October 21, 2014 @ 9:18 am

MEMBER NEWS: Portfolio company Tetra Discovery Partners Announces Additional Financing and Formation of Scientific Advisory Board

GRAND RAPIDS, MI (October 16, 2014): Tetra Discovery Partners (“Tetra”), a drug discovery company developing a portfolio of innovative drugs for psychiatric, neurological and inflammatory diseases, today announced additional private financing. The company has received additional financing from previous seed investor Grand Angels, as well as an investment by Johnson & Johnson Development Corporation (JJDC).

Tetra additionally announced the formation of its Scientific Advisory Board, comprised of four prominent experts in the field of neuroscience and psychiatric drug development:

  • Catherine D. Strader, Ph.D., Founding Partner, Synergy Partners, R&D Solutions, LLC and former Executive Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer, Schering-Plough and Vice President and Site Head, Merck Research Laboratories
  • Scott A. Reines, M.D., Ph.D., former Senior Vice President, Central Nervous System, Pain and Translational Medicine, Janssen Research & Development, LLC
  • James S. MacDonald, Ph.D., Founding Partner, Synergy Partners, R&D Solutions, LLC and former Executive Vice President, Preclinical Development, Schering Plough Research Institute
  • Jeffrey S. Nye, M.D., Ph.D., Vice President Neuroscience Innovation and Scientific Partnership Strategy, Janssen Research and Development, LLC, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, former Chief Medical Officer of Research and Early Development at Janssen

“These new funds will support additional work aimed at the filing of our first Investigational New Drug (IND) application for our cognition drug candidate in 2015,” said Mark Gurney, Ph.D., Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Tetra. “Thanks to the strong, continued backing of Grand Angels, our grant support through the NIH Blueprint Neurotherapeutics Network (BPN), the National Institute of Aging, and the National Institute of Mental Health, and now this early strategic investment by JJDC and other investors, we expect to initiate human clinical trials for our first product in either Alzheimer’s disease or schizophrenia next year.”

“Tetra Discovery Partners reflects the sort of innovative, high quality research being conducted in Michigan that our firm was created to support,” said Jody Vanderwel, President, Grand Angels. “Our belief in the strong potential of Tetra’s science, and the outstanding progress that the company has made in its lead program focused on the treatment of cognitive deficits and serious neurological and psychiatric diseases is now further supported by this new co-investment from JJDC.”

“Tetra welcomes the investment from JJDC and Johnson & Johnson Innovation, which reflects their stated aim of accelerating early stage innovation,” commented Dr. Gurney.

Commenting on the Tetra Scientific Advisory Board appointments overall, Dr. Gurney said, “Each of these individuals is an industry leader whose many years of expertise in the field of neuroscience drug development will be invaluable to our company as Tetra advances its subtype-selective PDE4 allosteric modulators for neurological, psychiatric, and inflammatory diseases into clinical development and eventual commercialization.”

About Tetra Discovery Partners

Tetra Discovery Partners (http://www.tetradiscovery.com) uses structure‑guided drug design to discover mechanistically novel, allosteric inhibitors of phosphodiesterase 4 (PDE4).  The company’s research focuses on developing new treatments for cognitive impairment in schizophrenia, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease and traumatic brain injury (TBI). The company is a recipient of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Blueprint Neurotherapeutics Network cooperative research agreement, a $50 million program across 15 NIH Institutes and Centers.  The Blueprint program supports drug discovery research collaborations with early stage biotechnology companies and academics to develop effective therapeutics for nervous system disorders. The company also receives major funding through the National Institute of Aging, and the National Institute of Mental Health Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. Tetra Discovery Partners is headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan and maintains a business office in the Cambridge Innovation Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


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October 15, 2014 @ 2:14 pm

Meet Kathryn Gardner, new MVCA Venture Fellow at Arboretum Ventures


Welcome back to Michigan, Kathryn Gardner, MVCA’s newest Fellow!  Kathryn starts her Fellowship at Arboreum Ventures, and we asked her to introduce herself to our MVCA community:

How did you find out about the Fellows program?  What advantage do you think the Fellows program gives younger professionals and venture firms when trying to make a match?

