March 20, 2014 @ 11:43 pm

Invest Michigan Looks to Create Sustainable Fund for Michigan Entrepreneurs

Charlie Moret has been in the world of startup financing for a long time, but it’s been quite a while since he’s been as excited as he is to take the helm of the soon-to-be-launched Michigan Pre-Seed Fund 2.0.  Invest Michigan will be the Fund manager and, is set to take advantage of Michigan’s unique entrepreneurial ecosystem, and show that sustainability is the path forward to the state’s vibrant future.


“Michigan is incredibly active in terms of entrepreneurship,” explained Moret of taking the head job at Invest Michigan. “Doing this in Michigan is an exciting opportunity and I look forward to being a partner with the state’s investor groups.. Working with entrepreneurs and assisting them is a chance to be part of Michigan’s future.”


Moret, who was previously with TechTown Detroit, is working now on getting Invest Michigan ready for business. The fund plans to officially launch on May 31.


With Invest Michigan, Moret hopes to take the lessons learned running TechTown’s entrepreneurial programs and a similar venture fund in Connecticut, and blend  Ann Arbor SPARK’s experience with the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund to create a sustainable fund over time.


“The Michigan Pre-Seed Fund 2.0 needs to become a revolving capital fund,” Moret explained. “It’s important that we create a sustainable fund so that we can continue to be a viable source of capital for start-ups.”


As with the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund, Invest Michigan will target startups in AgTech, advanced manufacturing, homeland defense, alternative energy, IT and life sciences.


The Fund, as its predecessor did, will also engage with all of Michigan’s 15 SmartZones.  “The SmartZones are important partners as well as the state’s investment funds and the SBDC,” Moret explained. “Bottom line: We want to make sure companies get support that reduces time to market, and that usually comes best from the combination of SmartZones, co-investors and the SBDC working together.”


Invest Michigan will have monthly conference calls with the  SmartZones and will hold monthly  office hours so clients can engage with the Fund before applying for financing.


“Two things that attracted me to Michigan was the strong supportive ecosystem that exists and the momentum,” he added. “Everyone talks about California or Boston or Colorado, but the reality is that Michigan offers startups stronger support. A key advantage to being in Michigan is that an entrepreneur can access more resources and faster than in other states.”


Looking forward, Moret sees as a tipping point in Michigan’s technology based economy.


“The work that has occurred here over years, and the number of investment funds that are now operating here – well we’ve hit the tipping point,” he said. “Michigan has momentum and all the right tools. It’s a great time to be here, and a great opportunity to be part of something bigger.”


For information on funding opportunities available through Invest Michigan, stay tuned and visit at the end of May.

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August 26, 2013 @ 10:47 pm

Michigan Venture Capital Association Hires Emily Heintz as New Associate Director

The Michigan Venture Capital Association (MVCA) recently named Emily Heintz as its new associate director.  In this role, Heintz will work to actively create connections between venture capitalists and promote the state’s entrepreneurial and investment communities.


“Bringing Emily on board strengthens MVCA’s position in the state’s entrepreneurial eco-system,” said Carrie Jones, MVCA executive director.  “Emily brings valuable experience and connections to MVCA.  Her leadership and expertise will directly benefit MVCA’s members and support its mission to grow and sustain a vibrant venture capital community in Michigan.”


Heintz brings administrative, finance and economic development experience to the organization.  Prior to joining MVCA, she was with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), where she served as an equity capital markets associate.


During her tenure with MEDC, Heintz designed, implemented, and managed capital services programs, including direct investments made in venture capital firms around the state.  She also worked to build and maintain relationships with private equity groups, commercial banks, entrepreneurs, and business development support groups.


Heintz also previously worked for Ann Arbor SPARK, where she was an accounting manager.


Heintz earned her bachelor of arts degree and her masters of science degree in accounting from Michigan State University.

