February 17, 2015 @ 3:07 pm

New MVCA Board Member Ryan Waddington bring Michigan into focus for national VC community

Waddington Head Shot-Hi ResAs the Michigan representative of a national venture firm, Arsenal Ventures Partner, Ryan Waddington, regularly finds and touts great Michigan companies to the rest of his nationwide team.  ”I help promising Michigan-based companies find capital, both inside and outside of the state.  Nothing spreads the Michigan message better than great Michigan companies that can attract capital from the traditional centers of venture capital.”  Now, Waddington is well-positioned to increase the state’s presence in the national venture conversation with his new role, as a board member of the Michigan Venture Capital Association.

A Michigan native who did a stint in New York with one of the largest family office investment firms in the country, Waddington moved back to Michigan in 2010 to start Huron River Ventures with partner Tim Streit.  Several years later, as his role at Huron River Ventures ramps down and his work as Arsenal Ventures’ Michigan partner heats up, Waddington felt it was time to get more involved in the venture community by serving as a board member of the MVCA.   During his tenure, Waddington hopes the organization can work with legislators in Lansing to help more Michigan companies find venture funding in the state.  ”We need more Michigan-focused venture investors in order to adequately support the capital needs of local fast-growing businesses from start-up to exit.  Our investment community must  continue to grow, and a fund-of-funds like Venture Michigan, that helps more venture firms deploy capital to Michigan companies, can move the needle quickly,” he said.

As for what role MVCA can play for fund managers raising capital, he points to the organization’s programs and LP outreach.  “Whether it’s programs to help early-stage managers or an event that opens the eyes of the institutional community to the funds that are here (like the recent Michigan Investment Landscape Meeting, co-hosted by MVCA), MVCA can help make connections for Michigan fund managers and investors and spread the message about the great things that are happening in the entrepreneurial community in Michigan and the need for additional capital by Michigan’s growing companies.”  He hopes to help plan future MVCA events linking the VC and investment communities, including one introducing family offices and high net worth individuals to small and first-time fund managers.  “MVCA is a strong advocate for the investment community, and a great resource for newly established venture firms.  I’m eager to help MVCA build an even stronger entrepreneurial ecosystem here in Michigan.”

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February 9, 2015 @ 11:37 am

MEMBER NEWS: Start Garden Expands Venture Capital Fund, Accepting Applications to the Start Garden Space


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., February 9, 2015—In fewer than three years, Start Garden, the unconventional, early-stage, venture capital fund, has transformed Michigan’s startup ecosystem. Today the organization announced it has increased the amount of its cumulative investment limit from $500,000 to $1.5 million. It has also opened the application process for startups to work in its new location at 40 Pearl St. in downtown Grand Rapids, nicknamed Start Garden Space.

Since its launch in 2012, Start Garden has provided financial capital and more to entrepreneurs in the region. During its first years, the organization focused its efforts on seeding hundreds of ideas that could become potential businesses. Having developed a portfolio of promising startups, Start Garden’s next phase will raise the maximum investment it can make in a single startup from $500,000 to $1,500,000, further cultivating the portfolio and playing a larger role in Midwest early stage deals.

“Start Garden needed to establish a volume of ideas, which we have done, but it’s now important for us to raise the amount of our cumulative investment, so we can play a bigger role in deals happening in Michigan and the Midwest region,” said Rick DeVos, CEO of Start Garden. “At the point a company has proven its viability and is ready to expand, it needs a significant capital injection from multiple investors, and we are now positioned to lead and manage those types of series-A or pre- series-A investment rounds.”

Michigan has historically been a difficult place to raise a large, early stage investment round. To help guide and develop Phase II portfolio companies, Start Garden has hired Mike DeVries, a veteran venture capitalist from EDF Ventures out of Ann Arbor. DeVries will work with the existing portfolio and investment team to build out a portfolio of companies into which more than $500,000 is invested.

Start Garden will continue to find great entrepreneurs and great companies, and not only connect them with financial capital, but intellectual and social capital for entrepreneurs in the region. The organization’s move to 40 Pearl is not just a relocation, but a change in how it helps Michigan’s startup ecosystem mature.

