Your official source for all Start Garden related news


Posted on by Nichole Kladder, filed under Announcements

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., June 21, 2013 -- Start Garden, the $15,000,000 seed fund that selects individual ideas each week for investments, and opportunities for further investment has operated at a feverish pace since its launch in April 2012. Today the team announced it will take a four-week hiatus from its weekly investment, monthly updates and education classes. Its full schedule will return on Thursday, August 1. In the meantime, they are devoting attention to the growth of their portfolio companies—those investments of $20,000 or greater.

During July, Start Garden will continue its Tuesday afternoon Advisor Hours, and 50 Louis will be open normal business hours. The organization will also host its new, July 11 Second Step program—a public event featuring updates and candid conversations from portfolio companies.

“This summer, we experiment with things we learned in year one,” said Rick DeVos, CEO of Start Garden. “The Second Step Series gives the public a window into what’s happening after the $20,000 investment, we’re turning over our space for members to play with and introducing startup specific classes.”

In August, Start Garden returns with a vengeance. Thursday, August 1, they restart the weekly cycle of $5,000 investments, and Update Night on the 22nd.  The August calendar is full of new events for members and classes for startups. Member Takeover Night, where a member can self-select to be an advisor and share his or her specific expertise with other members, happens Thursdays. 50 Louis is open until 9:00PM every Wednesday and Thursday for Start Garden members.

Starting July 31, there is a class every Wednesday evening. Each class will address specific startup needs, including: 
• What you need to know before you hire an employee
• Accounting for solo entrepreneurs
• Social media marketing
• Building financial projections
• Leadership development

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So You Deserve The Title ‘SUPER INTERN’ Eh? Prove It!

Posted on by Nichole Kladder, filed under Announcements

Think you're pretty super? We want you! Now seeking TWO part-time summer/fall INTERNS. But first... are you creative? Are you self-directed? Are you a 'jack-of-all-trades?' Please continue reading...

HOW TO APPLY: Take a moment to look over our site. Have you been to an Update Night? Do you know what the difference between a grant and an investment is? Do you know how to spell 'entrepreneur'? - kidding. Familiarize yourself with our process and personality. If you think our organization suits you, please send a cover letter, resume, reference(s), and any other  materials you feel would help us get to know you better  to We'll be accepting applications until Monday, July 8th 2013.

We look forward to meeting you!



Start Garden is an unconventional venture capital fund that invests in over a hundred ideas a year in small increments. The program brings financial, intellectual and social capital to ideas at the earliest stage by connecting them to the resources of an entire region. Located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, it is founded by Rick DeVos whose past projects include ArtPrize, 5x5 Night, Momentum and

The Start Garden Internship opportunity offers a multi-faceted, hands-on experience with an extremely unique organization and team. The role of Intern includes but is not limited to managing the physical space, assisting the greater team, and promoting exceptional hospitality.

The Intern will work with everyone on the Start Garden Team in some facet, as they will be acting as a point person for the organization and communication that keeps the team efficient. However, they will work closely with the Coordinator who will act as the Interns direct contact person and manager.

It is the role of the Intern to support an environment that promotes ease of creativity among the team. The space and team are open and flexible, and it is the responsibility of the Intern to assist in maintaining it.

The Intern is responsible for projects including but not limited to:

Responsibilities: Supervises the space activities to achieve maximum experience and productivity throughout the ecosystem.
• Manage office material inventory
• Manage conference room usage/reservations & technology
• Manage physical space (furniture, presentation space, event space, trash/recycle)
• Manage technology and infrastructure challenges
• Assist in management of keys/badges of teams and visitors
• Facilitate kitchen (stock items, load/empty dishwasher, clean space)
• Assist in management of security needs (keys, door codes, light system)
• Serve as after hours staff as needed/scheduled

Responsibilities: Relieves the team of administrative functions as to enable the greater team for other responsibilities and duties.
• Assist with data entry to Start Garden programs (pipedrive)
• Record and organize meeting notes as needed
• Catalog and organize team contact lists and network
• Communicate messages (email, phone, mail) as needed
• Assist with day of event execution (set-up, tear-down, catering, etc.)
• Conduct and document special research/projects as needed

Responsibilities: Promotes positive, open, and flexible ecosystem of space.
• Greet visitors, answer questions, promote Start Garden
• Troubleshoot and conduct customer service needs
• Assist in leading building tours
• Provide refreshments for visitors and members
• Serves as a contact person for team, the space, and the organization as needed
• Collect payments at door for events
• Hand out drink tickets for events
• Answer customer service ‘hello’ emails


• Conducts oneself as a representative of the organization at work and during office hours
• Demonstrates clear articulation of the organizational message
• Has a demeanor appropriate to be a public face for the organization
• Delivers assignments on time
• Can self-identify areas where the team needs help and deliver support
• Is respectful of the teams space, time, and expectations

Start Garden hours are Monday through Friday 9 AM to 5 PM. A weekly schedule will require approximately 15-20 hours during Start Garden office hours. Must be able to support Start Garden events which may include late evening, weekend, and some early mornings. Flexibility of schedule is needed.