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July 1, 2013 @ 7:41 am

Chris Rizik’s Guest Commentary in Bridge Michigan

“Every basketball fan has seen it: Your hard working team plays great and goes into halftime with a big lead. But in the second half that same team looks entirely different, as the players stop doing all the aggressive, scrappy things that gave them the lead, and instead begin playing with the sole goal of not losing. More often than not, by focusing on being safe, they see their lead evaporate.


This basketball analogy is eerily resonant with the story of entrepreneurship in Michigan, a state that grew to unprecedented heights in the 20th century on the backs of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs. Then Michigan lost its momentum, beginning a long, slow shift from a hungry, innovative state to one that worked primarily to maintain what it had — playing not to lose. We moved from playing offense to solely playing defense, and it is tough to score while playing defense.”


Read the rest of the commentary…

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June 24, 2013 @ 8:26 am

New Michigan Angel Fund Offers New Opportunities for Funders, Startups

Michigan Angel Fund

The Michigan Angel Fund (MAF) is a for-profit, professionally managed equity fund focused on capital efficient early stage companies located in Michigan. It is a $2 million fund that, with nearly 70 members, is the largest angel organization in Michigan.


“There are two really unique aspects to MAF,” explains managing director Skip Simms.  “MAF flipped the traditional angel model on its head by raising a fund first, reaching out to existing angels around the state, and people new to the angel community.


MAF is looking to fund companies that need $1-4 million in total investment to get to profitability.  “Most VCs aren’t interested in these investments because these companies are too small,” Simms explained.  “In reality, the majority of startups don’t need the amount of capital that can generate the size returns a VC needs.  We believe these smaller companies can still generate significant outsize returns comparable to VC returns on an IRR basis, just smaller dollar amounts.”


MAF is also unique because its managing member, Ann Arbor SPARK, is a non-profit economic development organization that provides support to the fund and its funding recipients.  Ann Arbor SPARK, as managing member, coordinates screenings of fund applicants, conducts due diligence, and works with the New Enterprise Forum to prepare companies for their investor presentations.  Ann Arbor SPARK also handles back office work on behalf of MAF.


“People wonder why Ann Arbor SPARK, an economic development group and non-profit, decided to create a for-profit identity and get in to managing an angel fund,” Simms said.  “If you look back a few years ago, it was apparent that the companies Ann Arbor SPARK and other groups were helping were all struggling to raise funds, mostly because they didn’t need a large investment, and weren’t quite right for VCs.  On the flip side, Michigan is a top 10 state for high net worth individuals, yet we didn’t have a lot of angels investing in these companies. We need to develop an angel funding culture. By supporting MAF, Ann Arbor SPARK brought more individuals in to the angel arena, and made it easier for startups to find capital in the state.”


Startup BioPhotonics Solutions is the first company to benefit from MAF’s focus on Michigan businesses.   The company, a Michigan State University spin out venture, is developing technology that automated the process of shaping and compressing ultrashort (femtosecond) laser pulses, ultimately improving their utility.  In addition to funding, MAF helped find BioPhotonics’ CEO Kyomi Monro.


“It’s important that MAF have an active role in its portfolio companies; by having a hands-on approach, MAF delivers valuable support beyond just funding the business,” Simms said.  “The angel community backing MAF offers a very diverse and significant depth of experience that can be a big help in getting a startup on the fast track to success with the connections and wisdom of its members.”


Going forward, Simms said that MAF will shift its focus from closing the fund to making investments.  “A year from now, we want to have six to eight companies in our portfolio,” he explained.  “At that point, we can begin thinking about raising another fund to keep MAF going.  The true measure of our success in a year is whether MAF’s 70 investors are happy with the program, its process and want to keep it going and keep making great things happen here in Michigan.”