“In 2012, we set out to make a place where people in the region could take their ideas. With the Start Garden Space, we’re making a place where entrepreneurs take their companies,” added Paul Moore, director of marketing and communications at Start Garden. “It’s modeled as a neighborhood where entrepreneurs that know they’ll need to fundraise can bump into new investors, trusted consultants and, of course, other entrepreneurs.”

The Start Garden Space will be home to several startup companies, venture capital funds and corporate partners seeking to co-work and participate directly in the ecosystem. Any company, whether or not they are part of Start Garden’s portfolio are invited to apply for membership in the new space. Applications are available at startgarden.com.

Additional detail about Start Garden Phase II and the Start Garden Space can be found at startgarden.com.

About Start Garden

Start Garden is an unconventional venture capital fund that invests in over a hundred ideas a year in small increments. The program brings financial, intellectual and social capital to ideas at the earliest stage by connecting them to the resources of an entire region.  Located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, it is founded by Rick DeVos who’s past projects included ArtPrize, 5×5 Night, Momentum and Spout.com.


Brian Burch

Start Garden



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January 30, 2015 @ 11:50 am

MVCA Co-Hosts Michigan Investment Landscape Meeting

Amid the quickly transforming skyline of downtown Detroit, DTE Energy, Kresge Foundation, Michigan Venture Capital Association, NEPC, University of Michigan and Renaissance Venture Capital Fund of Funds welcomed Michigan institutional investors and general partners across the capital continuum for the Michigan Investment Landscape Meeting.  The meeting highlighted the dense network of Michigan organizations that work across the enterprise growth spectrum, from idea-stage concepts to mature companies.  “This is our first attempt at getting our arms around the investors and support networks that are integral to entrepreneurial businesses in Michigan,” said Maureen Miller Brosnan, Executive Director of the MVCA.  “It’s a chance for Michigan LPs to gain a better understanding of the many opportunities for alternative asset investment in their own backyards.”

Rob Manilla, Vice President and Chief Investment Officer of Kresge Foundation and Planning Committee member, was critical to bringing together the state’s institutional investment community for this meeting.  “In May, MVCA presented its annual research report findings and it was clear Michigan LPs craved more insight into the Michigan venture and growth capital landscape. We’re grateful they were able to help provide us with this opportunity for education and information sharing.”

Tom Kinnear, President and Chair of the Venture Michigan Fund, and Chris Rizik, CEO of the Renaissance Venture Capital Fund of Funds, gave a overview of the investment landscape in Michigan.  The pair addressed the rise of the venture capital community in Michigan, the breadth of sectors receiving venture funds, and the rich variety of professional resources to support fast-growing Michigan companies.

Two elements that make Michigan an attractive place to grow a business were highlighted: access to technology and talent.  “From an engineering standpoint, there’s no better place in the country to find talent.  Our challenge had been in attracting C-level talent.  In the past it was difficult to pull talent into early stage companies because they were already ensconced in the automotive industry,” said Rizik.  “But with the growth of entrepreneurship nationally, the strengthening of the entrepreneurial support system locally, and a culture change that has been ongoing in Michigan for the past decade it’s become much easier to recruit strong talent.”

“Importantly, we have an investment infrastructure now; MVCA has more angel and venture capital members than ever before, and it’s a number that has gone up steadily.  Years ago there wasn’t a venture community, beyond a few firms talking occasionally on the phone.  Now there is a significant network, and promising start-ups have multiple firms to talk to.  Michigan has truly become the envy of the Midwest in terms of our entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

Tom Kinnear, Chairman of the Venture Michigan Fund, raised another attractive feature of Michigan investing: low cost of capital.  “As an investor, I can tell you that the pre-money valuations tend to be better in Michigan than on the coasts.   There’s not a lot of the “silly pricing” you tend to see in a market where there’s massive amounts of competition for a deal.”

Later in the meeting, Plymouth Ventures Managing Director, Mark Horne, echoed that sentiment.  “We (Michigan-based venture investors) can get in at Midwest valuations and exit at national valuations.  You can’t discount the impact that has on our returns.”

