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TechTown Creates Detroit Technology Exchange With $1M Grant

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WSU TechTown
(credit: istock) Technology Report
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DETROIT — TechTown, Wayne State University’s business and technology company incubator and research park, said Monday that it had received a grant for $1 million over two years from the Michigan Economic Development Corp.’s Michigan Strategic Fund to form the Detroit Technology Exchange.

Partners in the effort include Bizdom, the entrepreneurial academy founded by Rock Financial and Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert; and Invest Detroit, the $110 million financing fund established in 2010 as a successor to the Detroit Investment Fund, which was created in 1995 by Detroit Renaissance.

The initiative will conduct four programs intended to both create and retain talent and boost deal flow in the city.

The programs under the exchange, called DTX for short, include:
* Integrated Ecosystem Services: Activities designed to address gaps in the city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, such as monthly portfolio reviews to identify opportunities for collaboration among DTX partners; critical marketing and design assistance for companies involved in DTX programs; and various efforts to enhance each DTX company’s ability to attract investment at key stages of business creation.
* Launch Detroit: Highly competitive, 10-week summer boot camp for Michigan’s undergraduate and graduate students aspiring to launch technology-based businesses. The program, which will run from May 28 to Aug. 2, will create new tech-based companies, and encourage talented young people to remain in Detroit by connecting them to the city’s entrepreneurial network. Each student team will receive a stipend.
* D-Venture: Executive-in-residence (EIR) program to bring selected entrepreneurial-minded professionals to Detroit to mine underutilized or underdeveloped intellectual property (IP), and create companies based on that IP. Each EIR will develop a business plan; act as CEO; and raise venture investments for the enterprise. The program will support each EIR with an annualized salary for six months to one year.
* DTX Fellows: Program to insert individuals into Detroit’s entrepreneurial service organizations and startups, to enhance the capacity and talent that exists within these organizations, while also connecting high-quality, mid-level talent to the Detroit entrepreneurial ecosystem. The program will support six fellows with an annualized salary over two-years (one-year contracts).

In addition to the grant, the partners will leverage investments made in their organizations by the New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan and others, through in-kind support and access to programs, facilities and events.

Conservative estimates for the grant term show the programs creating 15 new companies and 25 new jobs, as well as retaining 35 jobs and generating $881,000 in new investment.

In addition to the DTX, TechTown also just announced the details surrounding its new Venture Accelerator for technology-based startups, launching April 8. The highly competitive program is designed to show entrepreneurs how to turn an early stage, technology-based startup into a sustainable, market ready business in just 12 weeks. Those accepted into the program receive a $10,000 loan, plus access to upwards of $15,000 in additional funding and available services.

The curriculum is based on The Startup Owner’s Manual, a step-by-step business development guide written by famed serial entrepreneurs Steve Blank and Bob Dorf. Areas of focus include testing concepts, exploring markets, developing business models, building prototypes, acquiring resources, finding potential customers and aligning with partners.
Entrepreneurs selected for the full-time program will operate out of TechTown, meeting regularly for facilitated workshops, mentor meetings, presentations by CEOs working in technology-based industry segments, and networking with peers. Time spent outside of formal classes will be spent pursuing customer validation and acceptance. In week 12, the startups will pitch to potential investors for early stage funding opportunities.

Applications for the Venture Accelerator are accepted twice a year, opening Friday, Feb. 15 for the April session. Applications for the September session will open in July. Those interested in learning more about the program, should register to attend an information session at 8 a.m. or 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 20, at techtowndetroit.eventbrite.com. To learn more, visit techtowndetroit.org.

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