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November 8, 2011 @ 1:12 am

Michigan Venture Capital Association appoints 2012 Board of Directors, recognizes members at Annual Dinner

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—The Michigan Venture Capital Association (MVCA) celebrated a year of individual, company, and statewide industry achievement at its Annual Dinner held November 7 at the Inn at St. John’s in Plymouth. Over 145 members of the Michigan venture community attended the evening event, where incoming Chairman Tim Petersen introduced members of the organization’s 2012 Board of Directors. They include:
• Tim Petersen (Chairman), Arboretum Ventures
• Ron Reed (Vice Chairman/Past Chairman), Seneca Partners
• Jim Adox, (Vice-Chairman/Treasurer), Venture Investors
• Jeff Bocan, Beringea
• Hugo Braun, North Coast Technology Investors
• Pete Farner, TGap Ventures
• Mark Horne, Plymouth Management Company
• Tom Kinnear, U-M Ross School of Business Zell Lurie Institute
• Jon Lauckner, GM Ventures
• Chris Rizik, Renaissance Venture Capital Fund
• Skip Simms, Ann Arbor SPARK
• Mina Sooch, Apjohn Ventures
• Jody Vanderwel, Grand Angels
• Ken Van Heel, Dow Chemical Company
• Donald Walker, Arbor Partners

Pete Farner, Mark Horne and Jon Lauckner are new to the board and begin three-year terms while former director John McIlwraith of Blue Chip Venture Company completes his board involvement after a six-year term.

“It was a wonderful evening that really celebrated the best of the best in our industry,” said Merrill Guerra, Executive Director of the MVCA. “We’re pleased so many venture investors, portfolio company executives, development officials and other supporters could join us, showing the growth and success the venture capital community has demonstrated in Michigan.”

Get the flash player here:

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July 28, 2011 @ 12:10 pm

[From]: “$25 million to support Michigan entrepreneurs”$25-million-to-support-michigan-entrepreneurs

LANSING, Mich. (WXYZ) – The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) announced Wednesday that $25 million will be awarded to several organizations.

The state will give the money to eight organizations that will support entrepreneurs. The money will not only help the launch of new businesses throughout the state, but it will also continue to help those businesses grow over time.

“Early-stage companies require seed capital and access to a strong network of public and private resources,” said MEDC President and CEO Michael A. Finney. “We are confident that with the funding of these organizations and the types of programs, we will continue to accelerate the growth of innovative technology start-ups in Michigan.”

The money is all part of the state’s 21st Century Jobs Fund. Started in 2005, this 10-year initiative is a Michigan Strategic Fund program that is administered by the MEDC. The primary goal is to accelerate the growth and diversification of Michigan’s economy.

Below is a list of some of the organizations that have received awards from the MSF on a two to three year basis:

· Ann Arbor SPARK, $10.8 million: Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund, a statewide co-investment program in collaboration with all Michigan SmartZones that makes investments in pre-seed stage companies; Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, an annual business competition that awards $1 million in cash prizes to start-up and emerging companies; and the Michigan Angel Fund, a new fund that will invest in Michigan start-up companies.

· Biosciences Research & Commercialization Center (BRCC) of Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, $3.8 million: Statewide pre-seed fund that will invest in life science start-ups.

· Biotechnology Business Consultants (BBC), Ann Arbor, $1.6 million: Statewide support for Michigan companies to secure funding through federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.

· Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3), $400,000: Creative Producers, a program that will deliver targeted business acceleration services to early and second stage businesses in the digital and media production fields.

· Great Lakes Entrepreneurs Quest (GLEQ), Lansing, $1.1 million: Statewide annual business plan competition that provides a network of volunteer coaching, investor talent, and entrepreneurial support programs for early stage companies.

· Inforum Center for Leadership, Detroit and Grand Rapids, $700,000: Implementation of two programs focused on high-growth women entrepreneurs: ACTiVATE, a technology commercialization curriculum, and Astia, a global network of mentors and investors..

· Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center (SBTDC), Grand Rapids, $3.5 million: Business Accelerator Fund, a fund that can be accessed by participating business accelerators statewide to provide specialized business acceleration services and resources regardless of their client’s geography.

· Michigan Venture Capital Association (MVCA), Ann Arbor, $3.1 million: Entrepreneur-in-Residence and CEO placement programs, to improve talent in entrepreneurial companies; the Michigan Venture Fellows program, to develop talent for Michigan venture capital firms; and the Angel Network Growth program, to strengthen angel investment networks across the state.