Attendee Dennis Johnson, Chief Investment Officer for Comerica Bank, is more focused on venture capital after a recent spike in bank clients with intriguing business plans who need early-stage capital.  “We’re trying to figure out how to connect our clients with the capital they need.  I’m hoping this meeting will put me in contact with some potential partners that might help us better involve Comerica in the venture community in Michigan.”

“While all indications point to the long-term viability of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Michigan, we still have work to do in establishing Michigan as the state where growth-oriented businesses advance further, faster,” said Jim Adox, MVCA Chairman.  “It’s gatherings like the Michigan Investment Landscape Meeting that allow us to share our strengths and build the relationships necessary to move more Michigan businesses forward, create new and better jobs, and help redefine our economy.”

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January 27, 2015 @ 4:04 pm

MEMBER NEWS: Heather Rone Joins Delphinus as Clinical Affairs VP


Heather Rone Joins Delphinus as Clinical Affairs VP

Strategic Addition to Fuel Clinical Research Endeavors

PLYMOUTH TOWNSHIP, Mich. – January 27, 2015 – Delphinus Medical Technologies, Inc <http://www.delphinusmt.com/> ., developer of SoftVue™, the first automated whole breast ultrasound system to gain FDA clearance using volumetric circular transducer technology, announced that Heather Rone has joined the company as Vice President of Clinical Affairs. Her addition to the Delphinus team is pivotal as the company embarks on a large clinical research program in support of regulatory approval for its non-ionizing breast cancer screening technology.

Ms. Rone comes to Delphinus with a strong background in clinical and regulatory achievements within the medical technology domain. While at U-Systems, Inc., maker of the somo•V automated breast ultrasound systems, she led multiple prospective clinical trials in the U.S. and Europe, enrolling over 18,000 participants that culminated in the first-ever FDA approval for a breast ultrasound screening indication. She was responsible for developing and executing a comprehensive global training program in support of commercialization and educational objectives. Among her many accomplishments, she was instrumental in earning additional regulatory approvals for the technology in the U.S. as well as global markets. After receiving PMA approval, U-Systems was acquired by GE Healthcare in 2012.

Based on her clinical trial proficiency, collaborative approach, and recognized achievements, she has been recruited as a clinical affairs and regulatory consultant for other developing medical technologies, specializing primarily in women’s health. Ms. Rone has co-authored multiple publications and her research has contributed to several published manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals.
From Mark Forchette, president and chief executive of Delphinus, “We’re very pleased to have Heather join our executive team. Her remarkable knowledge, her experience conducting transformational studies, and track record of gaining regulatory indications not realized before, will benefit Delphinus greatly in our clinical research and regulatory strategy efforts. This is going to be a momentous year for us as we broaden our clinical studies program. Heather’s leadership will contribute to our overall objective to offer a best-in-class breast imaging technology that has no radiation or compression, and, based on preliminary studies, has the potential to improve both sensitivity and specificity for breast cancer screening. We know this performance is important particularly for women with dense breast tissue, where breast cancer can be difficult to detect and additional imaging solutions are needed.”

Delphinus is the first to introduce an automated whole breast ultrasound system to integrate ring transducer technology that captures reflection echoes from all directions around the breast and measures transmitted signals coming through the breast, depicted by a color analysis of sound speed and attenuation values. SoftVue presents a volumetric cross-sectional image map of the entire 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 sequential U.S. Food and Drug Administration clearances. The patented technology is a whole breast ultrasound 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 <http://www.beringea.com/> , Farmington Hills, Mich., and North Coast Technology Investors, Ann Arbor, Mich. For more information, visit www.delphinusmt.com <http://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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January 26, 2015 @ 2:53 pm

Meet New MVCA Board Member Sara Kruse

Sara Kruse

 Jaffe Raitt Heuer & Weiss partner Sara Kruse has been a member of many professional organizations during her career as a Corporate and Emerging and Growth Business attorney.  But when she first started coming to Michigan Venture Capital Association events, she noticed that something was different.  “At MVCA, I was able to see people consistently, and was able to build strong relationships with many of the members.  MVCA held consistently well-attended events, and I admired how everyone was very much committed to the work of the organization.”

