The Martin Prosperity Institute recently produced an interesting study of Venture Capital called  “Start-Up City The Urban Shift in Venture Capital  and  High Technology”.  It concluded that Venture Capital Activity and the businesses being funded are now being concentrated in larger metropolitan areas.  As expected the San Francisco and environs and the Boston to Washington DC Area saw significant investment and a large number of deals.  However, now New York City which previously was a large source of funds but not the location of the actual businesses has now become a home of many of these businesses. San Francisco actually led the country.   That and the fact that more of these businesses are actually locating in large cities is a new trend. 

Another that is of particular interest to us is that several cities with large universities are leaders on a per capita basis in both dollars invested and in numbers of deals.  So while Austin, Texas and the research triangle in North Carolina have always been leaders in investments and deals the study notes that Bolder Colorado, Lawrence, Kansas and Ann Arbor Michigan are significant for their activity. Ann Arbor placed 11th in the dollar amount of investment per 100,000 of population at $24.1M and 5th in the country with 6.4 deals per 100,000 of population.  

The New Enterprise Forum provides free investment presentation consulting services to early stage companies. If you are interested in learning more and taking advantage of our services, please visit and submit your contact information.

Ansgar Strother, CEO of A2B Bikshare, an Ann Arbor Michigan based transportation start-up focusing on healthy and green solution to urban commuting, announced a pilot project with the city of Fairbanks Alaska during his New Enterprise Forum Showcase presentation on April 17th. The initial phase of this project will include 250 bicycles and necessary docking stations.

Strother used his Showcase presentation to highlight the significant advantages that A2B has in the marketplace. By moving the technology to the bicycle and away from the station A2B projects 60% reductions in capital outlays for municipalities. It's patent pending, Smart-Bike, Dumb-Rack, system will allow consumers to rent bicycles with the swipe of a credit card and return them to any of A2B's stations.

The A2B Bikeshare management team consists of Ansgar Strother a University of Michigan educated engineer, along with Carl Vitullo (CTO) formerly of Barracuda Networks and MarketSource Inc. The team worked closely with a group of NEF coaches to prepare their investor presentation. 



Lee Gorman, a New Enterprise Forum Director since 2012, has been elected to the Ann Arbor State Bank Board of Directors.   Ann Arbor State Bank is a community bank which serves local small businesses and individuals with personalized customer service.

As an entrepreneurial service provider, Lee likes the symmetry of being involved with A2SB, which was a startup itself in 2008.  “The people at Ann Arbor State Bank are experts in small business, and they are dedicated to serving the local community.  Becoming more familiar with their work will allow me to help my startup clients understand what it takes to be bankable, and find the resources they need when they are ready.”

Lee works with many Entrepreneurial Service Organizations in addition to NEF.  She is an advisor and consultant at Ann Arbor SPARK, mentors at the Center for Entrepreneurship, and was 2011 Coach of the Year for Great Lakes Entrepreneur’s Quest.

Steve Schwartz, a serial entrepreneur, was recently elected to the NEF Board. Steve graduated from Kettering University (formerly General Motors Institute) as a Mechanical and Electrical Engineer. He founded his first company, selling used car parts, as a freshman in college. In 2007, he co-founded RateMyStudentRental, which sold private-label software to colleges and universities to help improve off-campus housing. He is now the managing member at Alfa Jango, which provides technology leadership and development resources for early-stage companies.

NEF Board member Diane Durance and President of MIQuest (formerly GLEQ) indicated that, “Steve is a past GLEQ winner of the New Business Idea award for and he will bring a lot of energy and a new perspective to the NEF Board.”

The board of directors of the New Enterprise Forum is pleased to announce that Sarika Gupta was unanimously elected to its board of directors for a two year term at the March directors' meeting.

Sarika is the Associate Director of the University of Michigan Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies (ZLI). In this role, she leads the development and execution of ZLI's student-oriented programs. She also coaches and mentors U-M student teams. Prior to joining ZLI, Sarika was the President & CEO of Dance Telephone, a group party game; the COO of V-teractive, an online gaming start-up; and a Senior Quantitative Research Associate at Cambridge Associates, an investment management firm. Sarika holds a BSE in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan College of Engineering and an MBA from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business.

Bill McPherson, President of the Forum said “We look forward to working with Sarika and her participation in our efforts. We value the Zell Lurie Institute's relationship with our organization and are confident that Sarika’s involvement will provide us with additional opportunities to assist new business development in Michigan.”