I learned about the Fellows Program during the recruitment process to Arboretum Ventures. We believed that being part of the program would allow me to network with others in the industry since I am new to venture capital and recently moved back from Chicago.

The Fellows Program has many advantages, but I believe that the most important is aligning fit within the industry. In venture capital fit is very important, from having a good management team, to investing in companies that fit specific criteria, and most importantly employee fit. The Fellows Program is a great avenue for aligning those not currently employed with a fund and those funds that need to add team members.

What are you most looking forward to being a Fellow ?

Being a part of the Fellows Program will provide me with additional opportunities to meet and network with many individuals in the venture capital community. The education portions of the Fellows Program will also be extremely beneficial to my success in the industry. I am looking forward to learning from others and networking as I grow into my role at Arboretum. I am also excited to be part of a program that looks toward revitalizing Michigan’s economy.

What will you be doing at Arboretum?

As an analyst at Arboretum, I will primarily be evaluating prospective investments and performing detailed due diligence on promising companies in the healthcare space.  My role will also involve supporting portfolio companies and assisting with fundraising.

What do you hope to be doing in 10 years?

In ten years I would like to own my own business, hopefully with family. It’s always been a dream of mine to have my own company and I know working in the venture capital industry will provide me an invaluable foundation to build that dream.

What attracts you to the venture capital industry?

There are many attractive aspects of venture capital, but what really hooked me was the opportunity to help invest in life-changing technologies. I believe that the best way to grow the economy is to build small businesses and provide them pathways for success that otherwise wouldn’t be available to them. I am looking forward to developing in my role as an analyst and contributing to the venture capital community in Michigan.

What’s your dream deal (the venture backed firm you wish YOU had spotted first!)?

WebMD. It has become the “go to” for self-diagnosis, or checking symptoms prior to calling your doctor / going to the ER. The practice of checking WebMD saves time and money in the healthcare system because doctors and nurses can focus on patients that are currently in their office / department, patients can save money on a co-pay or time spent waiting for a doctor and insurance companies do not have to pay for costly services doctors perform.

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October 15, 2014 @ 11:43 am

MEMBER NEWS: Portfolio Company Delphinus Medical Technology Adds VP Engineering

Chris Sanders Added to Delphinus’ Executive Team as Vice President of Engineering

Seasoned Ultrasound Expert to Guide Development Advances

PLYMOUTH TOWNSHIP, Mich. – October 14, 2014 – Delphinus Medical Technologies, Inc., the first company to design and manufacture a whole breast ultrasound system that incorporates circular transducer technology, announced today that Chris Sanders has joined the executive team as vice president of engineering. He comes to Delphinus with over 20 years of extensive global innovation and manufacturing expertise in the medical ultrasound domain.

Prior to Delphinus, Sanders was Director of Ultrasound Research and Development at Toshiba Medical Research Institute, USA, where he led the global research group that drove the advancement of matrix array transducer design. With his direction the team established collaborative partnerships with renowned research institutions and generated multiple publications and strategic medical patents.  During his 17 year career at Siemens Medical Solutions Corporation, he held numerous senior management positions. Recognized for attracting expert talent and leading international development teams to exceed corporate objectives, while Senior Director of Product Management, he steered the global launch and commercialization of several new product lines, leveraging multi-dimensional cross-platform synergies that streamlined the time-to-market process and increased margins substantially.

“Chris is a superb addition to the Delphinus team,” said Mark J. Forchette, recently appointed president and chief executive of Delphinus. “He brings a great depth of expertise and knowledge realized by the accomplishments he achieved during his tenure with leading medical imaging corporations.  We look forward to his guidance and vision directing our research and development teams, as we advance our SoftVue technology to address the need for innovative solutions in breast cancer screening.”