Kruse recently took her commitment to the MVCA to the next level, by joining the board for a three-year term.  She becomes the first service provider to serve on the MVCA board, and hopes to bring a unique perspective.  “Hopefully, I can bring a balanced understanding of both sides of the investment equation through my work with entrepreneurs and investors.  My practice takes a collaborative approach to seeking solutions for all sides, and MVCA has helped create an environment in which members can collaborate and find synergies easily.  It’s one part of what makes MVCA work so well for its members.”

Kruse has deep experience in the venture and start-up worlds, having represented HandyLab, Inc. and Accuri Cytometers, Inc. in their transactions with Becton, Dickinson and Company and representing Compendia Bioscience, Inc. in its sale to Life Technologies Corporation.  “Coming from a firm (Jaffe) that’s been a longtime resource to entrepreneurs and investors, it’s been exciting to see the increase in the venture activity and MVCA’s role in that, especially in the last five years,” Kruse said.  “It’s been critical to the state’s economic recovery.”

 She’s proud of the energy, attention and thought leadership that MVCA has brought to the state of Michigan, and thinks we’re all able to reap the rewards of the organization’s reach.  “Something like Techstars coming to Detroit or the tremendous out-of-state attendance we have at the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium are significant wins for all of us, and I think it’s happening in part thanks to the work that the MVCA has done getting the Michigan message out.  Other states are looking to MVCA as a model for how to increase the venture community in their states.”

Kruse intends to use her board seat to further foster the supportive organization she joined many years ago.  “I’d like to see MVCA grow and continue to successfully support the investment community through advocacy efforts, events, and talent initiatives inside as well as outside the state,” she says.

Kruse does have some advice to others just starting to investigate which professional organizations are worth their valuable time.  “Whether you’re a member who is not as active as you could be or still have yet to join, it’s a worthwhile investment to get more involved in MVCA,” Kruse advises.  “From my experience, it’s helped me create and strengthen many valuable relationships in the venture, entrepreneurial and other professional communities. When I go to an MVCA meeting, I can’t move around the room fast enough to talk to everyone I want to talk to!  It’s just a great organization.”

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January 14, 2015 @ 10:14 am

MEMBER NEWS: RPM Portfolio Company Xtime acquired by Cox Automotive

Xtime, a leading provider of service scheduling and workflow software to more than 6,000 auto dealerships worldwide, has been acquired by Cox Automotive for $325MCox Automotive acquired Xtime to further its goal of assisting dealers to become more efficient and profitable enterprises. With the acquisition, Cox Automotive will be able to offer software for the back end of dealerships to go along with a suite of software to help dealers attract and retain customers.

Management at Xtime, including Neal East, the Co-founder and President, are staying on to run the unit. Cox Automotive bought the company from the founders as well as a number of investment firms, including Bessemer Venture Partners, Keating Capital, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, and ourselves.

About Cox Automotive
Cox Automotive is a leading provider of vehicle remarketing services and digital marketing and software solutions for automotive dealers and consumers. The company partners with more than 40,000 dealers, as well as most major automobile manufacturers, and touches over 67 percent of all car buyers in the U.S. with the most recognized brands in the industry. Cox Automotive unites more than 20 brands in this space, providing an end-to-end solution to transform the way people buy and sell cars every day.


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December 18, 2014 @ 2:47 pm

Techstars Mobility managing director Ted Serbinski talks about the new program’s place in the Detroit startup ecosystem


Last week, nationally-recognized and proven accelerator model Techstars announced it would begin a three-year program in the growing entrepreneurial district of Detroit.  Officially dubbed Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit, the program will kick off June 9, 2015 with 10 next-genertation automotive, transportation, and mobility startups and conclude with a Demo Day on September 10, where each team will present to investors, industry leaders, and the community at large.

Ted Serbinski, formerly with Detroit Venture Partners and current MVCA board member, has been named as the Managing Director of Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit. Serbinski, formerly of Detroit Venture Partners, is responsible for building out the new program, recruiting 10 companies to join the program and bringing together talented mentors from corporate partners including Ford, Magna and Verizon, and others throughout the region to help propel companies during the summer.

