The City and Start Garden Reach a Resolution

Posted on by Paul Moore, filed under Announcements

“Life is struggle.” I believe that within that quote lies the most important lesson in entrepreneurship: Embrace the struggle.
― Ben Horowitz, The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers

When we build our city into an economic engine to create opportunity for everyone--regardless of your gender, race or zip code--Grand Rapids will be a successful economic development model for other cities to follow. We really believe that.

The Kauffman Foundation reports that for every 1 percent increase in the rate of new businesses started in a state, there is a 2 percent decline in the poverty rate. Whether it’s Forbes ranking Grand Rapids 51 out of 52 cities for African Americans to live or this Mlive article that only 1.5% of all economic development dollars were spent in an area where 33% of the population lives, the data validates self-evident truths:

  1. Doing things the way they’ve always been done in Grand Rapids is not an option.
  2. Making small changes to the way it’s always been doesn’t result in change at all.

Everyone can nod their heads at those statements. However, most people underestimate how hard it is to actually change.

In October, people reached out to Start Garden surprised by the MiBiz article, Grand Rapids, Start Garden seek to repair relationship. It summarized a contract dispute we were in the midst of with the Local Development Finance Authority and Office of Economic Development for the City of Grand Rapids. At the time, we were surprised by people’s surprise. We live in a time that demands big change and big change is never easy. So why is it a surprise when there is struggle?

This week, Grand Rapids, Start Garden hone SmartZone focus with proposed new contract, the much more positive follow up was published. The new contract referenced in the article was approved Friday, February 22. It took eight months, a lot of meetings and, at different times, everyone around the table seriously doubting we’d get to where we wanted to go.

This friction we worked to resolve is hard. It required all parties to sit at the table (literally), including representatives for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, City of Grand Rapids staff, Start Garden and a committee of LDFA board members committed to long, tense conversations. Often, the phrase was uttered, “Let’s not get lost in the weeds.” But the reality is, the weeds are where the work takes place. If we’re not willing to get into the weeds and make a better system, we’re passing this friction down to aspiring entrepreneurs.

Ecosystem development is about removing friction for wouldbe innovators and entrepreneurs that would leave, or never start in the first place, keeping the resulting wealth creation here today. To have the city we want in the future, we must fill it with opportunities today. It’s more about putting nutrients in the soil than sitting and waiting for plants to show up.

The question is how resilient are our leaders when change is a struggle? I’m pleased to say in this instance, we did what wasn’t easy because some key leaders in the community were willing to get stuck in the weeds and stay until we could find a better way.

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Ecosystem Building in Grand Rapids’ Third Ward

Posted on by Paul Moore, filed under Community

The Oct 15 Mlive article publishing the results of Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative Project on economic development investments in Grand Rapids’ three wards is a snapshot of stark disparity (Grand Rapids' third ward being left behind in economic development). Unfortunately, it’s the most recent data point to validate a history of disparity in Grand Rapids when it comes to the Third Ward and its predominantly minority community. Beneath the surface, it also points toward an underlying problem in framing economic development work. This boils down to the misguided belief that a handful of people can predict winners and losers.

From 2012-2017, $1.29 billion (with a “b”) was invested across the three wards that comprise the City of Grand Rapids. Of that, only $19.4 million was invested into Third Ward. To put a sense of scale on it, let’s convert each dollar into one second of time. For 19,400,000 seconds to pass takes roughly 7.5 months. In Michigan, that’s about how long we complain about it being cold. For 1,290,000,000 seconds to pass... want to take a quick guess? Go ahead.

It takes more than 40 years for 1.29 billion seconds to pass. Did you guess that? Most people don't.

Ecosystem Building is an emerging field in economic development, which Start Garden is dedicated to furthering in Grand Rapids. It places innovators and entrepreneurs at the center, then works to change the community conditions surrounding them. Most critical to the work, it addresses economic development for those who create new value from scratch before the value is created. Not just investing in projects that are already considered high value from the beginning.

The Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative Project is another data point on what happens when dollars flow to support projects already considered of high value. However, a good mix includes investing into high value projects while also investing into multiple on-ramps into business creation and growth. It targets neighborhoods and populations to seed a lot of entrepreurial activity, knowing that a few will bring high value development in years to come.

In the same week, the Kauffman Foundation’s Vice President of Entrepreneurship, Victor Hwang, published these questions to frame what bottom-up economic development looks like in, What if Everyone got a Fair Shot?

