Frequently Asked Questions

Does Start Garden fund ideas with $5,000?

Not anymore. In our first three years, we took idea submissions through and selected one per week for a $5,000 investment. We stopped operating that program in February 2015.

However, Start Garden administers a regional pitch competition called 5×5 Night, which awards $5,000 grants to winners each month. If you have an idea and need a little cash to experiment with, submit it to

Does Start Garden run an Incubator?

Our version of an incubator is the “neighborhood” we’ve created within the Start Garden Space located at 40 Pearl Street in downtown Grand Rapids. The Space is the Grand Rapids SmartZone coworking environment for the community around high-tech/high-growth startups. 

Startups have a huge hill to climb. The space is meant to surround them with fellow entrepreneurs, investors and service providers that work with a lot of startups and to be that additional team member (or two) that you really need when you’re getting started.

The space was designed to encourage flexible access to collaboration with fellow entrepreneurs while still allowing privacy for larger teams to create a culture of their own. Check it out.

Does Start Garden fund new startups?

In the past, Start Garden was a venture capital fund that directly invested into new startups. That fund is now called Wakestream Ventures, which continues to manage and invest into a portfolio of between 25–30 companies. Wakestream and several of its portfolio companies are located within the Start Garden space.

Start Garden’s expanded role is 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. Part of that work is developing financial instruments with collaborators that can invest in startups of all types, but Start Garden is currently not acting as a direct investor. 

What kind of startups should apply for Seamless?

The Seamless coalition of global enterprises are specifically interested in the technologies that fall into The Internet of Things. That includes technologies that can be integrated into smart home, healthcare, workplace innovation, manufacturing, automotive and retail markets. Both startup and post-revenue businesses seeking commercialization are encouraged to apply. Learn more about Seamless.