As Ludlow Ventures’ Brett deMarrais finishes his two-year MVCA Fellowship, we asked him to reflect on his time as a Fellow, including how he was able to help tell the Michigan VC story outside the state and the grisly career ending he hopes to avoid.
Tell us about your Fellow position – where are you, what are you doing?
I’m a partner at Ludlow Ventures in downtown Detroit, where I source deals and find great companies to invest in. Once a business is in the Ludlow portfolio, I support the entrepreneurs however I can, from helping them with their accounting and finances to talking through new marketing initiatives. I’m fortunate to work with companies across the country as well as right here in Michigan, so I can easily share best practices across geographies and sectors with our portfolio companies.
How did you use your Fellowship period to contribute to the grown of Michigan’s VC community?
I saw part of my role as an MVCA Fellow as being an ambassador for the Michigan VC community whenever I traveled to the Bay Area, L.A., or NYC. Ludlow is based in Detroit, which is quickly becoming a true hub of venture activity in our state. Michigan has a reputation outside the state of being a vibrant and growing venture community where our research talent, and ideas have the potential to create entrepreneurial activity in a meaningful way. So it’s been a pleasure to evangelize our state and the great opportunities venture investors can find here when I travel to coastal venture communities.
How did the Michigan venture community help you grow in your understand of the industry and your role in it?
The Michigan venture community has been terrific and I have learned a lot. I have attended many MVCA events during my Fellowship, and have met so many Michigan venture professionals, at all career levels, that I can now lean on for advice and collaboration. Sometimes it is easy to feel a little isolated because we are spread out, but every time I have needed help people in Michigan’s entrepreneurial ecosystem have bent over backwards to be of assistance.
What’s the best deal done during your tenure? Or favorite technology or CEO or solution you’ve encountered during your time as a fellow?
It is hard to pick one favorite. That being said I am particularly proud of Ubeam and Sprig. Both companies are lead by phenomenal founders and have huge potential.
One thing you’ve learned during your fellowship that you didn’t know before you started in the industry?
VC is a customer service business, and I’m a firm believer that customer experience can lead an organization or in this case an ecosystem. With that in mind, I have an open door policy, even with entrepreneurs who aren’t in our portfolio companies. This means meeting with local entrepreneurs who might not even be working on venture-backable businesses (like local retail or restaurants), to offer my advice and support. In the end, I think this enhances the entire ecosystem, creating stronger entrepreneurs at all levels. Hopefully someday I see either that entrepreneur or someone in his network back at Ludlow when they are fundraising!
What are your plans post-Fellowship?
I’m staying at Ludlow Ventures as a partner, continuing to improve my craft and help amazing companies grow. I’m excited to stay and continue my career in Michigan; I was promoted to partner from associate at the conclusion of my Fellowship period, and I really believe the networking and education the MVCA Fellowship offered helped me secure this next step in my career. There is a lot of great activity starting to bubble up and I believe a couple huge companies will be born and grow here.
Brett, you’re a huge film and TV buff. What character is most similar to you in career or work perspective? What character do you hope you don’t end up like career-wise?
I am on a big Game of Thrones kick right now, so I think I am similar to Tyrion Lannister—able to work with lots of different types of people to get the job done. I hope I don’t end up like Ned Stark, or Rob Stark, or any other people in Game of Thrones whose ambitions have earned them very sudden and ugly endings!