Sarah Schmid| Xconomy
Thanks to a $1 million grant from the Michigan Strategic Fund, Detroit business incubators Bizdom and TechTown are partnering with Invest Detroit on a new initiative called the Detroit Technology Exchange (DTX). DTX will consist of programs geared toward strengthening Detroit’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, attracting and retaining talent, and getting investment money flowing through the local startup pipeline.
“The Detroit Technology Exchange partners are coming together to solve Detroit’s macroeconomic challenges, instead of saying we’re partners and taking a chunk of money and then going our own separate way again,” explains Leslie Smith, TechTown’s president and CEO. “The talent and pipeline were needs we all agreed on.”
Maria LaLonde, Bizdom’s recruiting and development leader, echoes that sentiment. “We thought it made really good sense to collaborate on the Detroit Technology Exchange because we can each bring our talents and resources to the table,” she says. “If we understand the strengths of each organization, that only benefits entrepreneurs and increases their chances of success.”
The first-of-its-kind partnership consists of four programs: Integrated Ecosystem Services, activities such as marketing and portfolio reviews meant to address shortfalls in the city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem; Launch Detroit, a “highly competitive” 10-week summer boot camp program for student entrepreneurs from universities around the region who want to start tech-based businesses; D-Venture, a salaried executive-in-residence program to flush out promising intellectual property by matching seasoned entreprenuers from around the country to local IP and having the executive serve as CEO of a startup based on the IP for up to a year; and DTX Fellows, which seeks to connect mid-level talent to Detroit’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
The DTX collaboration came together as a response to the needs of Detroit’s growing entrepreneurial community and the organizations working to ensure its success, which were often duplicating efforts or operating in a siloed fashion. Smith says she’s especially excited about the increased communication between TechTown and Bizdom, which includes plenty of conversation about the unique strengths of each incubator. “We’re starting to build a stronger and more honest relationship,” she adds.
In addition to the grant, which is ultimately administered by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the state’s business development office, DTX partners will leverage existing investments made in their organizations by the New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan and others through access to facilities, events, and in-kind services. DTX partners claim the new programs will result in 15 new companies and at least $881,000 in new investment, though they call that estimate “conservative.”
TechTown is a business incubator affiliated with Wayne State University, while Bizdom is the brainchild of Quicken Loans CEO Dan Gilbert and is an anchor tenant in the Madison Building, the state-of-the-art office building downtown that is home to many of the city’s burgeoning tech startups. Invest Detroit uses managed nonprofit and for-profit funds to support economic development opportunities in the city; past projects include the massive Westin Book Cadillac hotel renovation.
Sarah Schmid is the editor of Xconomy Detroit. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or firstname.lastname@example.org.