A hallmark of the Michigan Venture Capital Association has long been our ability to offer members access to top-tier talent through Venture Upstart, a suite of programs designed to grow and sustain a vibrant venture capital community in Michigan. Funded by a grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Venture Upstart programs have played a critical role in building Michigan’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and have allowed our members to attract exceptional talent to both their firms and portfolio companies.
Executive Attraction Program
The former CEO Placement Program, designed to increase the number of venture-backed executives in Michigan, has been expanded to include all C-level and senior sales and marketing positions at venture-backed firms. Renamed the Executive Attraction Program, it provides assistance with recruiting and first-year salary expenses associated with hiring exceptional talent at qualified MVCA member portfolio companies, with the goal of increasing the number of successful portfolio companies in Michigan.
“Recruiting the right talent is crucial for any business and venture-backed companies can struggle to attract the best candidates,” said Charlie Rothstein, co-founder and senior managing director of MVCA member Beringea. “The Executive Attraction Program will help offset hiring costs, enabling portfolio companies to build strong management teams, thereby increasing the number of thriving venture-backed companies in Michigan.”
Venture Fellows Program
Another Venture Upstart program, the Michigan Venture Fellows Program, aims to increase the number of venture professionals in Michigan and accelerate fundraising and deployment of capital into early stage companies. Selected Venture Fellows are professionals who are early in their venture careers and are hired for two years by a Michigan-based venture firm, with the expectation that they will continue at the firm following the fellowship period. The candidates, who demonstrate a tie to Michigan and an interest in building a venture career here, are directly involved with the venture fund’s portfolio companies. In the past five years, the number of VC investment professionals in Michigan has increased 39% compared to a 13% decrease in professionals nationally.
MVCA member Michigan Accelerator Fund used the Venture Fellows Program to hire Dr. Linda Chamberlain, a move that has benefitted the firm as well as its portfolio companies and LPs.
“The Venture Fellows Program sponsored by the MVCA, has been tremendously useful for us. As a smaller, first-time fund, we are constrained by staffing. Being able to have a venture fellow, particularly of Dr. Chamberlain’s experience and perspective, has made a world of difference,” said Dale Grogan, managing director of Michigan Accelerator Fund. “We now have the ability to reach more broadly for deals, to conduct deeper due diligence, and perhaps most importantly, to maintain continuous engagement for all of our portfolio companies. The translational benefit for our LPs is that we can invest with greater confidence based on our own efforts – as compared to being simply follow-on investors – and enhance our position into the leadership position as investors.”
Jared Stasik is a Michigan native who returned to the state to work with MVCA member Detroit Venture Partners, another firm that has participated in the Venture Fellows Program. He explained: “The MVCA Venture Fellows program opened the door for me to return to Michigan and be part of the emerging venture scene in Detroit. One great benefit of the program is the connections to other fellows and their firms. These connections have helped strengthen the relationships between funds in Detroit, Ann Arbor, and West Michigan, creating a more unified venture landscape in our state.”
Angel Network Growth Program
Through over 40 awards made to six Michigan angel groups, the Angel Network Growth Program has directly supported efforts to attract more angel members and enhance deal flow. The Angel Investment Group Seed Program offers funding for administrative expenses to angel groups that invest in a Michigan-based startup company; in 2013, there were 116 active angel-backed companies in Michigan, a 137% increase in the past five years.
Jody Vanderwel, who leads the Grand Rapids-based Grand Angels said, “The Angel Growth Program has made it possible for Grand Angels to improve its due diligence process, upgrade some of its equipment, and increase its administrative support. Those things have led to better investment decisions and new members. We appreciate MVCA’s support of angel investing.”