Please join NEF in congratulating Diane Durance as the New Mi-Light Executive Director. In addition to being a long standing NEF Board member for years, Diane has played an integral part in the Michigan entrepreneurial community as a whole. Mi-Light serves as a focal point for the photonics industry in Michigan, bringing together professionals from companies, academia and organizations, dedicated to mutually supporting, promoting and growing Michigan’s photonics industry.

So what is Photonics? “Photonics is the science of generating, controlling and detecting particles of light used to advance manufacturing, medical imaging, robotics, defense technology, biometric security, communications and more. Photonics includes the emission, transmission, amplification, detection, modulation, and switching of light, as well as light-energy conversion (Photovoltaics). Technologies that enhance our quality of life and safeguard our health, safety and security, such as, smart phones, computers, security systems, television, diagnostic equipment and more, all made possible by photonics.” You can learn more at

In her concurrent role as President of MiQuest, Diane is at the center of entrepreneurship through their programs including competitions, publications and events for ventures beyond the startup stage. MiQuest also publishes the Michigan Entrepreneurship Score Card and supports the Michigan Celebrates Small Business event and the 50 Companies to Watch awards. Prior to MiQuest, Diane led the GLEQ business plan competition which matched startups with business coaches to polish their business ideas and connect with investors as well as other critical resources.

Previous to her current economic development roles, Diane founded and grew three companies, including a telecommunications engineering firm, a marketing communications publishing company and an angel-funded, Ann Arbor-based home repair/handyman business.

Congratulations Diane and thank you for all you do for the entrepreneurial community.

The 2016 Michigan Celebrates Small Business awardees have been announced! ContentOro and foodjunky, both past New Enterprise Forum Showcase Presenters, are amongst the winners. ContentOro will receive the Innovation Award and foodjunky will receive Michigan 50 Companies to Watch Award.

“Michigan Celebrates Small Business embodies Michigan’s entrepreneurial spirit,” says Jennifer Deamud – Associate State Director of the Michigan Small Business Development Center. “The program shines an important spotlight on the success of Michigan’s small business community. The awardees being honored have played a significant role in growing Michigan’s economy and creating jobs.”

Michigan Celebrates Small Business (MCSB) is the state’s premier awards program celebrating small business excellence. Over 60 businesses, including the 2016 Michigan 50 Companies to Watch, will be honored during the awards dinner. Awardees, guests, and small business supporters will gather for a cocktail reception, keynote speaker, and the awards dinner, which will be held on Thursday, May 5th at the Lansing Center in Lansing, MI.

Click here to view the entire list of awardees and congratulate the winners.

You can learn more about these two companies at and

Vestaron Corp., a 2012 New Enterprise Forum Showcase Presenter, has received federal approval to begin selling three pesticide products.  Vestaron’s products are unique in turning spider venom into pesticides that are harmless to people and the environment.  Congratulations to Bob Kennedy and Vestaron after 11 years of effort to develop and prove their products!

You can learn more at

ONL Therapeutics, a past New Enterprise Forum Showcase Presenter, has received a crucial orphan-drug designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its lead compound which is used to limit the damage caused to patients who suffer retinal detachments.  Even successful retinal reattachments often result in impaired vision.  Trials have shown that ONL's drug protects photoreceptors and is used to limit the damage caused to patients.  Congratulations to ONL on this important milestone!

You can learn more at

The New Enterprise Forum celebrated its 30th year with the presentation of its Annual Awards, and its Distinguished Entrepreneur Award, at its February 18th Forum Meeting. Awards were given on the basis of outstanding performance in each category.  The winners were:

  • ContentOro – Bob Chunn, CEO:  Best Business Model
  • Workit Health – Lisa McLaughlin, CEO:  Best Presentation
  • Blue Water Satellite – Milt Baker, CEO:  Best Technology

The Entrepreneur of the Year award, based upon a successful exit, was presented to Elizabeth Ziph, the founder and CEO of CohortFS.

The recipient of the Tom Porter Distinguished Entrepreneur award, only given every five years based upon overall dedication to and support of the entrepreneurial community, was presented to Tom Kinnear. Tom is D. Maynard Phelps Professor of Business Administration and Professor of Marketing and founding Executive Director of Samuel Zell and Robert H. Lurie Institute of Entrepreneurial Studies at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. Tom was former Eugene Applebaum Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies, Senior Associate Dean of the Business School and former Vice president for Development and Executive Officer for the University. He received the Herbert Dow Award for lifetime contributions in entrepreneurship to the University of Michigan and to the State of Michigan, and the Michigan Venture Capital Association “Lifetime Achievement Award”. Tom is a celebrated author of numerous publications.

Congratulations to all the award winners for their hard work, dedication, and success. 