To create a blueprint for bottom-up economic development, let’s ask some "what if" questions:

  1. What if we focus on the little things that matter to millions of entrepreneurs, instead of the big things that matter to a handful of big players?
  2. What if starting a business required zero forms and zero fees?
  3. What if the energy that 238 cities expended on the Amazon HQ2 contest was invested instead into building their own entrepreneurs and innovators?
  4. What if more workforce training dollars were dedicated to help people start and grow their own businesses, instead of just teaching employees to fill roles in existing businesses?
  5. What if public school systems were redesigned to teach students how to make jobs, not just take jobs?
  6. What if borrowing $30,000 to start or grow a new business was easier than borrowing $30 million to grow a big one even bigger?

Start Garden’s “first domino” project was The 100. Seeding 100 aspiring entrepreneurs with $1,000 to compete to be among 10 to receive $20,000 to get a new business effort off the ground. We targeted every neighborhood, spent most of our marketing efforts in the historically under-represented Third Ward, and received submissions from across the demographic board. The final 100 were made up of 44% women, 53% minorities, 53% with an income of less than $50,000.

As the momentum that kicked off with The 100 continues, our long term strategy is for the seeds of that investment to grow into a handful of projects that draw significant development dollars within the Third Ward in years to come.

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100 Ideas Top 100 Announcement

Posted on by TriciaJackson, filed under Announcements

In the first 100 days of 2018, anyone from anywhere in any language could submit a 100 second pitch to be chosen for Start Garden's 100 Ideas competition. All 100 participants will return to the Demo Day event on July 10 at 20 Monroe Live to make the case for why they should be among 10 chosen for another $20,000.

812 people registered to participate in the competition. 621 ideas were submitted via video to Below are the names of the 100 selected ideas in alphebetical order categorized by last name provided at the time of user account registration.

Destiny Adams
Nicole Albert
Damien Allen
Jessica Austin

Anna Baeten
Angel Barreto-Cruz
Cierra Barrera
Kabrina Bobo
Ignacio Bonet
Janay Brower
Rick Brown
Zoe Bruyn
Dave Bulkowski

Dillon Carney
Eli Cecil
Maxwell Chambers
Luis Chen
Dave Clahassey
David Clark
James Cooley
Ebony Cummings

Gilma De la Cruz
Michael Despres
David DeWinter
Brian Dokter
Stephanie Dolly

Carlos Esquivel

Justin Gauvin

Hew Hamilton
Trimell Hawkins
Omar Helferich
Luciano Hernandez
Liz Hilton
Glenn Hobbins
Cecelia Hughes
Michael Hyacinthe

Bobby Johnson
Samuel Jones

Destinee Keener
Brandon Kimble

Alysha Lach
Catlindt Landrum
Spencer Lebel
Kavy Lenon
Mark Love

Aaron Maatman
Clarissa Mata
Brandy McCallum
Beloved McCastle
Brannon McCarty
Eric McClain
Anthony McClora
Maggie McGuinness
Ash Middleton
James Mikrut
Kianna Morgan
Amanda Morton
Theresa Mosley

Michael Noble

Anthony Olivero
Andrea Owens

Sadoc Paredes
Kelsey Perdue
Calvin Pimpleton
Sarah Pitt
Sophia Prince
Kevin Pritchard

Angel Rafael
Christina Robinson
Ebony Robinson
Gabriela Rodriguez
Terry Rostic
Olivia Ruiz-Knott
Anna Ryan

Carl Sain
James Sanborn
Brent Saulic
Mike Sheehan
Brandy Sims
Zach Skogheim
Stephen Smith
Bridget Stenger

Alex Taylor
Randall Janine Thomas
LaKiya Thompson
Gabrielle Tremblay
John Trocke
Reed Turchetti

Jiatnna Valoy
Christina VanDam
Aaron VanderGalien
Becky Vandenbroek

Ariana Waller
Chris Walter
Lizzie Williams
Chris Winczewski
Charlie Woollborg

Kristine Yang
Tyler Yonker
Annie Young

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Sign-Up Data Validates Disparities in Entrepreneurship

Posted on by TriciaJackson, filed under Press Releases


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., April 17, 2018 - The Start Garden team announced the results of the idea submission phase of the 100 Ideas initiative. In this first phase, the results show the entrepreneurial spirit and drive is more vibrant than the team thought.

