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.

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