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M@dison Building: A Hub For Start-Ups In Detroit And A Local Version Of ‘Shark Tank’

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Shawn Geller, CEO of Quikly, discusses his business at the annual Demo Day at the M@dison Building in Detroit. (By Edward Cardenas)

Shawn Geller, CEO of Quikly, discusses his business at the annual Demo Day at the M@dison Building in Detroit. (By Edward Cardenas)

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By Edward Cardenas

DETROIT (CBSDetroit.com) - When investors look for the next great tech business in Detroit, many are coming to the M@dison Building to learn about these start-ups.

The historic building, off Grand Circus Park, is a 48,000 square-foot office complex that is home to cutting-edge businesses and an incubator where members of the Detroit Venture Partners help companies grow into successful enterprises.

For the past three years Detroit Venture Partners has hosted a Demo Day at the M@dison Building, where companies have eight minutes to pitch their businesses to potential investors. The goal is to the showcase the start-ups to investors and others in the start-up community.

“It is more about active investing, and then seeing what is able to actively invest today and what is going to be on the horizon,” said Gabe Karp, a partner with Detroit Venture Partners after a recent Demo Day presentation. “A lot of times with investing it is a conversation. It’s ‘Shark Tank,’ but instead of five minutes, it’s maybe sometime five weeks. Sometime five months.”

The start-up community in Detroit will receive a further boost Tuesday when AOL co-founder Steve Case, and others, visit the city for the first stop on the Rise of the Rest Road Trip. Events planned for the day include a visit to local companies; a fireside chat with Case and Dan Gilbert,  Chairman of Rock Ventures LLC; a pitch competition where 10 companies will vie for $100,000 and a networking event at the M@dison Building.

“This journey – covering nearly 1,000 miles – will showcase emerging entrepreneurial ecosystems that will play a critical role in rebuilding the American economy and creating new middle class jobs,” Case said in a release.

Bringing investors – either those for Demo Day or a high-profile event with Steve Case – couldn’t have done five years ago in the city Karp said.

“There wasn’t the awareness around the country that Detroit was a place where innovation can happen and venture capital is an active,” said Karp, of the impact the venture capital firm has had on the city, its perception and the start-ups working at the M@dison. “That has really changed.”

One of those entrepreneurs who came to Detroit to make a difference was John Morgan. The CEO of the start-up BoostUp – which hosts a platform that helps consumers save for big purchases in life including first car, trip or a wedding – moved from Chicago last year.

He started with just two employees and has added nine employees since coming to Detroit.

“I don’t think a lot of people realize what is happening here … there is a great story here,” said Morgan, who also presented at Demo Day. “We wanted to come here and make a difference and be part of something on the ground floor.”

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