For the last 100 days, anyone from anywhere in any language could submit a 100 second pitch to be chosen for a competition. The competition kicks off on April 24, when the 100 Ideas selected are announced. All 100 return to the July 10 Demo Day event to make the case for why they should be among 10 chosen for another $20,000.

Since launching the grassroots initiative on January 4 of this year, 812 people signed up to potentially participate in the competition. 621 ideas were submitted via video to the dedicated 100 Ideas website.

“We were overwhelmed with the response from the community,” said Jorge Gonzalez, Director of the program. “We knew people felt excluded from participating in entrepreneurship because of barriers to resources. Looking at the demographic data, the problem was bigger than we thought, especially for women, minorities and lower income families.”

The program was open to anyone 14 years or older interested in pitching their business idea for the opportunity to receive $1,000 seed funding to flesh out their concept/idea. In keeping with the goal of providing access to all individuals and neighborhoods, Start Garden held regular “pop-up” events at key neighborhood locations throughout the city.

According to Start Garden staff, the 812 individuals signed up to potentially participate in the competition.

  • Gender
    52%-male, 46%-female (remainder “self-described”)
  • Race/Ethnicity
    59%-Caucasian, 29%-African-American, 10%-Hispanic, 3%-Asian (remainder “other”)
  • Age
    22% - 14-24, 58% - 25-44, 19% - 45+ (remainder opted out)  

Income levels showed an equal distribution of participants, with those making less than $50,000 making up the majority at 57%.

“We knew aspiring entrepreneurs ‘bootstrap’ or borrow from friends and family when they’re working on a new idea, which means they need a cache of their own resources, or wealthy connections,” said Paul Moore, co-director of Start Garden. “The sign ups from 100 Ideas are very different from historical demographics on entrepreneurs: half were women, half minorities and half making less than $50,000 a year, confirming that there are a lot of people seeking access to capital to launch something new, but can’t find it.”

The 100 selected ideas will be invited to the July 10 Demo Day, where they will compete to be among 10 to receive another $20,000 to continue building their ideas. The public is invited - and encouraged - to attend this event.

The announcement of the 100 ideas selected will take place on April 24 at Start Garden, immediately following the monthly 5x5 Night pitch competition and will be live-streamed via Facebook at And on April 25, the presenters of the 100 selected ideas will be required to attend a private winner's event, where they will receive their $1,000 check; information on the community resources that can help them prepare for Demo Day; and receive instructions and criteria on what to expect and prepare for at the Demo Day

The Demo Day will take place on July 10, from 5:30-8:30 p.m., at 20 Monroe Live, 11 Ottawa Ave NW in Grand Rapids.

“We opened the gates for all to participate in this important entrepreneurial endeavor, and the community responded,” added Darel Ross, co-director at Start Garden. “This was a great start to what we envision as a multi-year commitment to West Michigan. We firmly believe that great businesses start with great ideas and that ideas shouldn't have neighborhood or zip code boundaries.”

The grants that go to the aspiring entrepreneurs are a first of its kind collaboration among the financial institutions in West Michigan and include the following:

  • Fifth Third Bank
  • Huntington Bank
  • Bank of America (Merrill Lynch)
  • PNC Bank
  • Flagstar Bank
  • Chemical Bank
  • Mercantile Bank
  • Lake Michigan Credit Union
  • Choice One Bank
  • Macatawa Bank
  • Economic Development Foundation

More information can be found at


# # #

Raul Alvarez
GTSD Group

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Why Start Garden is interested in air quality monitoring

Posted on by Paul Moore, filed under Announcements, Community

Today, M Live Media Group published a story titled, Grand Rapids to invest in air quality monitoring led by biz accelerators that mentions Start Garden and several of our partners.

This pilot program to expand air quality monitoring is part of a broader strategy for tech infrastructure that delivers new value for city government, private enterprise  and community residents, frequently dubbed as just "Smart City."

For city government, the value is the ability to have much more accurate and current data of the air quality in different neighborhoods and how it can respond quickly to problem areas.

For private enterprise, the value is the ability to incubate on top of the city's technology infrastructure. In this case, for a home goods and automotive company to audition products that can make their consumers aware of the quality of air they're breathing and do something about it.

For community residents, they have information needed to become active participants in creating a healthy neighborhood.

This win-win-win strategy is how Start Garden approaches projects that fall under the label Smart Cities or Internet of Things, which is shorthand for when the spaces where we live, work and play are powered by intelligence as much as they are by electricity.