Serbinski tells MVCA, in his own words, why he’s excited about bringing Techstars to Detroit and what he hopes his new team will accomplish:

Techstars, the Gold Standard in Startup Accelerators

I remember 2 years ago walking downtown Detroit with my (Detroit Venture Partners) colleague Jake Cohen. We were talking about the future of Detroit and its startup ecosystem.

As we talked, we both honed in on the same observation: we needed Techstars to come to Detroit. There were a number of great accelerators in and around Detroit. We didn’t need just another accelerator but one that could take advantage of the massive resource we had in our backyard: the automotive industry. The thought was, that if done right, startups from all around the world would want to be in Detroit for this uniquely positioned accelerator. Not only that, but if Techstars did decide to come to Detroit, it would confirm our thesis that Detroit’s startup ecosystem has a bright future.

Techstars was the ideal choice. It is the gold standard in startup accelerators. They have a massive network of 3,000 successful entrepreneurs, mentors, investors and corporate sponsors geared towards helping startups do more faster. Since 2006, Techstars has launched 15 programs worldwide that have trained nearly 500 companies that have seen $2 billion in market capitalization. Quite an impressive feat and Techstars is open about their results.

Techstars has historically entered emerging startup markets. Boulder in 2007, Seattle in 2010, NYC in 2011, Austin 2013. The community they build around their program accelerates startup growth in the region. The results being, that each of these communities has risen into the top 10 startup regions in the US. Brad Feldwrites about this community-driven approach in more detail in his book Startup Communities.

Announcing Techstars Mobility, Driven by Detroit

I’m proud to say that Techstars is now coming to downtown Detroit.

On December 11th, in front of a crowd of a couple hundred journalists at Ford’s headquarters in Detroit, Bill Ford unveiled Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit.

Ford Motor Co., along with Magna International and Verizon Telematics, are the 3 founding corporate partners for Techstars Mobility.

As part of this new program, I will be joining Techstars as the Managing Director of their Detroit Mobility program. I’m excited about this new role and further putting the spotlight on startups in Detroit. This also addresses the first missing ingredient to building a thriving startup ecosystem in Detroit.

I’ve enjoyed helping build up Detroit Venture Partners and put Detroit startups on the map. I will continue to work with the team and portfolio companies, as we all work together in building up Detroit’s startup ecosystem.

The Future of the Detroit Startup Ecosystem

Detroit is the automotive hub of the world. Michigan has more engineers per capita than anywhere else.

Yet today, Detroit’s startup culture is lacking the national recognition it deserves. This is in stark contrast to nearly 100 years ago when Detroit was the epicenter of innovation.

Combining the emergence of Detroit’s startup ecosystem with its heritage of automotive, Techstars Mobility is going to drive the next-generation of mobility focused companies right here in downtown Detroit.  And I’m proud to be a part of the next step in the mission to make Detroit a top 10 startup hub in the country. To define Detroit as the startup mobility and next-generation transportation hub of the world.

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December 11, 2014 @ 11:09 am

MEMBER NEWS: Fontinalis Partners Transports Techstars Mobility to Detroit

Fontinalis Partners Transports Techstars Mobility to Detroit
Accelerator Will Help Launch the Next Generation of Mobility Technologies 

DETROIT, MI – December 11, 2014.  Fontinalis Partners (www.fontinalis.com), a venture capital firm strategically focused on Next-Generation Mobility, today announced its participation in Techstars’ newest accelerator program: Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit.  Fontinalis, in collaboration with other firms and strategic sponsors, will provide funding, mentorship, and strategic guidance to early-stage companies developing innovative mobility solutions.

Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit, is a technology accelerator that will bring an inaugural class of 10 early-stage companies to downtown Detroit to rapidly develop and scale a new wave of mobility technologies.  Techstars is a highly-competitive program with 13 accelerators worldwide, a network of over 3,000 entrepreneurs, mentors, and funders, and an impressive track record of launching successful companies.  Participating companies will be able to take advantage of Techstars’ mentorship-driven immersive program, Detroit’s unique mobility ecosystem, and Fontinalis’ expertise in helping young companies across the Next-Generation Mobility landscape grow and succeed.

