage people to think about mobility broadly.”

Who’s behind it: The Michigan-centric accelerator is the result of a partnership between tech accelerator VentureWell, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Massachusetts, and TechTown Detroit, the entrepreneurial incubator and accelerator in New Center. The six-week program culminated with an in-person workshop at TechTown in late September.

What’s next: “Genuine regional partnership is critical to success, and we intend to build on this for the continuation of the program,” says Tricia Compas-Markman,  director of National Venture Programs for VentureWell. “Our strategic goals going forward are to increase the number of climate ventures, the share of innovators from underrepresented groups, and the capacity of regional institutions and their entrepreneurial ecosystems. Ascend is a new program that achieves these goals while actively learning from the community.”

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MJ Galbraith is Model D's development news editor. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.