September 6, 9-11:30 am  SPARK.ed Workshop: ‘The Entrepreneurs’ Equity RoadmapTMRaising Money Without Giving Away the Business’ ( at SPARK Central, 330 E. Liberty in Ann Arbor.  Learn how the Entrepreneurs’ Equity Roadmap can be used to fill the ‘Milestone Gap’ between start-ups and investors to deliver increased valuations and a more consistent stream of investments.

September 21  New Enterprise Forum Monthly Meeting ( at SPARK Central, 330 E. Liberty in Ann Arbor.  Our monthly forum provides an evening of learning, sharing experiences, and making essential business contacts.  This free meeting opens at 5:00 pm with networking and appetizers.   Around 5:45 pm, the program portion of the meeting begins.  For September, we have two showcase presenters and a panel discussion on ‘Raising Money”.

September 30   Blue Water Start-ups and Entrepreneurs:  Startup School ( at SC4 Fine Arts Theater, 323 Erie Street, Port Huron, MI. 

October 19  New Enterprise Forum Monthly Meeting ( at SPARK Central, 330 E. Liberty in Ann Arbor.  Our monthly forum provides an evening of learning, sharing experiences, and making essential business contacts.  This free meeting opens at 5:00 pm with networking and appetizers.   Around 5:45 pm, the program portion of the meeting begins.  For October, we will have one showcase presenter and a Pitch Pit. Several early start-ups give a brief pitch for exposure and feedback in front of judges in a ‘shark tank’-type environment.  It is winner-take-all for contributions from the audience.

November 16  Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition ( at the Masonic Temple, Detroit.   Accelerate Michigan is the premier event in the Great Lakes region for high-growth companies & venture investors, awarding $1,000,000 in cash & in-kind prizes.

November 30  New Enterprise Forum Monthly Meeting ( at SPARK Central, 330 E. Liberty in Ann Arbor.  Our monthly forum provides an evening of learning, sharing experiences, and making essential business contacts.  This free meeting opens at 5:00 pm with networking and appetizers.   Around 5:45 pm, the program portion of the meeting begins.  For this month, we will have a showcase presenter and a panel discussion on “Entrepreneur War Stories”.

Raising money is hard!  And just when you think you have figured it out, the rules seem to change.  Why?  The Golden Rule: “He who has the gold, makes the rules.”  And investors don’t have a standard set of rules.  So, how do you avoid the pitfalls of fund raising, including making sure you keep equity in your hands rather than the hands of investors?

The Entrepreneurs’ Equity RoadmapTM creates a common ground between start-ups and investors that provides founders with a better basis for business planning, a stronger foundation for talking with investors, and an increased likelihood of getting funding – when needed and with more equity staying in the hands of the founders. 

The Workshop will deliver an understanding of the Roadmap, the importance of filling the ‘Milestone Gap’, and the process of developing plans that deliver on increased valuations and a consistent stream of investment. 

You can find additional information on the Entrepreneurs’ Equity Roadmap on the New Enterprise Forum website under Resources>Help for Entrepreneurs.

This is a free event sponsored by SPARK.ed and will be held at SPARK Central, 330 E. Liberty, Ann Arbor from 9-11:30 am on Wednesday, September 6.  Please click here to register.

In a recent Crain’s article, Detroit was complemented for its thriving entrepreneurial environment. Many of us who live here, may not see how dramatic this appears to non-Michiganders. Detroit is attracting people from out of state to take advantage of the many opportunities Detroit has to offer.

Read here the full article.

The July NEF Forum was a lot of fun in case you missed it. Kim Gamez, from Mi Padrino, was the showcase presenter. After going through the headaches of trying to organize a Quinceanera, she knew there had to be a better way. What is a Quinceanera? It is a coming of age party for fifteen year old Hispanic girls. The parties are as large as weddings. Hispanic families request the help of their family and friends to sponsor the event. Those who sponsor are called Padrinos and are honored to be asked. The problem is the logistics of organizing everyone across different geographical regions and collecting the donations from the padrinos. Kim’s “online mobile application makes planning and paying for Hispanic celebrations easy and effective.” Consider that a typical Quinceanera can cost $20k - $25k. The Hispanic market for these and other similar events are in the billions. Mi Padrino is catching a great deal of attention.

There were three presenters for the Pitch Pit. We heard from William Becker of Rev Match which is a social platform to connect people based on their love of cars. He plans on using Face Book and attracting advertisers to fund his venture. Rick Coughlin informed us about Grove Studios which is a creative way to gather musicians, artists, and makers into a community space using renovated shipping containers as studio space. The containers are rentable and are an efficient way to handle noise and temporary office space for artists. Omari Lewis told us about his vision for Putt Tracker which is a golfer’s training tool to help them improve their putts using cameras to track motion up to 20 feet. He is working on his prototype and hopes to have it finished soon. When the judges returned, they awarded Rick Coughlin of Grove Studios as the winner of the competition. The prize was $240 and a certificate for bragging rights.

