Last year was a good year for entrepreneurs in the state of Michigan. If you want to start a business, qualified help is around the corner, a phone call away, and on the Internet. Michigan has been investing in entrepreneurs in multiple ways with: training programs for every stage of development; support organizations designed to connect entrepreneurs to resources; incubators providing space & technology; business plan and pitching competitions to promote entrepreneurs to the right business connections; all in addition to capital funding.

“According to the 2014 Metrics Report released by MEDC’s Office of Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Venture Capital (EIVC), 248 new tech companies were created in Michigan last year. An average of 240 new tech companies have been created each of the last three years with an average of 1,100 new tech jobs each year.”

Over the past five years, Michigan has seen an increase of venture capital firms. The state’s total is now 35 firms who recognize the increase in entrepreneurial opportunities the state offers.

The Michigan entrepreneurial climate now ranks 6th improving from 44th in comparison to other states. This is good news from our Governor, Rick Snyder in his state of the state address in January.

With all of these programs in place, 2015 is bound to be an exciting year of continuing growth.

Three southeastern Michigan start-ups - Genomenon, AdApated and Detroit based LevelEleven - have been selected to present at the Google Demo Days Showcase in April. This event takes place at Google's Silicon Valley facilities and provides exposure to a wide range of tecnnology experts and investors. For more details please visit the following link:

Genomeno and AdAdapted have both presented as New Enterprise Forum showcase presenters after having gone through the NEF presentation coaching program. For more information on becoming a showcase presenter please visit:

The January 2015 issue of Delta Sky magazine interviews entrepreneurial notables Paul Krutko (Ann Arbor SPARK ) and Doug Song (Duo Security) about the supportive and burgeoning environment that exists for start-ups in the Ann Arbor area. Both gentlemen talk about state, university and investor support. The article provides national exposure for a trend many in the area have seen growing for years.

To read the full article, please click here.

New entrepreneurs, especially those coming out of large company environments, need to be aware of some common mistakes. Start-ups aren't small versions of big companies, Elizabeth MacBride of details five traps that entrpreneurs need to look out for, including:

1. Wanting to hire people

2. Focusing on money before milestones

3. You haven't thought through, in detail, how much money you need

4. You aren't retaining talent

5. You aren't exact with how your dollars will be spent

For detailed analysis and tips on all five of these traps visit:



Ann Arbor entrepreneur Steve Schwatrz co-founded Carcode SMS in late 2013. Carcode SMS is a software application allowing potential customers to quickly and easily contact dealerships about specific automobiles. In February of this year, Carcode SMS participated in Edmunds Hackamotive competition in Los Angeles. Less than 8 months after winning that competition Carcode would be acquired by the Edmunds group. 

To read Steve's account of this whirlwind experience, click on the following link

In addition to his work with Carcode SMS, Steve Schwartz is co-founder of Alfa Jango, a software development and support company. He is a member of the New Enterprise Board of Directors and an active coach.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving I compiled a list of things I am thankful for. The following are a few of my thankful points relating to me experience with New Enterprise Forum and entrepreneurs we help.

I am Thankful to people who have positive entrepreneur spirit. These people have been of special enjoyment to work with and in my opinion have been the most successful in their entrepreneur endeavors. To see an entrepreneur accomplish their goal is rewarding, however to see entrepreneurs enjoy what they are doing while working towards their goals is special.

I am Thankful for entrepreneurs and associates who can turn problems into opportunities, challenges and solutions. As can be seen at every NEF meeting most businesses are based on solving some problem for customers. Individuals who can apply the same attitude and skills to daily issues have an advantage and are more likely to succeed. They are also a pleasure to work with.

I am Thankful for experience of working with team players. Being a successful entrepreneur is not an individual effort or accomplishment. There are many people involved. The entrepreneurs I find special are the ones who appreciate, or you may say are thankful to, the other people involved.

A special thanks to the NEF board, program committee, stakeholders and everyone who keeps New Enterprise Forum going and in turn make it possible to part of the other items mentioned above. 

Happy Thanksgiving

The necessary evil I am referring to is forecasted financial statements included in business plans. The importance of my comments on this topic comes from a discussion during a recent NEF program committee meeting.

