Michigan: Help & Guidance For Entrepreneurs In Startup Mode

By February 10, 2011

written by Mike Wilk, Michigan reporter for Flyover Geeks. Mike will be covering the thriving Michigan startup scene in Ann Arbor, Detroit and beyond.

For many entrepreneurs and small business owners, the process of developing an idea, turning that idea in to a viable business, surviving the startup and early growth stages and succeeding to turn a profit somewhere down the road can be a very tall task. Fortunately for Michigan entrepreneurs, there are many incubators, organizations and business associations designed to guide newly formed businesses through the startup process.

These organizations are affiliated with local universities, government, business and community leaders, as well as many successful, experienced entrepreneurs. Great Lakes Entrepreneur’s Quest, an organization based in Ann Arbor, provides a thorough list of all the “Michigan SmartZones” designed to aid the state’s entrepreneurs in areas from West Michigan all the way to the Upper Peninsula. The link to these websites can be found here: Great Lakes Entrepreneur’s Quest | About GLEQ. Many of these organizations offer classes, competitions, networking events and even “boot camps” to assist local startups. Without further ado, here is some background information, upcoming events and important dates surrounding these organizations.

Great Lakes Entrepreneur’s Quest (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
Website: www.gleq.org
About: GLEQ offers a business plan competition for Michigan entrepreneurs. The site also contains past GLEQ training presentations, many statewide support organizations and their contact information, suggested readings, and recommended websites. It also offers podcasts for entrepreneurs, covering relevant news topics and interviews with coaches and sponsors.

Mission: “The Great Lakes Entrepreneur’s Quest aspires to be an engine for the formation of new, high-growth companies in Michigan. The mission of the Great Lakes Entrepreneur’s Quest, and its competition, is to continually encourage and educate entrepreneurs on the creation, start up and early growth stages of high-growth businesses within the state of Michigan. This will be accomplished by linking entrepreneurs pursuing high-growth opportunities with access to a statewide network of community resources, expert advice, high quality education, management talent and capital at every stage of development.”
Upcoming Events: GLEQ just opened registration for its Spring 2011 Business Plan competition for Michigan-based entrepreneurs. It’s open to anyone with a new business idea or emerging company, as long as one member of the team lives, works or attends school in Michigan, or if it’s an existing business, it must be based in the state. Prizes are awarded as cash grants or convertible loans as determined by the sponsor. Registration runs through Friday, March 4, at 5 p.m.

Ann Arbor Spark (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
Website: http://www.annarborusa.org
About: Ann Arbor Spark is a non-profit organization representing the area’s university, business, government, entrepreneurial, and community leaders. It is dedicated to helping businesses looking to locate to the Ann Arbor region, find a talented workforce or start a new business in the area.

Mission: “Ann Arbor SPARK will be the driving force in establishing the Ann Arbor Region as a desired place for business expansion and location by identifying and meeting the needs of business at every stage, from those that are established to those working to successfully commercialize innovations. Ann Arbor SPARK practices Open Source Economic Development ®. We believe that partnership and collaboration are keys to our success.”
Upcoming Events: Ann Arbor Spark has several upcoming forums and networking events in the month of February listed on its website under its “Events” tab: http://www.annarborusa.org/events.

TechTown (Detroit, Michigan)
Website: http://techtownwsu.org
About: TechTown was established in 2000 via a collaboration of Wayne State University, General Motors and Henry Ford Health Systems. They strove to create an engine of economic growth with local and statewide impact . TechTown’s goal is to stimulate job growth and small business creation by developing companies in emerging high-technology industries including advanced engineering, alternative energy and life sciences. TechTown offers various training services and courses for startup companies, including their FastTrac and BizdomU programs. The organization hosts 70 growing companies in its TechOne facility and more than 87 startups have enrolled in its SmartStart business accelerator program.

Mission: ” TechTown will help create and strengthen a culture of entrepreneurialism in Detroit and Michigan, leading to vigorous and lasting economic growth. To assist in realizing this objective, we will:
– Support the development of emerging companies through sustainable business operations, exemplary programs and services, and a comprehensive infrastructure, all integrated into Detroit’s broader economic development goals; and
– Leverage community partnerships required to deliver effective programs and services to emerging companies.”
Upcoming Events: TechTown hosts many forums and networking events, listed under the “Events” portion of its website. A couple upcoming networking and informational events focusing on entrepreneurship will take place on February 9, “Understanding Entrepreneurial Operations,” and February 15, “Bootstrapping Your Business.” Check the website for further details.

Automation Alley (Troy, Michigan)
Website: ttp://www.automationalley.com/
About: Automation Alley is a non-profit organization committed to driving economic growth and development through collaborative workforce and business development initiatives. Automation Alley consists of more than 1,000 creators and consumers of diverse technologies from a variety of industries around the world. It serves the city of Detroit and the surrounding counties of Genesee, Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair, Washtenaw, and Wayne, offering coaching, funding and other resources for entrepreneurs.

Mission: “We exist to grow the innovation cluster of Southeast Michigan. We believe in a bright technology future for our state. Automation Alley creates business development opportunities and results for our members and stakeholders who share our values. By helping our members achieve success, Automation Alley increases the quality of life in Michigan.”
Upcoming Events: The Automation Alley website lists a variety of events covering multiple topics within its region of membership. It will be sponsoring the Entrepreneurial Initiative of Southeast Michigan’s Entrepreneur’s Forum on February 10. For more details, follow the link: Event Calendar | Automation Alley.

Momentum (Grand Rapids, Michigan)
Website: http://momentum-mi.com/
About: Momentum is a seed accelerator that accepts new technology startups for a 12-week startup boot camp program. The program requires each startup team to move to the Grand Rapids area for the duration of the program, offering access to off-campus housing with local universities, and helping to offset the cost through funding given to each team. Momentum offers each accepted startup $20,000 in seed capitol and 18 mentors dedicated to help each new company establish itself and succeed. The program culminates with “Demo Day” at which each team presents a technology and business model to potential investors, allowing each startup an opportunity to receive outside funding, or additional funding from Momentum for phase two of its program. The organization takes an 8 percent stake in startup business in return exchange for the seed capitol. Momentum is funded through investors and aided by several established sponsors covering business and education fields.

Mission: “We are a Michigan-based seed accelerator looking for new technology startups with amazing ideas to join us for a 12-week lean startup boot camp program. You get $20,000 in seed capital, 18 mentors, a great place to work and the mental space to bring a new company to fruition.”
Upcoming Events: The deadline for the current 12-week program has passed, but the website contains a blog and offers e-mail updates for those interested in applying in the future. It also contains links to past candidates and offers valuable information and potential connections for any entrepreneur.

These are just a few of the organizations dedicated to mentoring and growing Michigan-based startup business. Most of the above organizations partner with like-minded groups across the state, so a visit to any of their websites could lead to another business, association or individual that could offer help and guidance during the startup process.