 “The MVCA is a non-profit trade organization designed to bring together venture capital industry participants in the state of Michigan. The organization’s goal is to grow and sustain a vibrant venture capital community in Michigan.”

Key resources available at no cost to start-ups include:

  • MVCA Investor Directory
  • 2015 Landscape Guide
  • 2015 Research Report

You can download these reports, and learn more about how the MVCA can help you by going to their website at

The 2016 MVCA Research Report will be released in mid-April. We encourage you to sign up for the MVCA Newsletter to be notified about other resource updates.

Please join us in our excitement as we dive into the Social Media space. Candace Chapman, owner of Candace Lynn Chapman Marketing, has done an amazing job in getting the NEF message out there. As well as running her own marketing services company, she is Vice President of Marketing for ContentOro, provider of high-quality content for marketing via a revolutionary proprietary process. Candace is also Head of Marketing for The Jibe, a web development agency that designs and delivers exceptional digital experiences.

In addition to being a NEF newsletter subscriber, please visit and follow NEF to keep up to date on the entrepreneurial community of South East Michigan. You will not want to miss out on the new posts and updates that are made regularly. Pick your favorite social media platform and we will see you there!





The New Enterprise Forum congratulates Stefan Sysko as its new NEF Vice President replacing Helen Ewing, who is stepping down after enjoying her tenure of service. Stefan has brought a wealth of experience to this role since joining the NEF Board in July of 2014. He has done an outstanding job in organizing and hosting NEF’s Pitch Pit.

Stefan is an entrepreneur with over 25 years of experience. He is co-founder & CEO of early-stage startup, Citizen Retail LLC, focused on supporting sustainable economic development through creation of independent retail ownership opportunities. Stefan’s background includes market planning & development, as well as new product development, business development, and training. He advises startups, emerging, and turnaround companies on launch, growth, and rebuilding strategies. Through a strategic partnership with metro Detroit-based Poco Labs, Stefan helps companies with concept development, consumer research and product design. He serves on the Board of Advisors for startups CarePRN and The Common Penny.

He has served on the Marketing & Development Committee for Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit, volunteered as a mentor, coach and advisor at Detroit Creative Corridor Center and TechTown Detroit, and helped develop and run the highly successful Retail Boot Camp for TechTown Detroit. Stefan holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Wayne State University and an MBA from Eastern Michigan University.

DTX Launch Detroit, a 10-week technology startup accelerator for college students and recent graduates, is accepting applications for Summer 2016. An information session will be held on February 24 from 6-8pm at TechTown Detroit, 440 Burroughs, Detroit.

Click here to register for the DTX Launch Detroit Information Session (it’s free and there’s pizza!)

Click here to learn more about the program from our website

Click here to apply to the 2016 DTX Launch Detroit Program

Launch Detroit covers all the fundamentals of launching a new enterprise, including:

  • Designing, testing, and evaluating your value proposition
  • Finding the right product/market fit
  • Developing your business model canvas
  • Conducting customer discovery
  • Team building
  • Pitch coaching

Launch Detroit is open to undergraduate, graduate-level and recent graduates (within two years), from any Michigan college or university. Michigan residents attending college out of state are also eligible. Participants will receive a stipend of $2,500 per individual (up to $7,500 per team). Applications close on April 22, 2016.

Launch Detroit is a program of the Detroit Technology Exchange (DTX), a  strategic partnership between TechTown Detroit, BizdomInvest Detroit, the Detroit Creative Corridor Center, the Henry Ford Innovation Institute, NextEnergy and TechStars Mobility—Driven by Detroit. The program is supported by the Michigan Economic Development Corp.’s Michigan Strategic Fund and the New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan.

It is hard to believe that it has been 30 years since the New Enterprise Forum was founded back in 1986 with an idea Tom Porter could not ignore. Entrepreneurs needed a community of support and training to help their fledgling companies take flight. As they do today, business professionals volunteered their time and expertise developing a team coaching approach that is still as unique, valuable and relevant to entrepreneur’s growth as it was ‘back in the day.’ New Enterprise Forum has become known as a safe place to learn the fine art of pitching to investors to get that first meeting that will lead to future funding.

So it is with pride and gratitude that this NEF 30-year Book was compiled for your enjoyment. As you look through the pages, we hope you will share in the pride of all of these accomplished entrepreneurs, whether their businesses were successful or not. They had the guts to try. Perhaps, you were a part of their adventure. We hope you will share in our gratitude to all the NEF supporters. We would not be here today if it were not for the hours our members, coaches, boards, investors, stakeholders and partners have generously donated over these many years. To all the entrepreneurs, thank you for allowing NEF to be a part of your journey.

Were you one of our intrepid entrepreneurs? Share your story with us . . . where are you and your company now? How did NEF help facilitate your success? Email and we will post your story on our social media networks.

Happy 30th Anniversary NEF!