Part-time (15-20 hours per week). Hourly rate: $9.00, not to exceed stipend of $720.00 a month.

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Posted on by Nichole Kladder, filed under Announcements, Press Releases

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., May 9, 2013 -- Start Garden, the $15,000,000 seed fund that selects individual ideas each week for investments, announced this week’s round of $5,000 investments from submissions to These include Circus of the Mind, a community festival that presents critical world issues, and Snap Script, a mobile medication app.

Start Garden Selection
The idea selected this week by the Start Garden team for funding is Snap Script (, a mobile app that allows the user to take a photo of a pill bottle to organize medications, improve adherence and compliance, and monitor for drug-to-drug interaction risk. The $5,000 from Start Garden will help the company launch its first release.

“Other medication apps require users to manually input their prescription information, Snap Script streamlines data acquisition for users automatically by allowing them to simply take a picture of their pill bottles and have the information organized instantly,” said Brian Ingle, founder of Snap Script.

Public Selection
The idea selected by the most endorsements from visitors to is Circus of the Mind (+COM) (, a traveling, community festival that presents a series of themes addressing critical issues of today--art, culture & politics.

“Circus of the Mind is an immersive, traveling experience, think TED meets Cirque de Soleil, which embed itself within a city’s with its own physical architectural space, where users interact with the content intellectually, emotionally and physically,” said Maurice Jacobsen creator of Circus of the Mind.

Each idea receives a $5,000 investment, pending the completion of the investment agreement, which can be found on

The fund’s management team takes submissions through Ideas with potential to become businesses can be submitted. Each week the Start Garden team selects an idea and the broader community on the website endorses another idea to receive $5,000. Start Garden can continue to invest up to $500,000 in a single idea. Learn more about submission criteria at

Each Thursday at noon the ideas on are stored in the database, and the slate is cleaned for the next week. Anybody who has already submitted an idea and wants it reconsidered for the next week must go back to the website to resubmit. The next round of $5,000 investments will be announced Thursday, May 16, after the noon deadline.

Funded teams give a public presentation about what they did with their $5,000 investment during Update night. The next Update Night is Thursday, May 23. Following the presentations, the Start Garden team announces which projects they will continue to fund at $20K and higher. Learn more about Start Garden events at

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Posted on by Nichole Kladder, filed under Announcements, Press Releases

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., March 28, 2013 -- Start Garden, the $15,000,000 seed fund that selects individual ideas each week for investments, and opportunities for further investment, tonight held their monthly Update Night. Start Garden will fund two projects, totaling $40,000, Nawgum, an all in one baby teether designed to appease all areas of a teething baby’s mouth, and Sweet Spot Wheels, a skateboard wheel producer that donates 10 percent of its sales to building wells in Africa.

Update Night offers teams that have received an initial $5,000 investment a chance to provide an update to the public on their projects. Teams have three-minutes to present before an open audience and explain how the money was used to complete an experiment that proved their idea is desirable, feasible or viable. Following the presentations, a panel of advisors discusses each project and announces which projects Start Garden will continue to invest in. 

Next round of funding for each project starts at $20,000. Companies moving to the next round of funding include:

Nawgum (, founded by Sue Kellogg, is an all-in-one teether, similar to Sophie the Giraffe, but made of seamless silicon, which is BPA-free and friendly to the environment. It is designed to be visually and aesthetically appealing to teething infants. Kellogg’s Mello & Company, which owns the Nawgum brand, used the Start Garden investment to create custom tooling and molds for the silicon product. Nawgum received its initial $5,000 on January 17, 2013.

“Sue is an example of an entrepreneur with serious hustle. She took her last prototype and pre-sold more than 50 Nawgum toys,” said Kim Pasquino, portfolio relations manager with Start Garden. “With the purchase orders she has in-hand, Sue will now take the additional $20,000 to finance manufacturing with St. Gobain, a Wisconsin company, to quickly scale to the next level of her experiment.”

Sweet Spot Wheels (, founded by Alex Bolen, produces high-quality skateboard wheels, which are specially designed for longboards. The company also has a social mission: 10 percent of all sales go to its Wheels for Wells foundation, which builds wells in Africa. The team used the Start Garden investment to create marketing and packaging materials and to fund R&D for a new wheel design. Sweet Spot received its initial $5,000 on January 3, 2013.

“For nearly four months, Sweet Spot has increased sales and grown their revenues more than 600 percent by selling into multiple retailers and spurring international sales,” said Benjamin Gott, resident entrepreneur at Start Garden. “They have laid out a clear path for the future, which includes new proprietary wheel designs and a new bushing product. Alex and his team will put the next $20,000 to work immediately and we'll have a quick understanding of the value it creates."

Six additional entrepreneurs presented during Start Garden’s March Update Night, including: ClipCleany, The Cushy, OnTouch, Standard Boot Co., Students Get Fit and Velocity Crepes.