“It has been a pleasure developing the world’s first mobility-only focused technology accelerator in partnership with Fontinalis,” commented David Cohen, Techstars Managing Partner and Founder.  “Techstars’ successes can be attributed to our mentorship-based accelerator model, and our early-stage companies will be poised to address opportunities throughout the mobility landscape with the support of Fontinalis.”

Each company will receive a $120,000 investment, three months of intensive training, and strategic guidance and mentorship.  Applications for the first class of startups will be open through March 15, 2015.  The program will kick off in early summer 2015 and conclude with a Demo Day on September 10th.  Strategic sponsors include Ford Motor Company, Magna International Inc., Verizon Telematics, and others.

“We have worked for more than two years to bring this world-renowned program to Michigan and are incredibly excited to activate the capital and entrepreneurial ecosystems in Detroit around Next-Generation Mobility,” said Chris Thomas, a Founder and Partner at Fontinalis Partners.  “For more than a century Detroit has driven innovation in mobility, and we look forward to supporting the early-stage companies taking part in this Techstars program as they continue to build on that legacy and play a role in powering the integrated mobility systems of the future.”

About Techstars

Techstars is the gold standard for startup accelerators. At the core is our massive interconnected network of over 3,000 successful entrepreneurs, mentors, investors and corporate partners helping the most promising startups do more, faster. With 13 programs worldwide, our mentorship-driven accelerator program funds the best companies in the most entrepreneurial communities. Since 2006, over 70 percent of the 400 companies from almost 40 Techstars programs have prospered, representing approximately $2 billion in total valuation.

About Fontinalis Partners

Fontinalis Partners, founded in 2009 and with offices in Detroit and Boston, is a venture capital firm strategically focused on next-generation mobility. The firm was founded in 2009 by Bill Ford, Ralph Booth, Chris Cheever, Chris Thomas, and Mark Schulz.  Fontinalis invests across all facets of the world’s mobility systems on a stage- and size-agnostic basis. Fontinalis is not affiliated with Ford Motor Company. More information is available at www.fontinalis.com.


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December 11, 2014 @ 10:40 am

MEMBER NEWS: Ford Drives Mobility Innovation with Launch of Startup Business Incubator in Detroit

Ford Drives Mobility Innovation with Launch of Startup Business Incubator in Detroit

  • Ford supports launch of Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit, a startup business accelerator program to foster innovative transportation solutions that help alleviate growing global challenges, such as traffic congestion, parking availability and pollution
  • 10 startup companies will be selected from across the country to move to Detroit and participate in the program; each receives funding, mentorship, training and recruiting assistance
  • Magna International Inc. and Verizon Telematics also will contribute funding and resources; Detroit-area based Fontinalis Partners, Detroit Venture Partners and Renaissance Venture Capital Fund will provide financial investment for future growth 

DEARBORN, Mich., Dec. 11, 2014 – Ford Motor Company is paying forward its legacy as one of America’s original mobility startups by partnering with Techstars to launch Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit. The startup business incubator is aiming to deliver innovative mobility and transportation solutions

Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit, is creating a hub for transportation and mobility innovations in metro Detroit. The program supports companies working on innovative ideas to better facilitate the transportation of people, goods and services by solving challenges facing daily commutes such as traffic and parking.

The goal is to bring to market new technologies and approaches that incorporate mobile devices, wireless connectivity, and cloud computing that make it easier for people to get around – a vision shared by Henry Ford dating back to the company’s start in 1903.

“As society faces the increasing challenges of traffic congestion, crowded cities and poor infrastructure, we must reinvent the way we live and do business if we want to make a positive impact on future generations,” said Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford. “We’re seeing some of most exciting consumer products and services on market today coming from innovative startup companies. It will be great to be part of bringing that type of new thinking to Detroit and the automotive industry.”