Sanders earned his baccalaureate degree in mathematics from the University of Colorado, Boulder Colo., with an emphasis in computer science. He also holds a Management of Technology Certification from the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve, Cleveland.

Delphinus is the first to introduce an automated whole breast ultrasound system that utilizes a ring transducer technology to transmit and receive ultrasound signals. SoftVue captures reflection echoes from all directions around the breast and gathers transmitted signals coming through the breast, something no other ultrasound system, currently available, can do. With a short scan time of one to two minutes per breast, SoftVue presents a volumetric image map of the whole breast, providing a consistent and uniform exam without reliance on operator skill and technique.

About Delphinus Medical Technologies, Inc.

Delphinus Medical Technologies, Inc. is a pioneering medical imaging company that has developed SoftVue™, the first circular array transducer technology that has received U.S. Food and Drug Administration clearance. The patented technology is a whole breast ultrasound tomography imaging device that delivers no radiation, requires no compression, and images the entire breast with a single scan. SoftVue is indicated for use as a B-mode ultrasonic imaging system and is not intended to be used as a replacement for screening mammography. Delphinus is capitalized through principal investments by Arboretum Ventures, Ann Arbor, Mich., Beringea, Farmington Hills, Mich., and North Coast Technology Investors, Ann Arbor, Mich. For more information, visit www.delphinusmt.com.

Contact Information:
Debra Saunders
VP, Marketing and Sales
Delphinus Medical Technologies, Inc.
Tel:  +1.734.233.3088
Email: dsaunders@delphinusmt.com

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October 14, 2014 @ 11:59 am

MEMBER NEWS: Open Prairie Ventures’ portfolio company Vesteron in New York Times

Venture Capitalists Return to Backing Science Start-Ups

Vestaron makes an eco-friendly pesticide derived from spider venom. Bagaveev uses 3-D printers to make rocket engines for nanosatellites. Transatomic Power is developing a next-generation reactor that runs on nuclear waste.

They all have one thing in common: money from Silicon Valley venture capitalists.

After years of shying away from science, engineering and clean-technology start-ups, investors are beginning to take an interest in them again, raising hopes among entrepreneurs in those areas that a long slump is finally over. But these start-ups face intense pressure to prove that their science can turn a profit more quickly than hot tech companies like Snapchat and Uber.  Read more>>

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October 9, 2014 @ 11:23 am

New Richmond Ventures principal Andy Stefanovich offers ex-pat view of Detroit

Andy StefanovichFor Andy Stefanovich, Creative Principal at New Richmond Ventures in Virginia, any reason he could find to return to the city he grew up exploring was good enough to jump on a plane.  “I was a Grosse Pointe kid who spent most of my time running around downtown Detroit, hitting every Tiger game I could.  I love Detroit like nothing else, it’s part of my soul, so my wife says I create excuses to return.”  But Stefanovich had a legitimate reason to visit the Motor City in September, as he joined 200 “ex-pats” from Detroit for a two-day Detroit Homecoming.  Attendees were treated to a front row seat to city newsmakers and national thoughtleaders, and given a tour of the transformation of the city they all used to call home.

Stefanovich’s background is firmly rooted in creative, innovative thinking, something he says he saw over and over again in his trip back to Detroit.  Over 20 years ago, he co-founded Play, a Richmond-based creativity and innovation consultancy that globally changed the way business does business.  At NRV, he engages entrepreneurs in creative conversations to clearly articulate their vision, shared values, messaging, marketing strategies, social media plans, etc.  A nationally recognized innovation thought leader, Stefanovich is also the author of “Look at More,” an Inc. bestseller that was cited by Advertising Age as one of the “Ten Marketing Books You Should Have Read” in 2011.

