Former Detroit Regional Chamber CEO Richard Blouse and a team of serial entrepreneurs opened their NextWave business accelerator-incubator in Troy Thursday night.
Just as powerful storms were rocking Oakland County, those in attendance at the event pledged to rock the Michigan economy — but with gales of job creation, rather than rain and wind.
Blouse acknowledged that this isn’t what he anticipated doing in his retirement. “But this was such an exciting opportunity put in front of me by my partners, Amjad (Hussain) and Bob (Skinner), that I had to take on this role and help start this business,” he said.
NextWave, located in about 50,000 square feet of a 72,000-square-foot former DuPont automotive building on Stephenson Highway, will have space for early-stage startup companies as well as so-called second stage companies ready to move beyond being small businesses to the big time.
The startup companies will be selected through regular pitch contests, a la American Idol, judged by a panel of entrepreneurial experts. In exchange for a stake in their business ideas, the startups will get space, mentoring and access to funding sources.
“This is a full cycle building, from ideas to incubation to second stage to hopefully out the door,” Blouse said.
Hussain, a former CIO of Handleman Co. and venture capitalist, said NextWave is “looking for one plus one to equal 11 in everythnig we do.”
The third partner, IT and telecom entrepreneur Bob Skinner, said he met and “bonded” with Hussain several years ago, and that the two have long wanted to work together creating companies and jobs in Michigan.
“We will start 50 companies,” he said. “We’re going to make it tough. It’s going to be a boot camp. We’re going to make people work hard, create a buzz and create jobs.”
They’ve even already started planning other incubators in Malaysia and the United Kingdom.
The incubator will also feature NextWave Media Studios, led by Bob Skinner’s sister Nancy Skinner, a veteran of talk radio and TV. She said the media studios will offer NextWave tenants sophisticated video and Web production capabilities, allowing them to look bigger than they are. (Thursday’s opening was plagued by audiovisual glitches, but the studio was able to make a couple of small stools and a few lights look like a complete, impressive news studio through the use of computer-generated graphics.)
NextWave’s advisory board also contains impressive Detroit-area business names, from Beth Chappell of the Detroit Economic Club to Ira Jaffe of the Jaffe Raitt Heuer & Weiss law firm to former auto supplier CEO Kathleen Ligocki. NextWave’s director of incubator activities will be longtime entrepreneur Jeff Sloan, and its director of financing activities will be experienced entrepreneur Raymond Gunn.
Early NextWave client companies include Air Packet Technology, a wireless technologies provider, supply chain software provider Silkroute Global Solutions, content management software developers Malden Labs and bar code technology providers EPC Solutions.
More at http://nwave.us.com/.
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