Ten startups will be selected by leaders of Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit, to participate in the program, which will be based in downtown Detroit. Companies will receive $120,000 in funding, plus three months of intensive training in business development, customer acquisition and effective executive recruitment, along with guidance from top business mentors.

The program stems from the vision of Bill Ford, who has been a leader in drawing global attention to the potential long-term consequences of growing gridlock around the world.

He foresees a future marked by stifled economic growth, transportation challenges and compromised quality of life if these issues are left unchecked.

Joining Ford in the initiative are auto supplier Magna International Inc. and Verizon Telematics. Together, the companies are committing $2 million in funding plus mentors and other resources to support participating startups. Several Michigan-based venture capital firms will provide guidance to participants.

Fontinalis Partners, Detroit Venture Partners and Renaissance Venture Capital Fund, three leading venture capital platforms in the Detroit area, are also key partners supporting the launch of this program and the overall Techstars ecosystem. Fontinalis invests in thought-leading companies that are transforming the Next-Generation Mobility sector around the world. Detroit Venture Partners invests in seed-stage digital technology startups in Detroit. Renaissance Venture Capital Fund, a strategic fund formed by several of Michigan’s largest corporations, will support the program through early-stage IT investments

“We believe that Techstars will help create the next generation of companies that will drive the region forward,” said Renaissance CEO Chris Rizik. “We have long felt that Michigan is an excellent investment, and we’re pleased to invest our capital in a way that will help new Michigan companies grow and the region prosper.”

Techstars was founded in 2006 by a group of businessmen in Boulder, Colo. Their concept was to bring together a network of entrepreneurs and offer a three-month, boot camp-style, immersive program to help startups launch quickly and with every advantage. The company has since expanded to Boston, Seattle, New York City, San Antonio, Austin, Chicago and London. Less than 1 percent of applicants are accepted into Techstars accelerator programs, but the success rate of participants is impressive.

Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit will be led by Managing Director Ted Serbinski, a Silicon Valley transplant, entrepreneur and investor, who relocated in 2011 to Detroit to join Detroit Venture Partners, a venture capital firm that invests in digital technology startups. Serbinski and his team will accept applications for the first class of 10 startups through March 15. The program will kick off in early summer next year and conclude on Sept. 10. The Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit, program will run for three years with a new class of 10 startups each year.

“The Michigan and Detroit startup ecosystems are growing fast, and I’m excited to help redefine Detroit as the startup mobility hub of the world,” Serbinski said.

For more information about Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit, or to apply to the program, click LIVE URL HERE

# # #

About Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Michigan, manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 189,000 employees and 65 plants worldwide, the company’s automotive brands include Ford and Lincoln. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford and its products worldwide, please visit www.corporate.ford.com.

About Techstars

Techstars is the gold standard for startup accelerators. At the core is our massive interconnected network of over 3,000 successful entrepreneurs, mentors, investors and corporate partners helping the most promising startups do more, faster. With 13 programs worldwide, our mentorship-driven accelerator program funds the best companies in the most entrepreneurial communities. Since 2006, over 70 percent of the 400 companies from almost 40 Techstars programs have prospered, representing approximately $2 billion in total valuation.


About the Renaissance Venture Capital Fund

The Renaissance Venture Capital Fund is a fund of funds that supports the growth of venture capital in Michigan while serving as a bridge between Michigan’s emerging innovation company community and its strong industrial base. Formed in 2008 by Business Leaders for Michigan and some of Michigan’s most important organizations, the Renaissance Venture Capital Fund has profitably accelerated investment in the state.  To date it has helped attract over a half billion dollars of investment into young Michigan corporations, driving innovation and job growth in the region. http://www.renvcf.com


Contact: Elena Cortesi






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December 10, 2014 @ 8:07 am

Beringea MVCA Fellow Bill Blake reflects on becoming part of the Michigan venture community

Beringea’s Bill Blake completed his two-year MVCA Fellowship last month, but he’s not leaving the Farmington Hills growth capital investor.  We asked Bill to reflect on his time as a Fellow, including his experience investing alongside other notable Michigan venture firms, even as he continues on as a Senior Associate at Beringea.

Tell us about your Fellow position – where are you, what are you doing?