In his venture capital role, Stafanovich invests in companies that personify the story and personality of the founders, people who have heart and soul and conviction behind their business idea.  He found entrepreneurs and change agents in Detroit with those traits in abundance.  “I think you saw even the mega-superstar investor Warren Buffet impressed by the industrial fortitude of Detroiters as he made a promise to invest in  its automotive industry (which he made good on in a huge way by buying Van Tuyl Group, the nation’s largest privately owned auto dealer network, for an undisclosed sum).  The best investors find companies that have an industrial nature in their DNA, and that’s so at the core of Detroit.”

Stefanovich was impressed by a tour of the new Detroit Outdoor Adventure Center on the Riverfront, and also the Ride and Drives the group did on Belle Isle. While on the island, he bumped into the park commissioner who listed all the activity there on a random Saturday.  “It’s nothing like when I was growing up and only time anyone went to Belle Isle was for the Grand Prix race,” he remembers.

His days in Detroit made him reflect on what makes a city like Detroit change from downtrodden to great.  “The homecoming event showed us that Detroit’s a lesson in revitalization–not gentrification or economic development and not just because necessity breeds change, but it’s because the spirit of the people is so amazing and they want to work hard.  We’re kind and hospitable in the southeast and I love the business climate, but Detroit has a deep heritage of industrialism that really helps drive activity with its grit and determination.” He was so impressed by the sites and initiatives he saw that he, along with a few other local businessmen, plan to send their associates back to Detroit for a few days, to witness the city through younger eyes and find program ideas to bring back to Richmond.  One his favorite quotes of the visit was a young Detroit-based entrepreneur who said the reason he stayed in Detroit was because the city was “big enough in the world to matter, but small enough that I can matter.”

Stefanovich left the Homecoming event with plans for a Detroit “pied-a -terre”, a place to stay when he’s back in the city he loves, which he imagines happening more often after discussions with Detroit Venture Partners about mentoring some of their investments.
“I told my wife I won’t have to invent excuses to come back anymore,” he says with a smile.

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October 7, 2014 @ 9:50 am

MEMBER NEWS: Investing in Traverse City’s Next Big Idea

by Beth Milligan, Traverse City Ticker

northernmichiganangels“Instead of Traverse City being the Cherry Capital of the world, we want the city to be the Tensioning Capital of the World.”

Chuckles follow the joke by financial advisor and presenter Gary Rakan of Hurricane Safety Systems, a Traverse City-based technology firm that produces treestand attachment systems and other tie-down products for hunters. The company is looking for investors – and so is presenting its pitch at a morning meeting of the Northern Michigan Angels (NMA).

NMA formed in 2012 with a two-fold mission: to help invigorate the region’s economic base “through the rapid growth of early-stage companies,” and to provide its roughly 18 members a “compelling financial return on their time commitment and invested capital.” In its short life, the angel investment group has entertained 36 pitches, investing in nearly a dozen Michigan companies including Altus Brands, Silikids, Advanced Battery Concepts and GreenLancer Energy.

Founding angel Ron Hurd says the group typically gravitates toward technology and manufacturing firms, but last week’s event included the group’s first agricultural presentation. Dan Vogler of Harietta Hills Trout Farm in Harrietta tells the gathered crowd his company has just secured a 20-year lease to open a second facility in Grayling, and is in the process of closing on a $210,000 loan from the Traverse City Area Chamber Foundation’s Regional Revolving Loan Fund.

“We want to increase our live (fish) weight production from 200,000 pounds to 600,000 pounds annually,” Vogler explains. With product already spoken for through a partnership with distributor Superior Foods Company, the company seems like a surefire investment opportunity – though Vogler will have to wait at least a day to learn how this particular group feels.

The meeting also includes a conference call pitch from RetroSense Therapeutics, an Ann Arbor-based biotechnology company NMA has invested in previously. The firm is seeking a second round of funding to help develop a “game-changing gene therapy” that will restore vision in patients suffering from blindness due to retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and advanced dry age-related macular degeneration (advanced dry-AMD). There are currently no FDA-approved therapies to improve or restore vision in patients with such conditions.

