By Carol Cain
Grand Rapids social entrepreneur Rick DeVos talked about the similarities of Start Garden — a $15 million venture capital fund he just launched to inspire businesses – with ArtPrize – which he began four years ago and is the world’s largest art contest — on “Michigan Matters.”
“The response to Start Garden has been far more than we ever hoped for,” the 30-year-old said.
He said they expected about 50 submissions a week from budding businesses and instead have received over 400 in the two weeks since launching the program. It mirrors the success of ArtPrize.
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“During out first year with ArtPrize, we were where we hoped we would be in three years,” he added. “In a lot of ways, we are still playing catch up to that.”
He said both programs are “intended to help people create amazing experiences.”
DeVos appeared on the show along with Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and entrepreneur Denise Ilitch.
Talk also focused on the growing role of the Gen Y generation, as well as presidential politics and tidings of urban cities in the state.
“We are helping build a culture of innovation,” DeVos said of his efforts.
Supported by his family, DeVos is providing start up capital to two businesses each week. Folks first must submit their ideas at startgarden.com.
Start Garden staff selects one and a public vote the other. Each idea gets $5,000 and access to Start Garden’s team and network of resources.
The ideas have come from Detroit, Troy, Jackson “all over the state and from the twenty-somethings to folks in their 60s.”
He hopes to create an environment of innovation but adds “it’s not like you can hyper plan these things out.”
“We’re trying to move away from over planning and prescribing things,” he said.
DeVos hit a homerun with ArtPrize (the most lucrative art contest in the world with prizes totaling $560,000 this year).
ArtPrize has few rules where anyone can be an artist (you have to apply). Registration for artists continues through May 24. The event will be held in Grand Rapids this fall.
Carol Cain is the Emmy winning senior producer and host of “Michigan Matters” which airs 11:30 a.m. Sunday on CBS 62. You can reach her at 248-355-7126 or firstname.lastname@example.org