WMU entrepreneur wins annual $10,000 Brian Patrick Thomas Award

contact: Alyssa Benson
| WMU News
Photo of Joshua Teo.


KALAMAZOO, Mich.—The Western Michigan University student entrepreneur behind a new software program has won the second Brian Patrick Thomas Entrepreneurial Spirit Award.

Joshua Teo, a graduate student research assistant studying mechanical engineering, received the $10,000 award for his invention Durabilika, an interactive cloud-based durability analysis software.

About the award

The Brian Patrick Thomas Entrepreneurial Spirit award is awarded annually to a company in Starting Gate, WMU's student business accelerator, which seeks to move teams of people to a common cause with a higher social purpose. The inaugural award was given to NeoVent in 2015.


Durabilika helps design engineers at manufacturing companies predict the service life of their products through cloud-based software, FatigueNet. Teo created the software while pursuing his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering when he realized most products used to serve the same function were either extremely expensive, difficult to learn, or both. Durabilika seeks to simplify this type of software by helping users conserve time and money by using low-risk payment plan options and by making the product self-explanatory and easy-to-use.

“We are honored to receive this award," says Teo. "With this type of funding, we're able to continue to expand our research on the product, working to make it easier to access and use."

Durabilika is co-founded by Dr. Daniel Kujawski, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at WMU. The company plans to use the award to hire programmers, attend coding seminars and complete the minimum viable product.  

About Brian Thomas

Thomas is an alumnus of WMU who earned his degree in industrial marketing in 1996. He began his professional career at Forkardt Inc. in Portage and later became an account executive manager for Honda Manufacturing at global automotive giant Magna International. He joined OtterBox in 2003 and was eventually named CEO where he was responsible for leading global expansion efforts and was the chief visionary in positioning OtterBox as an innovation technology company.

During his tenure, OtterBox achieved several milestones and was consistently named one of the fastest growing and most innovative companies in the U.S. by several business organizations. Thomas received the Mid-Market CEO of the Year in 2014 by CEO Connection and was named one of the Top 100 CEOs in the country by Chief Executive Magazine. Thomas's passion for entrepreneurial thinking and social entrepreneurship sparked his desire to establish this award to support student entrepreneurs in their efforts to create enterprises that operate harmoniously with employees, communities and non-profit organizations, creating a strong synergistic benefit for all stakeholders.

Thomas is currently the co-owner and CEO of Jemez Technology. Jemez Technology is a software company focusing on real-time perimeter detection and security for the country's critical infrastructure, monuments and national security assets.

About Starting Gate

Starting Gate is a student business accelerator that gives students rich and valuable resources to develop their startup companies. It is located in downtown Kalamazoo and operated by the Haworth College of Business Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. The accelerator is open to all WMU students through a competitive application process in which students must demonstrate a promising idea for a product or service, which can be launched within a short period of time. Starting Gate provides a fast track to business launch.

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