“If a subject starts out blind and then they can see, that’s a powerful demonstration of efficacy,” CEO Sean Ainsworth tells investors.

After NMA members discuss the pitches in a closed-door lunch meeting, NMA Executive Director Deanna Cannon says she typically lets companies know within a day or two if there is enough interest to circulate investment term sheets. Rather than operating as a managed fund, members decide individually if they want to invest, with a minimal $5,000 investing requirement – lower than many angel groups’ standard minimum of $25,000.

NMA is rarely short on entrepreneurs looking for money – many are “starved for capital,” says Hurd – but finding members is a different matter. Securities & Exchange Commission regulations mandate that angel members must be accredited investors, meaning they must have a net worth of at least one million dollars (not including the value of their primary residence), or have income of at least $200,000 each year for the past two years.

But Hurd points to a legislative push to loosen those regulations – as well as new and emerging forms of investment, like crowdfunding – as potential opportunities to make NMA membership accessible to a wider audience in the future.

“People have this impression of us as fat cats sitting around, or being like the (TV show) Shark Tank,” says Hurd. “But it’s not like that. We’re here to help small businesses grow. We’re just trying to provide capital these companies can’t find anywhere else.”

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October 6, 2014 @ 10:38 am

Congratulations Carrie Jones and Ted Serbinski, Crain’s Detroit Business 40 Under 40 winners!

Two members of the MVCA community were honored this week with Crain’s Detroit Business 40 Under 40 awards, recognizing young business high achievers.  Congratulations to the immediate past executive director of the MVCA Carrie Jones and Detroit Venture Partners partner Ted Serbinski for this great honor!  In addition, Crain’s is sponsoring a 40s Facebook contest allows readers to “Like” 40s honorees — with the 40s honoree with the most “likes” receiving $1,000 to donate to the charity of his or her choice.  Let’s all support Carrie and Ted!

Carrie-Jones 40Ted Serbinski

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October 3, 2014 @ 9:11 am

Hellooooo Washington, D.C.! Part 3: Vote YES on MVCA!

By Emily Heintz, Associate Director, MVCA

Today I am writing from the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court!  Today is the legislative day of my trip and my last day in D.C. so I thought it would be a good idea to write from a landmark.  Be sure to read the first two posts from my great Washington, D.C. adventure on behalf of MVCA.

My primary goal for today was to discuss the tremendous growth of the entrepreneurial and investment community in Michigan and see how we can be more collaborative with legislatures in their efforts in the future.  Yesterday I was presenting to people on how we deliver our message and today I was delivering it big time!  The last five years have been years of such growth in Michigan that it was easy to spread the excitement around a couple of these historic buildings in D.C.  The upward trend in the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Michigan in terms of startups formed, angel investors and number of deals all point toward the state’s growing role in the national venture capital community.  So I wanted to know how we can leverage these successes to be more helpful to our DC partners and how they can use their national platform to be more helpful to us!

One of the meetings I had today was with David Weinberg from Congressman Gary Peters’ office.  Rep. Peters is the co-chair of the U.S. House Caucus on Innovation and Entrepreneurship – a team of people that promotes legislation to help new and small businesses grow.  I first met with David Weinberg a couple months ago and he was very helpful in arranging to have Rep. Peters speak at our Town Hall event in August.  We have also partnered with Rep. Gary Peters in the past on Startup Day.  It was a great conversation, as always, and their office is excited to be supportive of the investment community in Michigan.

David Weinberg would like to stay in the loop on initiatives that MVCA is working on and be supportive in any way that they can.  They are very excited about some of the upcoming changes we are making to the research report survey that will allow us to tailor it for legislators.  He thought this was going to be a really valuable addition.

