The world requires innovation—now more than ever. Science. Technology. Engineering. Math. Along the wild shores of Lake Superior, researchers, students, and entrepreneurs create the future. So says the website for MTEC SmartZone, a tech incubator that is located on the shores of Lake Superior in northern Michigan. You can’t get much farther north in the United States toward fresh air and rugged wilderness at the gateway to the Keewenaw Peninsula that juts out into cold and stunningly beautiful Lake Superior, and you can’t get much better aligned with Michigan tech. That’s because MTEC operates out of Michigan Technological University in Houghton. One of the biggest challenges currently facing Michigan’s new growth in tech-related industries is that there is so little media coverage or visiblity for all the smaller players that make up a very large movement of startups that are revitalizing Michigan’s economy. Who knew there were tech incubators all over the state of Michigan? Hardly anyone, including us until recently.
Young entrepreneurs are pouring out of tech towns these days. If the towns are lucky, they retain many of them now that the Midwest and other places outside Silicon Valley are reviving and affordable spaces to grow a business. The University of Michigan, ranked #1-rated ecosystem for undergrad student entrepreneurs by Princeton Review, is leading the way in this shift in startup culture across the U.S.. That’s why successful serial entrepreneurs like Jim Price were brought on board, to mentor the next generation of founders. Price is Entrepreneurial Studies Faculty & Entrepreneur in Residence at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, and he’s a big connector and mentor for young entrepreneurs starting out in Ann Arbor, with a background that spans coasts, tech and engineering, and teaching. He’s also a really fun guy we’ve watched help shift the entrepreneurial environment in Ann Arbor through generous mentorship, so we caught up with him in his office at the University of Michigan to ask him what led him to Ann Arbor and what trends he’s seeing these days in business and entrepreneurship.
Tom Meloche, a long-time agile programming advocate recalls: “We taught the first class with ‘agile’ in the title in the tri-state area, maybe in the country,” he says. “We tested the word agile in advertising instead of extreme programming, and it worked better. Now the word is overused, but that’s what people are searching on.”