For more information regarding The Michigan Economic Development Corporation initiatives and programs, visit the website at

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January 19, 2011 @ 2:50 pm

MEMBER NEWS: InfoReady Completes $1.1 Million in Seed Funding

InfoReady Completes $1.1 Million in Seed Funding

Company’s Social Media Technology Addressing $650 Billion Information Overload Problem

Ann Arbor, MI – Startup software company InfoReady Corp. has raised $250,000 in seed capital from Automation Alley, closing out $1.1 million in first-round funding.

InfoReady’s core technology helps knowledge workers find relevant information quickly with advanced search techniques, fosters communication with project peers via social-networking collaboration, and facilitates automated workflow management in one centralized project interface. The company’s flagship product, In4Grants™, helps grant seekers better manage the complex pre-award process.

Tom Anderson, Senior Director and Director of Entrepreneurism at Automation Alley, Michigan’s largest technology business association, said InfoReady’s leadership and interactive solutions were an attractive draw.

“InfoReady’s experienced management team has developed a sound product that improves how data-driven organizations conduct business,” Anderson said. “The company’s core technology transforms data into actionable knowledge and supports the ability for multiple people to work together in a single workspace. It all boils down to better collaboration.”

The round will immediately help fund the expansion of sales, marketing and new product deployment. The company recently rebranded In4Grants from InfoReady4Grants and launched a new website. Longer-term developments include new products to address the $2 billion—and growing—search, discovery and collaboration segment of the information-management market.

InfoReady is led by veteran technology entrepreneurs Bhushan Kulkarni, founder of telecom InTouch as well as IT solutions and services company GDI InfoTech, and Jim Diggs, an original executive team member at the successful startup BlueGill Technologies. Kulkarni said grant seekers in particular are in need of new search and collaboration tools to contend with competitive pressures.

“Organizations realize grant funding is no longer a luxury,” said Kulkarni, CEO. “Grants are now mission critical, and administrators say they are spending too much time searching for opportunities and managing the pre-award process. In4Grants makes their jobs easier and gives them substantially more time to craft winning proposals.”

In4Grants is being used by more than 25 universities, economic-development organizations and local governments including Eastern Michigan University and Ann Arbor Spark.

For organizations such as these, social-media functionality is an integral part of limiting information overload. Each year, emails and other distractions cost the U.S. economy $650 billion in lost productivity and waste 28 percent of workers’ time, according to a recent report from research firm Basex. InfoReady addresses this problem with information filtering and social-media collaboration—which drastically reduce confusing email threads and other distractions.

Skip Simms, President and CEO of Ann Arbor Spark, an economic-development organization, said In4Grants is offered to member companies because the product helps startups win funding more efficiently.

“Many companies get their start with grant funding, and In4Grants is focused on this process,” Simms said. “Companies that have been seeded with grant funding are attractive to investors because risk is reduced. And anything that can positively impact the ratio of fund seekers to fund recipients is a boon for Michigan and the startup community as a whole.”

Founded in 2010, InfoReady has received investments from Michigan’s three major seed funds and is now over-subscribed. Investors include $250,000 from the Ann Arbor Spark-administered Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund, $50,000 from First Step Fund, and advisory board members Ted Dacko and Terry Cross. The advisory board has deep experience in relevant areas of InfoReady’s strategy, including Dacko, who headed HealthMedia’s successful sale to Johnson & Johnson in 2008.


About InfoReady Corp.

InfoReady deals with information overload…so you don’t have to.

An information-management innovator backed by decades of deep IT know-how, InfoReady’s core technology helps knowledge workers find relevant information quickly, fosters communication with project peers via social-media applications, and facilitates automated workflow management in one centralized project-based interface. The Ann Arbor, Michigan-based company’s flagship product, In4Grants™, helps grant seekers better manage the complex pre-award process.

