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

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!

With the entrepreneurial ecosystem expanding from coast to coast, venture investors deployed capital to 3,662 companies located in 133 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) in 2015, according to the MoneyTree™ Report by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) and the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA), based on data from Thomson Reuters.

Michigan MSA’s making the Top 133 Include:

  • Ann Arbor – 24th, 25 deals, 22 companies, total investment $221 million
  • Detroit – 37th, 16 deals, 14 companies, total investment $78 million
  • Grand Rapids – 53rd, 5 deals, 5 companies, total investment $12 million
  • Kalamazoo – 66th, 4 deals, 3 companies, total investment $4.2 million
  • Lansing – 77th, 2 deals, 2 companies, total investment $6 million

“Contrary to popular belief you don’t have to be an entrepreneur living in San Francisco, New York or Boston to receive venture capital funding. There are pockets of innovation all across the United States, and as long as you have a groundbreaking idea with high-growth potential you are well positioned to attract venture capital funding to help grow your business,” said Bobby Franklin, President & CEO of NVCA.  “As more cities, states and municipalities dedicate greater resources to foster the growth of their local ecosystems, venture investors are taking notice and deploying capital across much larger areas of the country. This not only helps the entrepreneurs themselves but local economies as well through job creation and sustained economic growth.”

To review the release by NVCA, click here. You will be able to download here venture investment by MSA data. Also click here to read full article.

Please join me in welcoming Vivek V. (Vic) Havele as our newest NEF Board member. In his new NEF role, Vic will be our NEF News Article Director. He brings a wealth of experience and expertise to our organization. Vic is the President of CAEtech International, Inc. provider of engineering & Information Technology Services to the automotive and non-automotive industry. He is Founder & CEO of Rockstar Innovations which is launching a non-profit organization/portal “” for helping entrepreneurs in successfully launching technology ventures through coaching, mentoring and partnering. Vic is also President of People Forge Technologies which is engaged in developing and implementing PeopleForge Talent Solutions such as StemTalent, SeedTalent, GlobalTalent etc. for diverse market segments. He has served NEF as a business coach helping entrepreneurs be successful. Vic is also currently serving as an I-Corps mentor for a tech startup from University of Michigan and recently mentored two teams in the Lawrence Technological Universities’ I-Corps program. Vic holds a Master of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Marquette University, Wisconsin, Business Executive training from Tuck School of Business, New Hampshire and Loyola School of Business, Maryland.

Lauren Bigelow, the executive director of the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition was recently interviewed by the Detroit Free Press. Algal Scientific, a past graduate of NEF coaching was highlighted as a local success story.  As Lauren stated, Michigan has become a friendly environment for start-ups, citing the many resources available to help start-ups be successful.  You can read the full article at A conversation with a queen of start-up innovation. This was published on December 13, 2015.

NEF continues to play a strong role in helping grow Michigan’s start-up ecosystem.