This pilot actually has 10 different parties currently collaborating and contributing in some way to the project, including Start Garden, OST, iServ, Steelcase, Faurecia, Amway, Seamless IoT, University of Michigan, Mobile GR and Environmental Services for the City of Grand Rapids.

Cities that will lead as Smart Cities require fluid working relationships between government, private enterprise and community residents. We hope this effort is one of many where Start Garden can bring together parties from across public and private sectors to deliver new value for everyone involved.

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Organization Leadership Structure Evolves to Focus on Inclusion of All West Michigan Entrepreneurs

Posted on by TriciaJackson, filed under Press Releases


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., January 26, 2017 - Start Garden, West Michigan's regional startup ecosystem, today announced the capstone to its year-long restructuring with the addition of Darel Ross II and Jorge Gonzalez, two seasoned economic development leaders, to its leadership team. Simultaneously, Start Garden will adopt a revised organizational structure, with a shared leadership model led by Ross, Gonzalez, Paul Moore and Mike Morin.

Start Garden launched in 2012 as a non-traditional venture capital fund, investing weekly into $5,000 early stage ideas and “experiments,” with a goal of guiding and growing them into regional high-growth companies. In 2016 the organization took on leadership of the Grand Rapids SmartZone, with the expanded goal of offering entrepreneurship development across sectors it previously was unable to influence.

For more than nine years, Darel Ross has served as co-executive director of LINC, serving a critical role that brings together housing, economic development, essential needs services, business incubation and real estate development serving Kent County. Jorge Gonzalez has been executive director of the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce since March 2015. Under Gonzalez's leadership, the chamber has become the central connecting point for Hispanic entrepreneurs in West Michigan.

“Start Garden’s mission has always been to establish Grand Rapids as the best place to start a business, so we constructed an organization that could exist beyond a traditional venture capital fund, and become a collaborative growth environment,” said Mike Morin, director of Start Garden. “The vitality and future of our entrepreneurial ecosystem, however, requires local leaders in economic development with deep knowledge of the disparities and challenges faced in diverse entrepreneur communities. This helps ensure that the economic benefits of entrepreneurship can be realized by people of all backgrounds and experience.”

As a function of its restructuring, Start Garden’s will seek  “to create and connect the infrastructure for entrepreneurship to support aspiring business owners throughout the region.”  Recent data shows that while the Hispanic community in Grand Rapids has increased by more than 10% from 2009 to 2014 (US. Census), there has also been an increase in poverty, low income and high unemployment. The causes are generally rooted in the structural conditions of labor markets, particularly the restructuring of the economy.

“In the work Darel and I have done to advance economic development, it is clear to us that a systems level approach is necessary to remove barriers to entrepreneurship in each community,” says Gonzalez. “This kind of approach is what the new Start Garden structure will allow us to do today.”

Furthermore, when it comes to entrepreneurship, African-American entrepreneurship is more underrepresented in Grand Rapids than similar cities. Forbes magazine has ranked Grand Rapids last out of 52 cities for the African-American community's wealth creation measured against entrepreneurship, home ownership and average median income.

“My transition is as much about expanding the kind of work LINC has been able to do in economic development as it is about adding capacity to Start Garden.” says Ross. ‘To achieve the universal goal of equitable opportunities for all entrepreneurs across all neighborhoods, it takes a targeted approach and intentionality - this new model is designed with that goal in mind."

The addition of Ross and Gonzalez will allow Start Garden to play a key role in future decisions that will form the physical, financial, social and intellectual infrastructures to serve entrepreneurship for a generation.

Details on the new Start Garden structure are available at

# # #

About Start Garden
Start Garden is the epicenter of West Michigan’s startup ecosystem, and administrator of the Grand Rapids SmartZone. The organization brings together financial, intellectual and social capital to entrepreneurs by connecting them to resources critical to their growth-stage. Start Garden advances the economy of Grand Rapids by establishing the area as a desired place for new businesses to begin. More at

Brian Burch
Start Garden

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The GRABB 5 Project

Posted on by TriciaJackson, filed under Press Releases


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., December 7, 2016 — Entrepreneurship in Grand Rapids' black population is noticeably underrepresented in the broader community. In 2015, Forbes magazine ranked Grand Rapids last out of 52 cities when measured against home ownership, median income and entrepreneurship in the African American community.  To begin resolving this disparity, Start Garden and Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses (GRABB) today announced they have partnered on a project, called GRABB 5, which will expand economic opportunity and entrepreneurship in the city’s black community.