To see how InfoReady and In4Grants are changing how the world manages data, go to

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November 30, 2010 @ 4:25 pm

MVCA Talent Committee charting course for talent retention, growth

Members of the MVCA Talent Committee are preparing for a busy 2011.  Among the group’s initiatives–sustaining the EIR/CEO Placement program, creating a new MVCA Fellowship program aimed at recent advanced degree graduates of in-state universities, and continuing the popular “Super HotShots” talent recruiting night.

MVCA Talent Committee

MVCA Talent Committee Members Jim Adox, Amy Cell and Tim Petersen

The committee members include:  Jim Adox, Venture Investors; Amy Cell, Ann Arbor SPARK; Tim Petersen, Arboretum Ventures; and Jeff Barry, Plymouth Management Partners.

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November 1, 2010 @ 1:35 pm

NEWS RELEASE: Michigan Venture Capital Association celebrated award winners, appoints 2011 Board of Directors at annual dinner Nov. 15

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Celebrating “A Year of Exits”, the Michigan Venture Capital Association held its annual awards dinner for its members and guests November 15 in Ann Arbor.  The statewide membership organization honored several Michigan venture firms as well as venture capital recipient companies for their successes:

  • MVCA “Michigan 100” Award winner Cerenis Therapeutics of Ann Arbor, for raising over $100 million in venture capital;
  • Michigan’s new venture firms: Huron River Ventures, Michigan Accelerator Fund Management, and Resonant Ventures;
  • Multiple venture capital investment exits, both non-Michigan companies with Michigan venture investors and Michigan-based companies:

o   LenSx Lasers (Venture Investors)

o   Greenplum (EDF Ventures)

o   ZyStor (Apjohn Ventures & Venture Investors)

o   CardioMEMS (Arboretum Ventures)

o   Ikano Therapeutics (Apjohn Ventures)

o   Arbor Networks (EDF Ventures)

o   HandyLab (EDF Ventures, Wolverine Venture Fund, Arboretum Ventures, Ardesta Capital, Dow Venture Capital)

Jeff Williams, former CEO of HandyLab and current CEO of venture-backed Accuri Cytometers, was named MVCA Entrepreneur of the Year.


“The wind is in our sails,” stated LeAnn Auer, Executive Director of the MVCA, in her remarks before the dinner.  “It’s been a year of exits, as many of our venture capital firms have successfully exited portfolio companies located both here in Michigan and elsewhere.  In addition, venture capital financings have already exceeded 2009 levels.  These successes bode well for future growth in our community.  I’m looking forward to this year’s celebration.”

The Michigan Venture Capital Association will also announce its 2011 Board of Directors:

  • Ron Reed (Chairman), Managing Director, Seneca Partners
  • Tom Kinnear (Vice-Chairman/Treasurer), Managing Director, Zell Lurie Institute at U-M Ross School of Business
  • Tim Petersen (Vice Chairman/Chairman-Elect), Managing Director, Arboretum Ventures
  • Uzma Ahmad (Board Secretary), Attorney, Dykema Gossett PLLC
  • Jim Adox, Managing Director, Venture Investors
  • Jeff Bocan, Managing Director, Beringea
  • Hugo Braun, Co-Founder, North Coast Technology Investors
  • Greg Main, President & CEO, Michigan Economic Development Corporation
  • John McIlwraith, Managing Director, Allos Ventures
  • Chris Rizik, CEO & Fund Manager, Renaissance Venture Capital Fund
  • Skip Simms, Managing Director, Ann Arbor SPARK
  • Mina Sooch Partner, Triathlon Medical Ventures; Managing Director, Apjohn Ventures
  • Jody Vanderwel, President, Grand Angels
  • Ken Van Heel, Director, Alternative Investments & Venture Capital, Dow Chemical Company
  • Donald Walker, Managing Director, Arbor Partners

About the MVCA

The MVCA is a 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.  Membership includes private venture capital funds, corporate venture capital funds, private equity firms, angel investors, and entrepreneurial infrastructure participants.  The MVCA is a vehicle to bring together industry participants and to provide a concerted voice for Michigan’s venture capital industry.

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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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