Conquer Accelerator Closes Out 2021 With Strongest Cohorts Yet in Both East Lansing and Grand Rapids

Posted Mar 23rd, 2022

EAST LANSING, Mich. –– Conquer Accelerator, a program under The Michigan State University Foundation,  has announced the official wrap up of its 2021 East Lansing and Grand Rapids programs, with sights on a promising year ahead filled with new opportunities for Michigan’s booming entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

"We're proud of what we've built over the last six years within the Conquer Accelerator program and 2021 was incredible in terms of what were able to accomplish with these 11 teams from the East Lansing and Grand Rapids areas," said Tom Stewart, director of Conquer Accelerator. "Covering industries from healthcare, finance, education, recreation, and more, we couldn’t be more excited to have played a small role in their development and be a continuing resource for their ongoing growth.” 

Originated in East Lansing, the 10-week program supports rising startups by providing $20,000 in funding, access to more than 40 mentors, follow-on funding, and other essential resources. Conquer Accelerator is a collaborative effort made possible through partnerships with parent organization Michigan State University Foundation and its subsidiaries Spartan Innovations, Red Cedar Ventures and Michigan Rise. 

“Michigan has become a state where startups want to establish themselves and thrive – simple as that,” said Jeff Wesley, executive director of Spartan Innovations, Red Cedar Ventures, and Michigan Rise. “I’ve been lucky enough to work alongside the Conquer Accelerator program and I’m constantly more amazed every year by the talent we get to support not only during, but long after the 10 weeks. There are a lot of moving pieces to Conquer and the success behind the program wouldn’t be possible without the teams at the MSU Foundation and all of the subsidiaries.” 

In 2021, the East Lansing cohort kicked off in June, ending in August, and the Grand Rapids cohort followed, starting in September and concluding in November. Each startup began the program in various stages, coming with unique issues and goals throughout the 10-week period. The 2021 Conquer Accelerator teams included: 


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And the leadership behind these startups were all blown away… 

“I’ve participated in other accelerators, but nothing compared to Conquer’s structure and their wiliness to support startups. The funding from Red Cedar opened up endless opportunities to extend our runway.” - Joseph Gracia, CEO of Nickels. 

“One of our goals was to grow our team, and through the Conquer program, we were able to make lasting HR connections where we could find strong, fitting candidates.” - Sophie Vanden Bosch, co-founder of Revolin Sports.  

“From day one, you’re really part of a community. From our first pitch to final pitch experience, we grew a lot through the program’s exceptional coaching.” - Josh Nichols, founder and CEO of CrossBraining. 

“Conquer was truly a customized program for us. We were focused on revamping our customer personas and started testing marketing messages – the program was truly tailored to our business needs.” – Carl Winans, co-founder and CEO of Rebound. 

“It was incredibly valuable being amongst a group of brilliant startups and indirectly learn from each other. I would love to see a program like Conquer expand throughout Michigan and support more entrepreneurs.” - John Sorensen, co-founder of Student Achievement Systems. 

Since its inception, Conquer Accelerator has been committed to diversity and inclusion, continuing its Conquer Accelerator Diversity in Entrepreneurship (CADE) program. This internship program continues to increase diversity within the entrepreneurial community even further by hiring young professionals from various ethnicities and backgrounds to collaborate with selected teams. To learn more, please read a recent feature of the CADE program here

Conquer Accelerator’s East Lansing cohort will take place once again this summer. Applications will open March 2022. 

About Michigan State University Foundation 

Established in 1973 as an independent non-profit, the Michigan State University Foundation is committed to the commercialization of cutting-edge technologies invented by MSU faculty, staff, and students. The MSU Foundation’s overarching goal is to support research, innovation, and entrepreneurship at the University. Additionally, the MSU Foundation operates Spartan Innovations, Red Cedar Ventures, Michigan Rise and incubator facilities to help drive economic development. More information on the organization’s notable achievements, services, leadership, and history are available at

About Conquer Accelerator 

Launched in 2016, Conquer Accelerator has served over 40 companies that have collectively raised over $30M in outside investments over $700K into its startups. From streetwear to AI-assisted language learning, Conquer Accelerator accepts committed entrepreneurs who are ready to take their startups to the next level. Bringing together business and industry leaders, entrepreneurs, and university experts—not to mention angel and venture investors—Conquer alums have access to a powerful network. Learn more at