The initial project, which is jointly funded through the Grand Rapids Economic Development Corporation and Start Garden, will accelerate five black-owned businesses at a time, with companies experimenting or “graduating” with other taking their place. The goal for the GRABB 5 project is to significantly expand the overall ecosystem and improve access to the capital that is essential to entrepreneurship.

“One of the greatest barriers to black people starting businesses is access to capital, specifically financial, but also participating in the social and intellectual aspects of an entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Jamiel Robinson, founder of GRABB. “Start Garden and GRABB focus energy and resources around five entrepreneurs to learn where specific barriers exist and how to navigate them. We believe that if we can figure out how to accelerate five businesses, we can improve the state of entrepreneurship in the community as a whole.”

Founded in 2012, GRABB is recognized as a leader in economic equity in West Michigan. Since launching GRABB has assisted Black businesses with surviving, sustaining, and growing through a number of its initiatives and events.

GRABB 5 businesses can be any type of business from a tech company to neighborhood store.. Businesses will be selected based on four criteria:
They have been working with GRABB
They are operating and have customers
They have proven value to customers and validated opportunities to expand
There is evidence that they can be accelerating much faster than they currently are

The economy in Grand Rapids is growing, but for many in the community’s black community, that growth has not been realized. According to U.S. Census data, incomes for black residents in Grand Rapids have dropped since 2009, and median household income is less than half compared to white households. The plan for the GRABB 5 project is to accelerate more black business owners to increase economic opportunity.

“The question of ‘underserved’ populations is really a question of ‘unconnected’ populations. Lack of funding is not the only problem, we have to overcome the systemic problem which stems from a lack of relationships with people who don’t look like each other, and GRABB 5 is designed to understand and overcome those barriers,” said Mike Morin, president of Start Garden. “Since our founding, Start Garden has committed itself to expanding economic growth in West Michigan by increasing the financial, intellectual and social capital in the region. By taking small risks on capital, we can greatly expand opportunity for people in our region.”

Often, lack of access is cited as the biggest problem to black entrepreneurs. The GRABB 5 project is about learning what the ground level challenges are for five existing businesses and working on solutions. Although GRABB and Start Garden make up the core team for the GRABB 5 project, the goal is to expand the idea and inspire a collaborative effort within the broader community that supports entrepreneurship.

# # #
Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses (GRABB) is a vehicle for economic development and empowerment within the Metro Grand Rapids Area. GRABB expands opportunities for Black businesses by assisting them with acquiring three forms of capital—social, intellectual and financial—and creating awareness for black-owned businesses. GRABB empowers meaningful and beneficial economic growth and sustainability. More at

About Start Garden
Start Garden is the epicenter of West Michigan’s startup ecosystem and administrator of the Grand Rapids SmartZone. The organization brings together financial, intellectual and social capital to entrepreneurs by connecting them to resources critical to their growth-stage. Start Garden advances the economy of Grand Rapids by establishing the area as a desired place for new businesses to begin. More at

Brian Burch
Start Garden

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Posted on by Paul Moore, filed under Announcements

In Spring 2016, TechShop kicked off a market assessment study for a potential Grand Rapids, MI location. Start Garden serves as the on-the-ground liaison for the TechShop assessment team.

TechShop is an open access, membership based, for-profit maker space that houses do-it-yourself (DIY) workshops and fabrication studios. Currently, there are nine locations in the U.S. and three locations worldwide. Multiple new stores are at various stages of development in locations around the world. Each new location requires a preliminary market assessment study.

Market assessment studies are funded by stakeholders from within each respective market. The Grand Rapids market assessment kicked off in Spring 2016. It is funded through public and private funders. All funders enter into the agreement knowing that any and all site locations are on the table until the completion of the study. TechShop chooses the most viable location based on the long-term sustainability of a store.


  • Grand Rapids SmartZone
  • Start Garden
  • Rockford Construction
  • CMS Energy
  • Grand Valley State University, School of Engineering


  1. Market Evaluation
  2. Identify Stakeholders
  3. Location Analysis
  4. Concept Plan
  5. Stakeholder Feedback
  6. Proposed Integrated Plan
  7. Financial & Operational Model

The market assessment is a four to six month process that involves approximately five visits from the TechShop assessment team. Each visit includes stakeholder meetings. Each subsequent visit includes more and more stakeholders.

The assessment process is crucial to the placement of a TechShop location because any location requires a vibrant community of creative makers and millions of dollars of equipment and facilities. Each location is a long-term piece of infrastructure to benefit the entire community.