The Start Garden management team accepts ideas with potential to become businesses through Each week the Start Garden team selects an idea and the broader community on the website endorses another idea to receive $5,000. Start Garden can continue to invest up to $500,000 in a single idea. Learn more about submission criteria at

The next Update Night is Thursday, April 25. Learn more about Start Garden events at

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Start Garden Invests in PR Tools and Customizable Eyewear Accessories

Posted on by Paul Moore, filed under Announcements

Grand Rapids, Mich., October 18, 2012 -- Today Start Garden, the $15,000,000 seed fund that selects ideas each week for $5,000 investments, announced the results from this week’s submissions to

The idea selected this week by the Start Garden team for funding is Waterfall. A public relations tool applying technology to simplify how content creators get to stories they want to write about.

The idea selected by the most endorsements from visitors to is G-RAPS. A fashion accessory for glasses.

Each idea receives a $5,000 investment, pending the completion of the investment agreement, which can be found on

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Start Garden to Open a Space as ‘Hub of the Ecosystem’

Posted on by Paul Moore, filed under Announcements, Press Releases

Grand Rapids, Mich., August 2, 2012 – Start Garden, the $15,000,000 seed fund project from Rick DeVos, today announced the opening of a 5,000 square foot storefront on the corner of Louis and Ionia streets in downtown Grand Rapids as a center for entrepreneurial activity in the region.

“We conceived Start Garden as two parts of a whole, one part is financial investment, which we launched in the spring,” said Rick DeVos, “the other part is ecosystem building to make this region a really friendly place for new ideas. Without the ecosystem, the investments don’t work. Without the investments, there’s no growth in the ecosystem.”

To that end, Start Garden will open a ground level storefront. It will host an increased schedule of events, conduct classes and create a common area for mentors, advisors and the Start Garden team to exchange social and intellectual capital with invested projects.

“The ideas we invest in need experienced advisors and fast ways to learn just as much, if not more, than the money we provide,” said DeVos. “It has become apparent Start Garden needs a physical space to accommodate the volume of connections and conversations that happen.”

Start Garden will open it’s new space (on the first floor of 50 Louis Ave) with a two day grand opening event scheduled for Thursday and Friday, September 13 & 14. More details to come on their opening events at

Jeremy Bakken

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Investment Cycle Extended Due to Holiday

Posted on by Paul Moore, filed under Announcements

Hear ye, hear ye.

Due to the 4th of July holiday falling on a Wednesday next week, Start Garden is extending our one week cycle for picking investments to two weeks.

Any idea submitted after noon Thursday, June 28, will stay active on until noon Thursday, July 12, when we will announce our selected investments. One public selection and one Start Garden selection will be announced on July 12, just like a normal one week cycle.

Endorsements submitted for ideas between June 28 and July 12 will all count. (So, you've got an extra week. Take advantage of it.)

Good luck.

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Save the Date for Start Garden Update Night

Posted on by Paul Moore, filed under Announcements, Press Releases

Grand Rapids, Mich., June 07, 2012 -- Today Start Garden, the $15,000,000 seed fund project from Rick DeVos that selects ideas each week for $5,000 investments, announced the date of their first Update Night event. On July 26, representatives from eight of the ideas that received a $5,000 investment from Start Garden will present updates on how they used the initial investment to move their idea forward. Update Night begins at 5:30PM at the Grand Rapids Art Museum. Admission is $5. Doors open and cash bar opens at 5:00.

Each week, Start Garden invests in at least two ideas submitted to the website Each idea receives $5,000. One of the ideas is chosen by Start Garden team members, the broader community selects the other. Each week, the public has the opportunity to endorse the idea they like the most. The idea with the most supporters at the end of each week receives the second $5,000 investment.

Each person who receives the initial $5,000 investment has 60-90 days to get some traction with his or her idea, and return to give an in-person update at a public event. Update Night offers the public a chance to see how the ideas that they endorsed used the funding, and learn which ideas will receive an additional $20,000 in funding.  Projects that demonstrate success and continued growth can ultimately receive as much as $500,000 dollars in incremental investments.

“Start Garden brings the city around these ideas by asking the public to endorse them and our business partners to help them,” said Rick DeVos. “We think the city should have a window into what kind of progress these teams have made and what Start Garden’s plans are for the future. Update Night provides anyone that endorsed an idea, or is excited about how new businesses get started, the chance to see what somebody can do with a little early investment.”

The ideas that will be presented at Update Night will be:

Netvalue is like MoneyBall for Basketball. They are building winning basketball programs with pioneering statistics.

One Second Epic is an App that captures tiny slices of your life into a single, continuous "epic" video.

The Deltabike uses “crowd sourcing” to develop new business models for electric motorcycle products.

599Work is a project where freelance creative workers create a menu of jobs they would do for $599. (Why $599? No 1099.)

NxtMile Sport Insoles  are designed specifically for young athletes (pre-college) to reduce common injuries that take them out of playing the sports they love.

Suya Foods LLC a new business to bring packaged African food to the mainstream market. 

Dirty Water Beer is a for profit business with a philanthropic mission; to sell a distinctly packaged beer whose profits fund fresh water wells in developing countries.

Julieta Carril Designs a clothier specializing in Argentinian fashion.

Monthly Happy Hour: June 14, 2012
47 Commerce SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Start Garden hosts a happy hour with Lambert Edward & Associates on their rooftop deck. Wine, beer and light snacks provided. RSVP at

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