Enjoy the event photos on our Facebook page.

The 8th Annual Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition Takes place on Thursday, November 16th at the Detroit Masonic Temple. This premier pitch competition showcases the best and brightest startups in Michigan while highlighting the state as a powerhouse for business opportunity and next-generation innovation.

NEF coached teams have competed successfully for many years. Our coaches and members continue to volunteer in supporting AMIC every year.

Early Bird applications for the 2017 Accelerate Michigan are now open! Apply for the opportunity to pitch for the $500,000 Grand Prize and network with potential customers & investors. Take advantage of the Early Bird application fee pricing before Friday, August 4th.

Company Application Form

Prizes include:

  • Grand Prize - $500,000
  • Runner Up Prize - $100,000
  • Second Runner Up Prize - $50,000
  • People’s Choice - $10,000

Company Benefits

Accelerate Michigan provides a number of benefits to participating companies. In addition to companies vying for up to $1,000,000 in cash & in-kind prizes, companies have the unique opportunity to receive mentorship from regional investors, corporations, and seasoned entrepreneurs. Accelerate Michigan is a highly publicized program serving as a platform for Great Lakes companies to gain exposure across the region leading to potential customer leads, partnership opportunities, and investment. 

Previous Grand Prize Recipients:

Tips & Tricks

Check out these pointers that assisted companies in advancing to Semi-Finals in 2016:

Attention Entrepreneurs and Employees of Technology-Based Startup Companies! If your startup is a high-potential, technology-based company in Michigan ... seeking equity capital for growth … then,

Apply to participate FREE OF CHARGE in "Financing Technology Commercialization" in Fall Term, 2017 at the Ross School of Business…under the direction of David Brophy, Professor of Finance, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan

Your firm will receive...

  • A dedicated team of 6 UM graduate and undergraduate students from all units of UM, with academic and work experience matched to your company’s needs
  • Two local mentors (serial entrepreneurs) matched to your team and working hands-on with you and your company for the entire Fall Term
  • Mentoring engagement from  a platform of nation-wide adjunct mentors (serial entrepreneurs) via Blue Jeans
  • Personal access during the Term to angel and venture capital investors, and an opportunity topitch in person and by Blue Jeans to regional and national venture investors… angel, venture capital and corporate.

Your commitment is...

  • Dedicated continuous engagement with the personal assets described above...for the 90 day Fall Term…with negotiation rights to continue these relationships thereafter.
  • Requirement to participate in  a 3 hour meeting at Ross on Wednesday evening and one meeting per week at your company’s place of business

This program has helped 175 startups over 12 year history. To learn more about this program and apply, click here.

The New Enterprise Forum June panel was all about what to watch out for in hiring critical staff for startups. The panelists were: Jeff Mason, CEO of Groundspeed, Bill Crane, CEO of Industry Star, Steve Schwartz, CTO of Genomenon, and Stew Nelson, CEO of Mayasil, LLC. Each of the panelists had many hiring ‘war stories’ to share. So, what did they have to say?

Here are 10 tips summarized by our moderator Helen Ewing, President of The Ewing Group, LLC:

  1. Take your time in hiring people who will be fulfilling critical roles in your organization. There is no average time on how long the process should take. Just be sure to interview several candidates and vet them through your network.
  2. Sometimes, you have to hire several employees all at once. In that case, do as much vetting as is reasonable up to and including asking your current employees in order to make better hiring decisions.
  3. Use personality tests to get an idea of how a candidate will fit within your company. Knowing the personality types of your current employees helps in finding others who will be able to blend in and get the work done without constant supervision.
  4. If a new hire is not completing tasks the way you think they should, take the time to find out why. Review expectations, and re-evaluate goals as a way to determine how realistic they are and what can be done to correct the situation.
  5. Listen to your instincts, if a new hire is not working out, give them a second chance. Do not ignore confronting a new hire because it is uncomfortable. If you feel they are not working out, chances are that your other employees know it too. Keeping a non-performer can negatively impact those around them and can hurt your company.
  6. Even though your company is a startup, maintain employee files for each employee to document expectations and performance to those expectations. Having these files is not only helpful in documenting achievements, but they are also helpful in documenting when goals are not met that result in a firing. Sometimes, companies are sued in firing employees. Having the right documentation is key to winning those suits.
  7. As a startup, compensating critical hires can be harder. The employees you want are already working for other larger companies. What you may not know is that they may not be happy at those other companies. Your startup can offer them more control over the projects they work on and a greater sense of contributing to the bottom line. Money is not everything so do not underestimate what your startup has to offer.
  8. To find employees to hire for critical positions, use your network and the network of trusted people you know. This will help you more easily find quality people without having to wade through hundreds of resumes from job boards.
  9. Some employees take longer to fit in with your startup than others. Keep an open mind, and communication channels to make the learning curve easier. Employees appreciate employers who take the time to develop them and become loyal to that employer.
  10. Hiring people is more of an art than a skill. There are many subjective elements involved and you will not always make the best decision. It is inevitable that hiring mistakes will happen. A wise employer recognizes this and seeks to make timely corrections for the well-being of the company.