Currently, TechShop is in the Stakeholder Feedback phase. No formal decision has been made and no formal statement can be given about a Grand Rapids location until the assessment is complete.

The first part of the process narrows potential locations to a few possible sites, then focuses on a frontrunner site. After some very initial concepts are sketched, broader feedback from stakeholders is sought. A plan is developed that is as realistic as possible based on thier findings. Finally, TechShop makes a decision as to if the market is a viable option for a new store. No formal commitment is made until that determination is made.

TechShop anticipates a completed market assessment in Q1 2017.

Regarding site selection, several sites have been considered immediately adjacent to downtown Grand Rapids in the near south, north and west sides. These sites have included both existing buildings and new construction sites. 

Currently, the westside neighborhood of Grand Rapids is a frontrunner. No final decision has been made about location. Concepts are being developed to generate feedback using the westside. This is due to availability of infrastructure requirements, walkability, diversity of neighborhoods, a mix of affordable and market rate housing, proximity to downtown, proximity to tech companies, access to public transit and the freeway. Critically important is proximity to potential partners, such as WMCAT, that have capacity to serve a broad base of aspiring makers of diverse ages, genders, socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds.

A TechShop opening in Grand Rapids is positive affirmation and validation of a community’s startup and maker ecosystem. Their incredible community of members and staff provide inspiration and support for creating projects. With TechShop’s classes, workshops, instruction and training for people of all ages, the West Michigan community can continue to build upon the assets that have made us a destination for advanced manufacturing, building the skills for the next generation to build whatever they can dream.

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5x5 Night Hits the Road

Posted on by Paul Moore, filed under Announcements

Start Garden is getting out of the building and into the neighborhoods to find new entrepreneurs. 5x5 Night, Michigan’s most open pitch competition, hits the road for 2016!

The rules are simple: 5 presenters have 5 minutes and 5 slides to pitch in front of 5 judges for a $5,000 grant.

Each venue has its own host committee that selects the final five presenters and the judges. Visitors to may vote on ideas. Tallies are considered in the decision process but final selection is at the discretion of the host committee.

Submit your idea to today!

JUL 21 Holland at CityVu Events (Submissions open JUN 23)
AUG 24 Grand Rapids at LINC (Submissions open JUL 22)
SEP 27 Muskegon at Innovation Hub (Submissions open AUG 25)
OCT 25 Grand Rapids at GVSU (Submissions open SEP 28)
NOV 29  CINCO POR CINCO EN ESPAÑOL! (Presentations can be given in Spanish) Grand Rapids at Rockford Construction (Submissions open OCT 26)
JAN 24 Muskegon at Innovation Hub (Submissions open NOV 30)

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The New Start Garden

Posted on by Paul Moore, filed under Announcements

In 2012, Start Garden changed the landscape for entrepreneurship in West Michigan. In 2016, we do it again.

As a venture capital fund, Start Garden has always behaved very differently. Based on the belief that there’s no point investing into fast growth startups without a culture in which they could grow, we served as both fund and catalyst to stimulate a lot more risk taking from both entrepreneurs and investors.

In three years we funded
190  $5,000 “experiments”
68  $20,000-$50,000 potential startups
23 $50,000-$500,000 portfolio companies

Today, Start Garden separates into three different entities in order to build upon the work we previously did as one company. We join together with the Grand Rapids SmartZone and eMerge West Michigan to align the public and private sector around the needs of entrepreneurs.

A for-profit venture capital fund that continues to manage and invest into a portfolio of between 25-30 companies.

An “ecosystem” entity to bridge public and private efforts, for-profit and non-profit, to align the entire region around what’s best for those seeking an opportunity to get a start in West Michigan. Currently, it manages services for the Grand Rapids SmartZone and Seamless Accelerator.

A 501c3 not-for-profit (formerly known as eMerge West Michigan) to allow philanthropic dollars to converge with public dollars and private investment to most equitably serve all entrepreneurs looking to launch new businesses, from neighborhoods to the high tech sectors.

Start Garden has a long-term commitment to turn our region into one of the best places to start up a business. This long view is executed in a step-by-step approach to learn what is needed today in this particular context, then adapt to that context. To best serve our region and its present needs, Start Garden has adapted its structure to deepen its devotion of time and resources toward a true culture of entrepreneurship.

We'll be sharing a lot more about what this all means in the months to come, but for now check out the Rapid Growth article, Making It In Grand Rapids.

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