A couple of dozen recent and about-to-be college graduates got a tour of Detroit and reasons to stay and work here Friday on the third bus tour offered by LiveWorkDetroit, a program of the Michigan Economic Development Corp.
They heard an encouraging message of opportunity and welcome for entrepreneurs, and visited a number of technology-focused companies with plenty of job openings.
Participants toured iconic Detroit landmarks, and visit affordable and trendy places to live, work, and play in the city. The event started with speakers at the Max M. Fisher Music Center in midtown Detroit.
“Detroit has always been a welcoming city for entrepreneurs and creatives,” said Meredith Kerekes, chief of staff at TechTown, Wayne State Univeristy’s research and technology incubator. “Now may just be the best time ever to start a business in Detroit. There’s an abundance of talent, the barriers to entry are incredibly low, there’s affordable land, office space and talent, and you can really see the benefits of your work. It doesn’t take much to move the needle here, unlike other cities, and there are a myriad of organizations here to help you.”
Speaker Josh Linkner, founder of the world’s largest online promotions firm, ePrize LLC, and now a partner in Detroit Venture Partners, quoted poet Robert Frost: “I took the road less traveled, and that has made all the difference.”
Said Linkner: “We have the opportunity to take that road right now and it can make all the difference, for the city and for you, your future.”
Using himself as an example, Linkner said that in the Gold Rush days of the Internet, “I could have been the 375th Internet advertising company,” but decided to go into online promotions and contests instead, an area that was still relatively untapped.
He said the history of Detroit is still an unfinished book, after Chapter 1, which was “all about entrepreneurship and innovation,” and Chapter 2, “the dark ages, (in which) we built stifling bureaucracies, and it was all about fingerpointing and blame… Today we’re in Chapter 3, and that’s the exciting part for you.”
Sam Hogg, director of venture development at NextEnergy, the renewable energy industry incubator across Burroughs Street from Tech One, described Detroit’s opportunities in wind power and the electrification of the vehicle.
And as someone who splits time between Detroit and Silicon Valley, Hogg pointed out the advantages of living in Detroit. He described a California lifestyle called “5K status,” where you can afford a $5,000 monthly payment on your million-dollar two-bedroom condominium. In comparison to that, he said, “what I pay to live in a very desirable neighborhood in metro Detroit is embarrassing.” And there are other advantages to Detroit too: “Last week I got to go to ALCS game, Monday Night Football, and watch my beloved Spartans beat up on the Wolverines.” He said Detroit’s tech style isn’t flashy but it goes into virtually all aspects of the world’s technology.
For more on the MEDC and its initiatives, visit www.MichiganAdvantage.org.