We all know the New Enterprise Forum helps entrepreneurs grow their businesses, but that’s not all we do – as evidenced at the September meeting, a panel discussion by an eclectic group of investors about the current investment scene in Michigan -- and ultimately, beyond. The audience was 40-plus entrepreneurs (nearly a dozen of whom indicated they planned to try to raise money for their businesses at some point), investors of every stripe (friends, family, solo angel, group angel, and corporate VC), and service providers offering the full buffet of services for every growth stage.

Yet audience questions and feedback submitted after the meeting indicated that even the “experts” continue to learn. Coaches who are themselves experienced entrepreneurs or service providers asked for clarification or additional info on subtle differences across investment markets, as well as best practices among investor types. Others expressed surprise about angel or VC requirements that may have changed over time or are different from practices in other areas of the US with which they may be more familiar.

Because Ann Arbor is a “transient” town due to its ties to the University of Michigan, our audience and its needs change rapidly as well. With the acceleration of that change due to the University Research Corridor, the deeper engagement of Tech Transfer, Detroit redevelopment including Tech Town, and an improved economy that allowed investment throughout southeast lower Michigan, change will continue to be a primary characteristic of the area and its entrepreneurial community.

The September meeting discussion and its audience response was a perfect example of NEF’s value as the “go-to” place in such a community. Join us to take advantage of the coaching, connecting, and perfecting opportunities for those at every level of the game. All are welcome!

Fusion Coolant Systems Inc., a University of Michigan spinout based in Canton, has finished raising a funding round of $1.25 million, the first close of what is projected to be a larger Series B round. 

The funding contributions were by the direct venture program of UM's investment office called MINTS, for Michigan Investment in New Technology Startups, and Ann Arbor-based Amherst Fund LLC. Additional investors are expected to join the B round over the next six months. The funds will be used for Fusion's laboratory expansion in Canton and to grow its engineering and sales teams. 

After it was founded, the company got a loan of $50,000 from Ann Arbor Spark and an investment of $50,000 from the First Step Fund in Detroit. In 2011, it was awarded $150,000 as the runner-up at the second annual Accelerate Michigan Innovation event. 

Fusion Coolant has patented a process for using cooled carbon dioxide to lubricate and cool cutting tools used in manufacturing, promising to reduce costs and pollution and increase tool life.

NEF coached Fusion Coolant team in 2011. The team was the showcase presenter in May 2011.

You can learn more about Fusion Coolant at Read the full articles on Crain’s Detroit Business and U-Mich News.

Congratulations to Fusion Coolant Systems!!

Ann Arbor-based ContentOro LLC, which provides websites with licensed content from books, has received an investment of $50,000 from the Zell Lurie Commercialization Fund, which is part of the Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business.

This investment is part of a funding round of between $500,000 and $750,000 that is being raised by CEO Bob Chunn, who founded the company in 2014. Last June, ContentOro raised a funding round of $450,000 from the Ann Arbor-based Michigan Angel Fund, Farmington Hills-based Lis Ventures LLC and Detroit-based InvestMichigan.  Prior to that, Chunn got his first investment of $100,000 from Chuck Newman, who founded ReCellular Inc., an Ann Arbor-based company that recycles cell phones

Chun stated, “Over the past year, we’ve added some of the biggest publishers in the business: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, MacMillan, Weldon Owen and over 20 niche publishers representing everything from the latest technologies to medicine, pets, cooking and just about anything else you could think of.  As we had hoped, book publishers are very willing to work with companies and people they trust, to find new markets and opportunities for the best content in the world.”

He further added, “We’ve built a great website with world-class content from books and we’re seeing a significant increase in visitors.  We won the innovation award from the Small Business Development Corporation, Startup of the Year from UM’s Venture Capital Investment Competition, and, of course, Best Business Model from NEF.  We were a semi-finalist at last year’s Accelerate Michigan and plan to do better than that this year! “

According to Chun, Since February of this year, ContentOro has been working with many world class customers, including Sur La Table, Pet Supplies Plus, General RV, Ulta Beauty, Citrix, Menards, Cathay Pacific Airline and many more. 

Bob Chun said “New Enterprise Forum and the people I’ve met through it have been instrumental in our early success with customers and raising capital.  I am thankful for the team who worked directly with me and for the organization who has remained supportive of ContentOro all along.” 

You can learn more about ContentOro at Read the full article on Crain’s Detroit Business.

Congratulations to Bob Chun and ContentOro!!

NEF plays an important role in our Ann Arbor community for the A2 Tech Trek celebration. Over 1300 people from our community came out for the 2016 A2 Tech Trek, to celebrate the innovation happening in downtown Ann Arbor every day. The 60 participating companies had a chance to show off their technologies, workplaces, and what makes them so unique.

NEF has coached a number of companies on the Trek. Our members joined the Ann Arbor Spark team to make this event a great success.

Congratulations to People's Choice winner Spellbound, whose mobile app that makes books come to life was a highlight for Tech Trek participants. Not far behind them was The Forge by Pillar in second place and Bank of Ann Arbor in third.

Miss the Trek and want to see what all the buzz is about? Check out the Tech Trek Video, produced in collaboration with the Michigan Economic Development Corp., and read all about it in the Detroit Free Press.   

Read more about this news here.

The MIT Technology Review has named Ann Arbor-based RetroSense Therapeutics LLC, a spinoff from Wayne State University in 2009, to its annual list of the 50 smartest companies in the world. It was the only company based in Michigan to make the list.

The editors rank companies based on how their innovative technologies combine with a strong business model. They rated RetroSense, whose drug to treat patients with retinitis pigmentosa began human trials in March, at 37, ranking ahead of such well known tech companies as IBM (45), Snapchat (46) and Intel (49).

