Ann Arbor SPARK is emerging tech hub Ann Arbor’s premier small business support organization and new business incubator. We connected with their marketing director Jenn Queen to ask about any resources they’re publicizing for the greater Ann Arbor area and Michigan businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak. Ann Arbor SPARK has shut down its local offices to protect workers, but already has an extensive list of informational and business support resources for businesses planning for these changing times, and has more programming in the works aimed at supporting small businesses in partnership with the state of Michigan. More on that in the coming weeks as details are available. For now, we list the resources listed through Ann Arbor SPARK here for your convenience, but please visit Ann Arbor SPARK’s website for updates as this is a quickly evolving situation for individuals and businesses alike. Be well.
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. Detroit was not to be left out, listed in 2019 as the next potential Silicon Valley by Fortune. Forbes has several times claimed Detroit was a startup hub to watch. And on and on.
Recently, Phimation Strategy executive coach Dave Haviland and team piloted a podcast with Ann Arbor SPARK called SPARK.grow and a new pilot program for mentoring startup founders and tech professionals called Rising Leaders. Now, even if you’re not part of the first cohort, you can join the Rising Leaders program for a panel on leadership and career advice in Ann Arbor.
It’s a well-worn Silicon Valley fairytale that some of the world’s biggest and best tech companies started in garages. In the Midwest tech ecosystem, which is growing quickly in towns like Ann Arbor, there is still a bit of this bootstrapping in action. Case in point, home healthcare tech company Shoshana, which was founded almost 20 years ago in a shed on a farm north of Ann Arbor near the Washtenaw Food Hub. The team is now a dozen strong and fill a space that is mid-renovation, so there are multiple monitors and young people milling around a building that still doesn’t have walls. A young developer knits in front of a lit screen in the back room at a standing desk next to a colleague. An old wood stove still sits in the middle of the main room, even though the building now has HVAC and heat. “There is a fallow field behind this yard,” Shoshana President Tom Voiles explains, pointing past a yurt and barn through some trees. “Sometimes we do team circles there. It’s very peaceful.”
Doug Neal has seen a lot change in the Ann Arbor and Midwest tech scene in the last few years. He is a managing director at eLab, a VC fund based in both Ann Arbor and Palo Alto in Silicon Valley that focuses on early stage AI and machine learning companies, the Internet of Things,…
Several months ago during our launch, Cronicle interviewed Censys co-founder David Adrian to hear about how a University of Michigan student went from falling into a research project to avoid a machine learning class to having 30,000 customers. Since that interview, Censys has expanded into their first-floor suite on Ann Arbor’s Main Street from the second floor, planned a security-themed tech talk for the fall with a colleague from Palo Alto, expanded from 15 people to 28, and just publicly announced their new Censys Enterprise platform tool that curates data sets for users so they don’t have to wait 10 months for a data scientist to analyze the massive amount of information Censys can deliver about their servers, domains, and other assets online.
Beach cleanups with OSHKI are listed on the company’s social media. This summer, they started sending plastic waste collected from these cleanups directly to their new manufacturer in North Carolina. “It’s a hands-on opportunity for customers to see what we’re doing,” Riegler says. “We might do another cleanup in September, definitely another one next summer (when he’s out of school for the summer!) and maybe expand to other towns.” Meanwhile, if you’d like to support efforts to clean up the Great Lakes, Riegler recommends donating to the Alliance for the Great Lakes and getting involved with Adopt a Beach programs. Most trash in Muskegon builds up in areas that trap debris like piers or the large metal structures off the beach in Muskegon Riegler says used to be used for large-scale boating. He times cleanups after festivals to catch more waste, which often is as small as plastic pieces the size of a dime and hard to catch. This, of course, gets into fish and pollutes the $13 billion fishing industry. “I could go on,” Riegler says. For now, he finds e-commerce not only convenient as a retail channel but the best way to use technology because “it tells our whole story with video integration,” he says. “The full experience is on the site.”
Nice to see so many familiar tech faces this morning as Dr. Rob Pasick’s monthly Leaders Connect networking breakfast hosted Google at Zingerman’s Roadhouse in Ann Arbor. The theme? Culture and innovation at the tech giant, which recently announced plans to expand its Ann Arbor office on Traverwood as well as its Detroit Little Caesar’s Arena campus to a third floor. Kicking off this event, Dr. Rob offered the group what he offers his students at the University of Michigan, an exercise in mindfulness. “Every day we journal,” he said, “and I encourage you to set the intention. What would make today a good day?…. And part two of this exercise is to reflect. If you think about your day yesterday, what do you appreciate? I call those my abundances. What lesson did you learn?”
The University of Michigan has a Princeton Review #1-rated ecosystem for student entrepreneurs and multiple venture accelerators, which is great support for budding startups in Ann Arbor and Michigan’s growing tech industry. But what really goes on behind closed doors? As supportive as the University of Michigan is for new businesses being spun out from faculty or run through funded programs with multiple levels of mentorship, this can all still look a bit opaque from the outside. As part of our mission to highlight the accelerating growth of Ann Arbor and Michigan regional tech over the past few years, we wanted to sit down with the Desai Accelerator run out of U-M’s Zell Lurie Institute at the Ross School of Business to hear how things work and what resources are out there for people looking to connect. This is a newer program, and still being shaped.
You go to the zoo, but you’ve just missed the lions, who are taking a break in the shade across the enclosure. Sometimes, visits to zoos and museums are like this. What if the app on your phone helped you plan your visit, buzzed you when the lions were being fed, and when you pointed your camera at their faces, it identified them for you by name using machine learning and gave you info on their health and history? Geoxhibit, from Ann Arbor design firm Orangesplash, is a new app that brings all kinds of custom features to museums, zoos, and gardens that helps visitors not only connect with the enormous amount of specialized knowledge held by exhibits and staff on site, but also customize their visit with exhibit planning, customized scavenger hunts, and more.