Infrastructure to launch businesses

“Can I make it here?”

Another way an entrepreneur asks the same question, “Is this a great platform from which to launch?”

A platform for entrepreneurs is different from a program. A program prescribes how it is to be used, whereas a platform opens the question, “How can you use this to create value?"

Entrepreneurs use platforms like pitch competitions, maker spaces, kitchen incubators, startup weekends, food carts, festivals and a host of other things to discover new value. Start Garden looks at the available platforms to make our region great at helping entrepreneurs launch and we work to fill the gaps.

Platforms We're Currently Working On

5x5 NIGHT | Originally launched in 2011, it's Michigan's most open pitch competition. The rules are as simple as counting to five. Five presenters have five minutes and five slides to pitch to five judges for a $5,000 grant. More valuable than the $5,000 is getting the idea out into the public for people to come around it move it forward. Ideas are submitted to

SEAMLESS | Launched in 2015 as a platform for Michigan's global manufacturing enterprises to work with tech startups to innovate new products for The Internet of Things. Startups working on technologies that can be integrated into office, home, medical, automotive or retail are considered for admittance by the global enterprises that make up the Seamless Consortium. More than a dozen startups from around the globe have received more than $4,000,000 in purchase orders and direct investment from the Seamless Consortium. Learn more at

COLLECTIVE METRICS | Collective Metrics is an interactive website that connects the regions startups, investors and service providers. The website will serve as an access point for the community and a window into how the ecosystem is performing. All entrepreneurs are encouraged to create an account, and begin connecting with others on the network. Learn more at

| Still in it's feasibility study phase, Start Garden is working with TechShop to bring a 20,000 sqf maker space to Grand Rapids, MI. It's an open access platrform for makers and anyone who aspires to make something to come together and tinker under one roof. What sets TechShop apart are its streamlined operations and comprehensive programs that enable non-makers from ages 8 to 88 to come in and very quickly be building anything from pillows to cars. To learn more about TechShop visit

ECOSYSTEM ALIGNMENT | Specifically, this work refers to organizations involved in the development and acceleration of entrepreneurs from under represented communities. No one organization can be a one-size-fits-all accelerator, so the interconnection between organizations toward the goal of simultaneously increasing access to financial, intellectual and social capital at each stage of the entrepreneur journey  is critical.


GRABB 5 | A project launched in collaboration with Grand Rapids Area Black Business and The City of Grand Rapids to both benefit five businesses and the Ecosystem. On one level, the goal is to accelerate five minority owned small businesses that are already providing value to the community, but could be growing faster. On another level, it's revealing from direct experience systemic barriers for neighborhood business growth and informs what platforms should exist.

TALENT PIPELINE | It's no secret in the tech startup community that women and minorities are under represented by a large margin. Start Garden knows from firsthand experience that tech startups are natural incubators for new entrepreneurs. Our long-term solution is to develop a pipleine that includes multiple partners--like Grand Circus, West Michigan Center for Arts & Technology and The Midwest Tech Project--to lower the barrier to technology careers starting in middle school and extending into placement into job positions.


Submit Your Idea

Originally launched in 2011, 5x5 Night is Michigan's most open pitch competition. The rules are as simple as counting to five. Five presenters have five minutes and five slides to pitch to five judges for a $5,000 grant. Probably more valuable than the $5,000 is getting the idea out and seeing who comes around to help it move forward. Ideas are submitted to

Next 5x5 Night