Sean Ainsworth, CEO of RetroSense Theraputics, LLC, was coached by an NEF team in 2010 and as noted in the Crain’s article RetroSense has successfully raised $13,000,000 in two rounds. Sean was a member of NEF for many years and also a valued member of many coaching teams.

To read full article, click here.

Congratulations to Sean Ainsworth and RetroSense Theraputics!

Every other month, three startup companies give a 3-minute pitch (Shark Tank style) at the New Enterprise Forum’s monthly meeting.  In May, Abess Makki, founder of CityInsight, was the winner of more than $250 for his presentation.  Abess impressed the audience and three judges with his presentation of his mobile application that he is working with the Detroit Water & Sewage Department to help residents track their water usage and maintain their budgets.

Congratulations to Abess and CityInsight!!

This year’s Michigan Growth Capital Symposium ( was another rousing success!   A blue ribbon list of start-ups, investors and speakers demonstrated how the Michigan/Detroit/Ann Arbor area is becoming an important hub for innovation and start-up success.

One of the most important parts of the MGCS is the presentations by start-ups to investors and other symposium attendees.  Since start-ups are pre-screened based upon both their business ideas and their presentations, those who have honed their presentations have a greater chance of success. 

The New Enterprise Forum plays a dual role in the success of these start-ups:

  1. NEF coaches volunteer their time to the University of Michigan Zell Lurie Institute to give input to start-ups who have been selected to pitch at the Symposium; and
  2. The New Enterprise Forum has a tremendous track record of start-ups that have been through the NEF coaching program being accepted as MGCS presenters.

We are proud that the companies that have gone through New Enterprise Forum coaching continue to be selected to present at the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium.  This year’s NEF-coached presenters were:

  • Genomenon
  • Workit Health
  • ContentOro
  • SurClean

The New Enterprise Forum works closely with other organizations in the Detroit/Ann Arbor area that also offer start-ups critical assistance to help them succeed.  One of these is the University of Michigan Office of Technology Transfer.  The U of M OTT plays a critical role in helping start-ups commercialize University of Michigan technologies.

To learn more about Tech Transfer, visit their new website at:

And to learn more about the impressive team available to help you, go to:

The twelfth annual Michigan Entrepreneurship Score Card – 2016 Edition reports the state continues to advance its post-recession entrepreneurial economy, although the rapid pace of growth exhibited over the previous five years has slowed.  This report uses 137 different metrics to track Michigan’s entrepreneurial vitality, climate and growth. The Entrepreneurial Change Index which measures the direction and momentum of growth ranks Michigan #12 out of the 50 states for the second year in a row, up from 44 ten years ago.

The Michigan Entrepreneurship Score Card, analyzing data from 2004 to 2014, was released on (February 22, 2016) by MiQuest, a Lansing-based nonprofit organization serving Michigan’s entrepreneurial community. 

Michigan continues to invest in areas critical to future technology-based entrepreneurial growth. Throughout the 2000s, Michigan’s public and private sectors continued to invest heavily in R&D, innovation (measured by patents filed), STEM education, and job creation in technology fields. The state is especially strong in Workforce Preparedness metrics including Physical Science and Engineering Workers and High Tech Manufacturing Employment. Perseverance has paid off in Michigan’s current rankings among the 50 states:

  • Physical Science and Engineering Workers − #1
  • High Tech Manufacturing Employment̶#1
  • Industry R&D − #5
  • 4-Year + Technology Credentials − #5 (Percent of bachelor’s and above degrees/certificates earned in technology-related fields)
  • University R&D Performance − #6
  • Michigan’s Quality of Life metrics point to several strengths conducive to economic mobility and tech growth, including ranking #3 in Home Ownership.

“The Score Card mirrors what we hear from entrepreneurs – businesses are growing and hitting new levels of sales, there’s a high demand for technical talent, and there’s increasing enthusiasm about the opportunities being created in Michigan’s urban centers,” says Diane Durance, President of MiQuest.

To review the key findings from the report, Click Here for the full press release from MiQuest.

To download an electronic copy of the report Click Here.

The entrepreneurial and investment activity in the state indicates steady and consistent growth and success in Michigan, in many cases outpacing national trends.  Venture capital firms and angel investors in Michigan have firmly established their role in jump-starting and sustaining Michigan’s economic recovery and they continue to build on the momentum needed to create more companies and new jobs in Michigan, according to the Michigan Venture Capital Association’s (MVCA) 2016 Research Report. 

The report provides 15 years of comparative data, contributed by 100+ member organizations actively invested in over 140 Michigan businesses.  MVCA continued its analysis of the impact of diversity in the entrepreneurial and investment landscape with a more in-depth study done in collaboration with the University of Michigan Law School.  The MVCA Diversity Study revealed that Michigan is seeing success and profits from teams led by people of color, LGBTQ and female professionals within the entrepreneurial and investment landscape, but much progress still needs to be made to achieve the benefits associated with a truly diverse community.

“Michigan, along with the rest of the nation, is seeing success and profits from diverse professionals within the entrepreneurial and investment landscape.  However, statewide funding data suggests these companies led by underrepresented groups may be systemically underfunded.  Michigan still has plenty of work to do.” said Maureen Miller Brosnan, executive director of MVCA.

Key findings in the following four areas are summarized in the MVCA press release:

  • Venture Investment Nationally
  • Venture Investment in Michigan
  • Study: Diversity in the Michigan Entrepreneurial & Investment Landscape
  • Angel, Pre-Seed & Accelerator Activity in Michigan.

To review the key findings from the report, Click Here for the full press release from MVCA,

To read the full report, Click Here.