Ann Arbor & Detroit Rated Top U.S. Tech & Startup Hubs To Watch
By Laura Cowan
Laura K. Cowan is a tech editor and journalist whose work has focused on promoting sustainability initiatives for automotive, green tech, and conscious living media outlets.
Intermitten Conference is kicked off by founder Heidi Craun in Ann Arbor, where among many other great speakers she interviewed Duo founder Dug Song on what it takes to build a community that makes tech success a success for everyone.
What is going on in Ann Arbor and Detroit? Everyone from Fortune Magazine to Forbes have recently rated the nextdoor Michigan cities as tech or startub hubs to watch.
In 2019, VentureBeat listed Ann Arbor as the #1 place for female founders to raise a round. Last year, USAToday listed Ann Arbor as a top innovative city. Bloomberg recently listed Ann Arbor as a top #3 tech hub for their brainpower index, given Ann Arbor is the best educated city in the United States.
We started Cronicle out of Ann Arbor in 2019 because we've been watching the growth of the tech industry for 15 years here and recently saw it hit several critical mass milestones: Duo's acquisition by Cisco made it Ann Arbor's first unicorn company valued at $2.3 billion, StockX experienced a meteoric rise in Detroit, and other hot security and AI companies like Clinc and Voxel51 and Censys and so many more experienced historic early success. Even companies such as Orbion in the U.P. are now making fuel-efficient rockets for NASA. But tech was only covered in mainstream news with occasional articles on highlights due to the consolidation of the struggling news industry, and we thought it was time to go in depth on this historic and influential growth: A dedicated tech-specific media outlet for what's happening in the Midwest. (Want to support us? Sponsor/advertise with Cronicle here. We've also got an individual subscription option coming soon.) Ann Arbor founders in particular were being interviewed by TechCrunch and listed as top new founders to watch by CNBC without mainstream media between the coasts having space to cover their achievements.
Two decades ago, many hard-working people were trying to get this momentum going, but funding was slow, manufacturing was still collapsing, and the Great Recession didn't help the bleed of talent away from the Midwest due to lost jobs. We're so pleased that you, the people of Ann Arbor, Detroit, and Great Lakes tech industries and funding, have made this historic turnaround happen for the Midwest and for tech in general, which is experiencing a historic spread across the U.S..
This year we've met many fabulous people such as GoTech Makerspace volunteers pictured here in their warehouse full of robots and climbing walls for kids.
Ann Arbor-Detroit and the Great Lakes along with the rest of the Midwest have been through some pretty dramatic ups and downs in recent years, and the jobs brought back to the Midwest balanced with affordable, culture-packed lifestyles that living in places like Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, or Detroit afford are such a nice sight for sore eyes. Of course it's not "us versus them." Many Michiganders move to Silicon Valley and then come home to raise kids, many companies work in partnerships between Detroit and Silicon Valley, and it's nothing short of wonderful to have venture capital pair up with coastal funds to get larger rounds of funding for companies in life sciences and robotics that need it to stay in the Midwest past Series B. Also, funding tech in the Midwest means working extra hard to identify a company with real viability rather than working with high volume as works on the coasts. It's great to have so many people working together from San Francisco and Detroit to identify promising ventures such as Rivian that stand a bit above the rest on future viability.
For us, it has been an encouraging experience this year to meet so many people in tech and to be invited to so many events we couldn't keep up, when we only just started. It was a record-breaking year for research investment at the University of Michigan. There is so much more room for growth, but it has been a very positive landmark year, and we are grateful you allowed us to be a part of connecting the Great Lakes and coasts with one of the first dedicated tech-specific media outlets in the Midwest.
Ann Arbor's Tech Trek, now billed a2tech360, has exploded into a walkabout downtown Ann Arbor visiting hundreds of tech companies, many of whom are hiring. Pictured here the Michigan Theatre Tech Talk 2019 featuring founders of SkySpecs, KLA Tencor, Wacker Chemical, ITHAKA, and more.
We're busy building bridges to help connect founders and funding and talent and are happy to be included in work you're doing for the same, even in making tech more inclusive. At the risk of sounding like a hysterically optimistic keynote, we have reason to believe that we are in the midst of a historic shift in the U.S. economy that could not only slowly revitalize parts of the Rust Belt and Midwest through helping new companies get funded where they're started, but also change the way businesses are built across the entire country. This work wasn't just about Ann Arbor or Detroit or even the Midwest. Startup culture is changing the way the world's businesses are created. While new tech has some risks and pitfalls such as automation affecting employment and leaving some vulnerable populations behind, it also brings new industries to life and offers more flexibility to many highly skilled workers through a high-end flexible gig economy.
The Detroit skyline pictured from DevOps Days Detroit 2019. This year we just barely scratched the surface covering tech and startup news coming out of Detroit, which was recently named a startup hub to watch by several national news outlets.
As we move into 2020, Cronicle is expanding to cover more tech news from the Great Lakes region. We're also following this story of how startup and tech culture is changing business and the Midwest. It isn't the same scale as what Silicon Valley has set as the benchmark, and it probably is never going to be the same. What's happening in the Midwest is a growth of industries that already work here: mobility tech, life sciences, agritech, security and the like. We'll be happy to keep building bridges between founders and talent and covering the news from tech that has so far largely gone under the radar. Thanks for your support, Ann Arbor and Detroit tech, and everyone who subscribes to Cronicle and supports us from coast to coast in the U.S. This is your story. We're so privileged to be along for the ride to witness your successes and overcoming the challenges along the way.
Happy end of 2019, everyone. May you have much continued success in 2020.