At its 28th Annual Meeting, Jake Sigal gave an inspiring presentation about the genesis of Livio Connect and what it means to be an entrepreneur in Michigan.

It sounded like a story from a textbook on entrepreneurship: Jake had been working for a Tier 1 automotive supplier just prior to the Great Depression. Sensing the writing on the wall, he left his good-paying, full-time job to start a business in his guest bedroom. Making matters even more interesting was that his first product was targeting a service that was largely unknown, Pandora Radio.

In 2008, Pandora had millions of early subscribers, but they were still relatively unknown. That did not deter Jake. He recognized the potential of Pandora to change the radio landscape and leveraged his experience with automotive electronics to make a $200 (retail) desktop radio for Pandora. With Jake’s background in consumer electronic product development and manufacturing, this was the easy part. The hard part was figuring out all of the necessary business and corporate development tasks starting a new company. Early on, he turned to SCORE, a program offered by the Small Business Administration, and his volunteer advisor helped him address these issues. Success followed – Livio sold several million dollars of products to the likes of Target, Costco and Amazon.

In 2010, with smart phone sales really taking off, Jake and his team realized that the future belongs to apps, so they pivoted and developed an aftermarket car kit that connected people’s apps to their vehicles.

Livio launched their car kit at the Consumer Electronics Show. Their booth was sandwiched between car suppliers and app developers. They learned that car suppliers wanted Livio software to connect Livio apps to their own vehicles. Separately, app developers wanted to connect their own apps to existing Livio hardware. This was ‘the ah-ha’ moment for Livio to create the Livio Connect API to connect 3rd party apps to multiple vehicles. This product and associated IP offered such value that Ford Motor Company acquired them in 2013.

With regard to the process, Jake had some advice to share with other entrepreneurs. First, building relationships with lawyers, bankers, other entrepreneurs and being in the entrepreneurial community brought opportunities to the Livio they could not have gotten on their own. Second, fund-raising takes a huge amount of time and it is time not well spent unless the targeted funds invest in the company’s space. Third, when possible, have your customer pay for your product development as they have a strong interest in seeing you succeed. And fourth, once you have built an initial sales pipeline, investors will become interested.

When asked what he enjoys most, Jake's answer was simply “Tomorrow“. The true enjoyment of having built Livio is that he surrounds himself with people who are similarly motivated, making coming into the office fun.

For more info on Jake check out his blog at or follow him on Twitter @JakeSigal

At its 2014 Annual Meeting, held at Ann Arbor SPARK Central on Thursday, 20 Feb 2014, NEF announced the winners of its 2013 Showcase Presenter awards. The awardees were:

  • Best Presentation was awarded to AdAdapted. Molly McFarland, CMO, announced that since having presented at NEF in March, 2013, AdAdapted has closed half of its seed round and expects the close the remainder by the end of Feb 2014. In addition, the company has landed a $200k contract with a major corporation.
  • Best Business Model was awarded to GAPRO (formerly GWizCon). Herb Gibson, CEO, indicated that since his NEF presentation in June, 2013, they have raised equity and are working with partners to validate their business model.
  • Best Technology was awarded to Avegent. Edward Tang, CEO, announced that since having presented at NEF in April, 2013, Avegant’s Glyph was names Best Mobile Device of the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show and the company has just completed a $1.5M KickStarter campaign.
  • Best Overall was awarded to ENT Biotech Solutions. Andrea Dickson, President, said that since presenting to NEF in May 2013, patents have been filed, a $1.5M round was closed, an FDA application was submitted, and animal testing has started.

At the February 2014 meeting the NEF Board, Jane DeLancey was elected to a two-year term as a director. Jane owns the design firm DeLancey Design that serves marketing and communications needs of a wide variety of clients.

Stew Nelson, NEF's VP of Program indicated that, “Jane’s commitment and dedication over the past four years to  NEF have made her  one of our `Elite` coaches. I know her  organizational, marketing  and design skills will make her a perfect addition to the Board. I look forward to serving with her.”

Jane began her career in the fine arts, but quickly switched to graphic design. After seven years working in the corporate environment for the in-house marketing departments of ADP Network Services and Gelman Sciences, she launched DeLancey Design in 1984. Since then she has worked for more than 150 clients across a broad range of indsutries on a wide variety of designs projects. Project scopes have included full website development; trade show booth design and construction; and corporate identities, direct mail campaigns, and brochures. With her strategic business partner, Chris Hippler of Capital Letters, she currently is focusing on marketing projects for the construction industry.

