Back to Blog January 24, 2014 in

Invest Detroit’s First Step Fund

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Invest Detroit continues to actively support companies in the Detroit region with its First Step Fund (FSF). Based in downtown Detroit, First Step Fund is an early stage micro investment fund that was formed through an investment from the New Economy Initiative of Southeast Michigan.


While more and more funds are choosing to call Michigan home, few are like First Step Fund. In most cases, First Step Fund is the first institutional investment into a company. The industry agnostic fund has made 55 investments across southeast Michigan.  The fund has an interest in supporting women, minority and immigrant owned companies across the region.


First Step Fund’s recent investments include Avegant, Sky Specs and Kontextual. “These investments all fit First Step Fund’s overall investment strategy so well, and are the ideal representation of the range of businesses that can grow and thrive in the region,” said First Step Fund’s managing director, Adrian Fortino.


Avegant is a new platform that allows consumers to interact with media and data in new ways, and allow for new forms of storytelling.  The platform revolves around Avegant’s revolutionary virtual retinal display technology that interacts with eyes in the way that they naturally function. By reflecting light into the eyes, consumers can see media and data the way they’re supposed to be experienced: lifelike and vividly.


“First Step Fund saw an extraordinary and uniquely designed opportunity last year when we invested prior to the seed round Avegant closed late last year,” said Fortino. Avegant recently won a coveted CES Editors Choice at the 2014 Show and exceeded their goal in their Kickstarter campaign in less than four hours.


Sky Specs develops autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles that inspect infrastructure such as bridges, wind turbines, dams and sewers. SkySpecs couples the hardware with an analytics dashboard to interpret and map the massive amount of data gathered during flight.


“First Step Fund led Sky Specs’ $500,000 pre-seed round to finalize the first commercial product and effectively launch the company,” Fortino continued. “Sky Specs has market opportunities across several verticals and a remarkable team which has positioned it well with key strategic partners at a prototype stage.”


Kontextual helps companies build transparent, metric-driven cultures.  Its cloud- and mobile-based platform is the end result of decades of experience in the enterprise software market combined with cutting edge software skills and intensely beautiful interface design, all sprinkled with a healthy dose of lessons learned from social media.


“Business social enterprise software is a dynamic sector and Kontextual is positioned well with an experienced management team and great investment partners,” he added. “Kontextual fills a critical gap in the business operations software space.”


Looking forward, Invest Detroit is excited by the potential for First Step Fund as well as its recently-launched Detroit Innovate, a seed stage venture fund to fuel high-growth technology companies in the Detroit Region. Detroit Innovate focused on enabling technologies in healthcare, transportation, advanced manufacturing, and resource efficiency.


“Our deal flow has never been higher in volume and quality,” said Fortino. “We expect to continue at the brisk pace of 2013 where we invested in 10 new companies, if not more!”