The discussion focused mostly on forecasts being incomplete and unreasonable. While what is included in a presentation is summarized, the business should have complete forecasts including balance sheet, income statement and statement of cash flow. Well prepared forecasts will quantify and summarize all the other discussed in the business plan. Forecasts are also a means of communicating the entrepreneur’s fiscal responsibilities and recognition of the important of communicating good financial information. We realize that preparing forecasts can be difficult, involve skills that most entrepreneurs are weak in and in the end forecasts will not match actual results. Unfortunately our understanding and sympathy will not get entrepreneurs funding.

For me unreasonable forecasts are especially frustrating. I have been involved with businesses financials for over 30 years and have never seen achieved results with 50% and better EBITA to sales like we have seen in to many forecasts. Other than straight licensing business, these kinds of results just don’t happen. When I see forecasts like this, I become suspicious of what is missing in the business plan. Unreasonable forecasts typically reflect business plan with problems. Most common issue is the marketing and sales. Entrepreneurs fail to recognize the cost to acquire customers. Close to this, is investor backed business will typically take any profits earned and put back into sales to accelerate growth.  

Whether you agree or not with the importance of forecasts, investors do believe they are important. Financial information whether forecasts or historical are one of several means of communication used in the business community. As with any form of communication people need to use methods that will be understood and believed by others.  

Coaching start-up entrepreneurs for their investor pitch is part of NEF’s DNA. At this month’s program committee meeting, thanks to a detailed presentation by Elizabeth Sikkenga, the creative force behind Crisp Marketing ( and an NEF marketing committee member, NEF coaches focused on how to improve the public speaking skills of NEF presenters.  Although it is usual for the coaching teams to provide pointers to the entrepreneurs regarding their presentation style, it was felt that our process would benefit from a more dedicated review of the presentation skills. It was decided that Elizabeth’s presentation was a good basis to develop an assessment sheet that will guide the coaches in the future and to seek the involvement of professional speakers  in the cadre of coaches though connections facilitated by Elizabeth.

Entrepreneurs interested in becoming a Showcase Presenter, should follow instructions at    

Startup Career Fair is the only career fair on the University of Michigan campus designed solely for startups and small businesses. The fair taps into the UM entrepreneurial ecosystem to bring together the best developers, designers, engineers, and business students, providing them the ability to meet and learn about the startups in which they are interested. Participating companies will engage in the recruiting process, meet other startup teams from around the country, and see what the University of Michigan has to offer when it comes to skilled student talent.

The purpose of the career fair is to introduce the coolest startups to the best talent in the country. The fair organizers encourage innovation, creation, and teamwork in order to create something incredible. They want UM students to learn about and appreciate the unique culture that startups bring to the business world and startups to have the talent they need to keep on doing even more amazing things.

Companies that sign up will receive a table at the fair, with which they can do anything they want. Sign-up will also give companies access to Handshake - an online system that allows startups to upload a company profile, post available job positions, list the skills they’re are hiring for, and sign-up for interview rooms. Students will upload their resumes and profiles to the same site, allowing for easy connections between startups and talent. There will be a post-fair after party for all attending startups and students.

To sign up for the Career fair, visit

Anyone reading the articles in Forbes, Fast Company, and the local Detroit Free Press about the tech scene in Detroit can’t but get the impression that the tech startup scene is booming.  Business incubators and accelerators like TechTown (where I work), Bizdom and tech training institutes such as Grand Circus are all part of a collective effort to nurture the creation and growth of tech startups.  There is much hope that these new businesses will create jobs and help the city diversify and grow its struggling economy.  However, in a city with a 38% poverty rate (as reported by the US Census) and a broken public school system, we have to ask ourselves: will the opportunities that tech provides be able to improve the lives of the average Detroit resident?  Can the revitalization that is happening in Downtown and Midtown also benefit the neighborhoods?  Or, will it just be a bubble?  What can we learn from both the advances and the mistakes of other cities like San Francisco, Boston, and New York about what to do (or not) to be better inclusive of the entire community?

I’ll be sharing a few articles on this topic over the next few posts.  Here’s the first one from NPR on how tech in San Francisco is actually driving a wedge in communities -

I’d also like to hear from you about what you think.  Send me a tweet @sheujane.