Upcoming Events – Mark Your Calendar

June 16  - Ann Arbor SPARK’s A2 Tech Trek (  Ann Arbor Tech Trek is a free community event and a terrific opportunity to see the real gems located inside the doors of many area tech companies. A2 Tech Trek is right around the Corner ...this year, with a new addition - Tech Talk!

TECH TALK - June 16th 11-1pm, Michigan Theater:

Modeled after TED events, speakers will each have seven minutes to talk about their innovations, what they see happening in the world of tech, and what they foresee for the future.

TECH TREK - June 16th 3-7pm, Downtown Ann Arbor:

Leading technology companies will open their doors to the public and showcase their latest innovations. Whether you’re a job seeker, student, professional, or someone curious about the Ann Arbor tech community, anyone is welcome to attend.

July 27  - New Enterprise Forum Monthly Meeting ( at SPARK Central, 330 E. Liberty in Ann Arbor.  Our monthly forum provides an evening of learning, sharing experiences, and making essential business contacts.  This free meeting opens at 5:00 pm with networking and appetizers.   Around 5:45 pm, the program portion of the meeting begins.  For July, we will have a Showcase Presenter and the Pitch Pit.

November 16 - Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition (   Accelerate Michigan is the premier event in the Great Lakes region for high-growth companies & venture investors, awarding $1,000,000 in cash & in-kind prizes. This year it will be held at Detroit Masonic Temple. Applications open in late June 2017.

NEF had almost a full house with 97 people in attendance. In case you missed it, there were two showcase presenters and three Pitch Pit presenters. All of them did a great job in presenting their ideas.

Michael Anataran, Founder & CEO of Carrot involved the audience with his mobile health and wellness program that gamifies walking your way to better health and lower company health care costs. The program encourages the most sedimentary employees to challenge themselves and each other to achieve points that can be used to buy products at participating merchants. You can even participate in Carrot Oscars or Carrot Survivor challenges. Mike’s product puts the fun back in fitness.

Christina York, Founder & CEO of Spellbound engaged the audience with her product that uses augmented reality technology to calm children before medical procedures. She showed how special cards become a 3D animation that distracts children to focus on the animation rather than the scary and often painful medical procedures necessary to treat their conditions. Her product was also used to help a child accomplish mobility tasks faster to improve his recovery. Christina is on track to have her product available in hospitals across the country.

As usual, the Pitch Pit presenters did not disappoint.

Bryan Richardson of Bryan’s Backyard, told us how he intends to help Detroit’s youth constructively use their free time in sports activities through his vision of a sports center tailored to their needs. He captured our attention when he said, “Have you done anything you later regretted because you were bored?” The audience and the judges connected with his dream in awarding him as the Pitch Pit winner and a $306 prize.

Cody Middleton presented Jacket 360 which is an innovative way of using vibrating smart phone technology to alert cyclists that cars are approaching from their rear. This reduces bicycle and car collisions when the cyclist cannot hear or see eminent danger. Their prototype is currently a wearable that they intend to transfer to a smart phone to reduce manufacturing costs. His tag line is, ”Get back on your ride and let Jacket 360 watch your back.”

Mike Westcott explained what Wellwith was all about. He is on a mission to reduce the carbon footprint of wasted disposable coffee cups. Mike’s product rewards people, who frequent coffee shops, with a reward of donating to They get the reward every time they bring and use their own cup rather than the disposables the coffee shops use. It empowers people to save the earth from needless waste.

After the presentations, Barbara Boldt of Dynamic Global Communications gave us some tips on better presentation skills. Body language is the non-verbal key component of delivering your message. Using hand motions appropriately, holding eye contact, standing up straight are all good habits. Remember to not talk too fast, slow, soft, or loud and enunciate so people can more clearly hear your words. Use ‘um’ as little as possible, it is distracting. Also, thank people for their questions to acknowledge them in engaging with your presentation. These seem like common sense presentation tips, but are lost when presenters are nervous. That is why it is so important to practice to avoid them.

Before we knew it, the evening was over leaving us looking forward to the next NEF Forum on June 22nd which is a week later than usual. See you there!

This year's Michigan Growth Capital Symposium and Coulter Investment Forum ( will be held at Marriott Resort at EagleCrest, Ypsilanti, MI on May 16th and 17th..  The event will bring together investors and venture capitalists from across the United States. Planned for 2017 are over 30 speakers, 60 presentations and 600 attendees representing 100+ firms.

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.

This year’s NEF-coached presenters are:

CARROT Wellness

Healthcare IT
Melius Outcomes

Medical Device

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.