In addition to serving on a number of NEF coaching teams over the course of the past five years, Jane has also served as a coach for Great Lakes Entrepreneur Quest (now MiQuest).

Her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree is from the University of Michigan. She also studied at Art Center College of Design and California College of Arts.

Organizers of the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium (MGCS) today unveiled preliminary plans for the 2014 conference, the premier event where leading U.S. venture capitalists and angel investors meet the 'Best of the Midwest' in emerging, high-growth start-ups. As one of the longest running programs of its kind, the decades' old symposium is expected to bring together more than 450 attendees including top investors from across the country, executives of early stage and emerging growth companies seeking $1-20 million in funding, and related stakeholders. The event will be held at the Marriott Resort in Ypsilanti, Mich.

New this year, the Great Lakes Entrepreneur's Quest (GLEQ) will host its 14th annual statewide business plan competition award's reception on June 17 prior to the start of the MGCS. The first place winner of the GLEQ's mid-year emerging company category, announced in January, will receive an invitation to present at the MGCS. "We are really excited about the coordinated timing of our events," said GLEQ executive director Diane Durance.

Now in its 33rd year, the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium has served as a critical catalyst for innovation and a champion of entrepreneurial investment opportunities in the region.  In addition to presentations from approximately 40 early stage and emerging growth companies seeking funding, MGCS will feature keynote speakers and panel discussions led by some of the nation's leading investors and entrepreneurs.  The sessions will provide insight on venture capital and investment trends, as well as provide industry snapshots of emerging growth sectors such as life sciences and technology.

"Michigan ranks as one of the most proactive and most admired states, in terms of what has been done with a relatively small amount of capital," said Kelly Williams the global head of Credit Suisse's Customized Fund Investment Group and keynote speaker at the 2013 Symposium. She added that the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium epitomizes the unique collaborative atmosphere and supportive entrepreneurial environment that has contributed to the state's success.

The state of Michigan currently has 25 venture capital funds providing growth capital to promising start-ups spawned by university research discoveries and inventions across various academic disciplines.  This growing network is bolstered by savvy global investors who are willing to look farther afield to source new deals, including in the Midwest. This ramped-up connectivity bodes well for the region's reputation as an innovative community and a source for high-potential technology and social-networking investment deals.

The Symposium is hosted by the University of Michigan's Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the Ross School of Business, with support from the Michigan Venture Capital Association. Sponsors for the 2014 event are currently being enlisted, with packages ranging from $1,000-$10,000. 

Applications for companies to present will be available online January 1, 2014. For more information or to become a sponsor, please visit

About the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium (MGCS)

MGCS is the original university-based venture fair, which was first held in 1979. This nationally attended two-day event provides an opportunity for investors to connect with up-and-coming Midwest businesses and learn about emerging technologies. The Symposium offers the opportunity to build relationships with an unparalleled business network of distinguished private equity industry leaders, leading university research faculty, and entrepreneurial business professionals. MGCS is presented by the Center for Venture Capital & Private Equity Finance or the Zell Lurie Institute at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business with support from the Michigan Venture Capital Association and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

The inaugural NEF Pitch Pit event was held in conjunction with ACE '14 ( on Thursday, 30 Jan 2014. NEF Pith Pit is an event that is loosely modeled after ABC's Shark Tank. For this first event, there were three contestants:

  • Mary Beckerman – Recipe Manager System
  • Diana Chen – Crowdsourcing Legal Help Platform
  • Xavier Clemons – The New Credit Card Shaver

After delivering their four minute pitches, our panel of judges

  • Martin Dober, Vice President for Invest Detroit
  • David Gregorka, Venture Partner at Baird Capital
  • Charlie Moret, Managing Director for Tech-Based Entrepreneurship at Tech Town

provided feedback to help the budding entrepreneurs and selected a winner. The judges selected Diana Chen, Crowdsourcing Legal Help Platform, as the winner; and the audience selected Xavier Clemons, The New Credit Card Shaver, as being their favorite. For her efforts, Diana was awarded cash pot, which totaled $218.

For those wishing to participate, or for those simply wanting to watch the festivities, keep an eye on the NEF website - we are planning four more NEF Pitch Pit events during the upcoming year.