I am concluding my fellowship with Beringea, a growth capital provider to Midwest-based businesses. My primary responsibilities support deal execution efforts as well as business development initiatives related to fundraising and deal flow generation. Additionally, I support Beringea’s reporting requirements on its Michigan Growth Capital Partners series of funds.

Throughout my fellowship, I continuously sought opportunities to expand the scope of my deal execution responsibilities. My efforts as they relate to due diligence include financial modeling and analysis, market research and analysis, management team evaluation, customer interviews, and product or service application assessment. I have taken initiative to drive deal processes forward when possible via efforts beyond those associated with due diligence and, going forward, seek to heighten the level of my participation in term and transaction structure negotiations.

As it relates to business development, I have recently played a larger role in assisting Beringea’s fundraising initiatives as it relates to document and content creation. I hope to continue to assist in Beringea’s fundraising efforts as it offers a great learning opportunity and insight into an area of private equity and venture capital with which I have limited tangible experience. Further, I will continue to seek opportunities to expand my role in business development initiatives in an effort to contribute to strong, steady deal flow for Beringea.

Best deal done during your tenure? Or favorite technology or CEO or solution you’ve encountered during your time as a fellow?

The best deals I’ve worked on from a personal perspective would include Beringea’s investments in Rethink and InContext Solutions. I enjoyed these transactions for several reasons.

First and foremost, Beringea led or co-led investments in Rethink and InContext Solutions with Arboretum Ventures (Rethink) and Plymouth Venture Partners (InContext Solutions).  I enjoyed having the opportunity to work with two well respected Michigan-based venture capital groups and experience first hand their respective approaches to transactions.

Second, both Rethink and InContext Solutions have developed incredibly impressive solutions for their respective industries. Rethink is a software-as-a-service technology company seeking to ensure that children on the autism spectrum, as well as those with other cognitive impairments, have access to effective and affordable evidence-based treatment options. Rethink provides professionals, parents, and family members with the tools, technology and information necessary to teach children with autism, as well as other developmental disabilities, in a manner easily understood and applied. InContext Solutions, on the other hand, delivers state-of-the-art, web-based, fully interactive 3D environments and shopping simulations to its marketing research clients and has developed and commercialized a software-as-a-service based platform for manufacturers and retailers to develop, test, and execute retail marketing concepts and strategies. InContext Solution’s clients and customers include some of the largest and most recognizable retailers, consumer packaged goods, and durable consumer goods companies in the world.

Lastly, interacting with and assessing the management teams for both Rethink and InContext Solutions provided me with a tremendous amount of insight into two very different approaches to the size, structure, and skillset composition of promising management teams. I hope to discover both approaches to be successful.

One thing you’ve learned during your fellowship that you didn’t know before you started in the industry?

Prior to joining Beringea and becoming active on the buy-side, I was under the impression, from my experience as a M&A advisor, that the alignment of goals and objectives among investors and between investors and management teams could largely be accomplished through deal structure and compensation plans. While these mechanisms certainly mitigate a large portion of risk as it relates to alignment, I’ve learned objectives and goals have the potential to change significantly over time and as businesses evolve. I do not want to say that I was ignorant to this possibility prior to my fellowship, but my appreciation for this nuance and the human element in investing has grown.

Anything surprising you’ve learned about yourself/your perspective on venture capital as a profession you didn’t know before you started?

While there are obvious instances that are exceptions to my comments that follow, I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of collaboration that exists in the venture capital community among investors and, more specifically, among investors in the Michigan venture capital community. While confidentiality and auction processes limit collaboration to some extent, I’ve found that venture capital investors generally have a genuine interest in assisting each other when possible and approach opportunities mindful of others’ goals and best interests.

Plans for post-Fellowship?

Following my fellowship, I have been afforded the opportunity to remain with Beringea and I am looking forward to continuing to invest and manage the Michigan Growth Capital Partners series of funds and having an active role in the upcoming fundraising endeavor we plan to initiate. I have enjoyed being a part of the wonderful culture and work environment Beringea has developed and am anxious to participate in Beringea’s promising future.

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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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