Another great meeting I had today was with Sarah Shrive from Senator Stabenow’s office.  Sarah was someone I had heard about from several  people on my trip so I was very excited to finally get to meet her!  Her office is very focused on key tax issues and is starting to think about possible tax reform in the coming years.  We had a great discussion about the upward trends in the innovation community and also touched on a few opportunities for incentives might help spur more activity.  She was very interested hearing more about the entrepreneurial and investment community’s needs in terms of business climate in Michigan and how their office might be able to help.

Sarah Shrive would love to come out to Michigan to meet with a group of entrepreneurs, angel investors, and venture capitalists to hear your thoughts on tax reform and other business issues that you face.  I will be reaching out when she is out in the coming months to set up a roundtable with a few members and their portfolio companies to provide her with some feedback.

Representatives  from Rep. Gary Peters’ office and Sr. Stabenow’s office, in addition to other legislators, will be attending our annual dinner so make sure you stop them, say hello, and tell them first-hand about all the amazing things happening in Michigan!!

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October 2, 2014 @ 10:55 am

Hellooooo Washington, D.C.! Part 2: So Many Smart People, So Little Time!

By Emily Heintz, Associate Director, MVCA

Today was the National Venture Capital Association “Big Tent” event.  MVCA was on the steering committee for this event so I have been so excited for this day to arrive.  Things started off rainy, with no umbrella – but I was still in awe of everything as I walked past Capitol Hill at 7am.   D.C. is absolutely buzzing, even at 7am!  I made sure to snap a few touristy photos on my walk to the event.

The Big Tent event is aimed at venture capital associations and gives us all an opportunity to share best practices and discuss big initiatives that have worked in each of our states.  I came to the event wanting to know how MVCA could better serve our members and to steal some great ideas.  The event covered “Big Wins”, NVCA resources and support, membership, events, messaging (presentation by yours truly), organizational funding, and veered into a ton of other topics that weren’t on the agenda.  It was a very successful working meeting and I got a few absolutely great ideas!  My three big takeaways from the meeting were data, policy, and events:

Data!  The MVCA Research Report and how we utilize it to create a consistent voice for the venture capital community in Michigan was a big topic of discussion–a topic that is near and dear to my heart.   Research and messaging is something that many states and the NVCA have struggled with and Michigan is absolutely nailing it so they were excited to hear more.  One thing I have been interested in is getting the Midwest states to up their research game so we can put together a Midwest report and get some national attention.  Everyone was very jazzed about data and messaging after the presentation – almost as jazzed as I usually am!  The Midwestern states would LOVE to collaborate with MVCA on individual and a “Midwest” report, and NVCA would like to continue the conversation as they look into their data collection/messaging efforts and how best to support the regions.  I will be leading a focus group to coordinate what each state is doing with their research and related messaging.  It was a great day in Emilyland!

Policy!  NVCA currently prioritizes policy issues in four different buckets – initiatives they will lead, initiatives they will consult on, initiatives they will partner on, and initiatives they will keep an eye on.  Many of these initiatives are ones that are at the top of all of our minds lately: net neutrality, venture tax issues, Dodd Frank, Jobs Act, etc.  What I want to know is how can MVCA be supportive in their policy efforts on Capitol Hill and in Michigan?  We are going to start working more closely with them to provide feedback on what initiatives should be in what buckets so they know what public policy issues are important to Michigan VCs.  They will also be keeping MVCA more in the loop on issues that we flag as important to us so we can work that into our own legislative efforts.

Events!  In addition to hearing a few great ideas for events from other states, the National Venture Capital Association would like to host an event in each region.  They have a national platform that would be great for Michigan to be able to stand on from time to time!   MVCA will be working closely with NVCA to figure out how we can be supportive in helping them reach their goals while showcasing Michigan and leveraging their national reach.

This evening I’m off to charm the NVCA board and hopefully make room on their board for a Michigan VC!  (Don’t worry – no laws will be broken in the process…)  Stay tuned for my blog tomorrow when I meet with David Weinberg from Representative Gary Peters Office and Sarah Shine from Senator Stabenow’s Office!

