Michigan Venture Capital Association (MVCA), the nonprofit trade association that advocates for increases in the amount of capital and talent for Michigan’s entrepreneurial and investment community, recognized the need to be proactive early on in helping the ecosystem work through the challenges created by the COVID-19 crisis.
MVCA’s Board of Directors created a task force led by Adrian Fortino, Managing Director of Mercury Fund, that looked at different avenues for providing meaningful assistance to the startup community. “As an engaged community organization, the MVCA was compelled to support our state as best we could in such difficult crises through the expertise and resources of our members. We will continue to commit time and money from our membership in the future as well,” said Fortino.
The action plan began soon after Michigan was quarantined and it included ongoing webinar series. The first webinar focused on a panel of investors discussing how this current crisis will affect venture-backed startups and how MVCA members can best prepare their portfolio companies to weather the storm. Due to the overwhelming response to the first webinar, MVCA launched a series of ongoing webinars about topics related to diversity, talent, outside capital invested in Michigan and other resources for the startup community. “Our webinars have been insightful and popular amongst the community. Each one has been designed to engage the ecosystem and provoke ongoing dialogues and connections” said MVCA Executive Director, Ara Topouzian.
In addition, MVCA focused on assisting several non-profit organizations with raising funds and promoting their causes throughout the Michigan ecosystem. Charities such as Feed the Frontlines of Detroit, the COVID Guard Fund, and A2 Helps.
In May, MVCA began to partner with different Michigan SmartZone organizations by offering MVCA investor members the opportunity to volunteer office hours for the purpose of offering advice to entrepreneurs. Organizations such as TechTown (Detroit) and StartGarden (Grand Rapids) have already seen positive outcomes for their startup founders. “I was able to receive crucial insight from an investor perspective that helped me set a clearer path towards success,” said Tonia Osby, Founder of Lucy Pop, who felt her conversation with investor Sonali Vijayavargiya at Augment Ventures was pivotal as it pertained to her startup.
Through this partnership, StartGarden created a virtual meeting connecting founders/entrepreneurs to MVCA members Carolyn Cassin (Belle Michigan) and Camila Noordeloos (Grand Ventures). “As a rising entrepreneur, I so appreciated hearing the VCs who participated share their thoughts on topics specifically derived from the attendees. The advice rendered has already been helpful in allowing me to avoid some previously unrecognized pitfalls,” said David Anderson, Founder of RiskClimate.
MVCA is currently adding more virtual content for the remainder of the year. For more information and an archive of webinar videos, go to Resources on the MVCA website.