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:
- 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.
- 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.