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October 1, 2014 @ 12:35 pm

Hellooooo Washington, D.C.! Part 1: Emily takes the MVCA message to our nation’s capital

By Emily Heintz, Associate Director, MVCA

I just arrived in Washington, D.C. and already I can tell it’s going to be a great trip! I am in DC for the National Venture Capital Association “Big Tent” event.  MVCA was on the steering committee for this event that will gather VC associations from across the country so we can build out-of-state ties and share best practices.  Tomorrow, I will be presenting our research report, describing how other states may be able to create something similar, and how MVCA utilizes the report to get everyone in Michigan to push out a consistent message about the great things happening in our investment community.  I decided that while I am out here, I should take advantage of the opportunity to set up a couple meetings with D.C. organizations in order to promote Michigan’s investment community, build stronger ties, and attract these organizations to “Pure Michigan”.

This is the second time I have been to D.C. and am finding that it is SUCH a small community.  I spent this afternoon with Brandon Pollak: Global Director for 1776, a fellow Michigan State University alum (Go Green!).  1776 is an incredible aggregator of entrepreneurs, angels, VCs, talent, ideas, and corporate partners – after one afternoon with Brandon I think I might have seen it all!

1776 provides their members either reserved desks or “first come first serve” seating through a few different membership rate structures – a pretty typical incubator concept.  What is interesting is the amazing environment they offer their members.  Their space is designed so beautifully I initially thought I was on an HGTV set and, of course, they are only two blocks from the White House.  But it’s not all cool location/decor – D.C. is, much like Michigan, “all in” when it comes to supporting the entrepreneurial community.  Seasoned entrepreneurs, investors, politicians, and corporations all see a huge benefit to nurturing startups and are willing to spend time and money to do so.  Whether it’s a roundtable so the corporates can see what is on the cutting edge in their industry, daily blocks of time set aside for startups to have one-on-one Q&A sessions with seasoned entrepreneurs and industry experts, referrals to the local venture capital or angel groups, or just getting to meet the president of the United States when he stops by – there are HUGE benefits to being in the 1776 environment.

After the tour and overview – I wanted to know – how can MVCA be “in the 1776 environment” further?  What can we do to leverage our relationship with this national partner to reach a broader audience with our message?  As many of you know, two of the people on their founding team are from Michigan: Brandon Pollak (who I met with) and Donna Harris.  Brandon mentioned to me that he has heard about the tremendous growth in the VC community from a few of our best evangelists – Ted Serbinski at DVP and Chris Thomas at Fontinalis – and is excited for 1776 to get more involved with his home state.  Some of our discussion is still top secret but, there are two things coming in the next few months that are really exciting:

  1. The Challenge Cup, Challenge X – 1776 Challenge Cup is a global startup competition taking place in 16 cities across 11 countries to identify the most promising startups solving the biggest challenges in four categories – education, energy, health and cities.  1776 is looking to host a ChallengeX in Michigan so stay tuned for details on this initiative, panel opportunities, etc.
  2. Top secret initiative #2 – still in very early stages, 1776 is looking to leverage their national connections to bring together a few really influential people to highlight Michigan and discuss key issues.  They would love to lean on MVCA for support with this event, tap MVCA members to be involved, and see how they can better support the great things going on in our state.

I came away from today’s meeting so inspired by all the amazing things that 1776 has been able to accomplish in 18 months and their unique approach – they are really “go big or go home” people.  I’m also sleeping easy tonight because I walked into a well-known D.C. organization today and they had heard all about the great things happening in the venture capital community in Michigan!   AND they didn’t hear it from me :)   They heard it through the mouths of MVCAs best and most credible communicators – our members!

Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of my D.C. adventure, where I report back about the “Big Tent” meeting and our MVCA presentation.

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The MVCA is a non-profit trade organization designed to bring together venture capital industry participants in the state of Michigan. The organization's goal is to grow and sustain a vibrant venture capital community in Michigan.
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