Any entrepreneur will tell you that raising funds is not easy. Founders wonder why, with such a great idea, outstanding team and great plans, investors aren’t returning their calls. What is the problem?

It’s a big issue for founders with 75% of their time taken for up to three months or more, raising money can be a time sink for any founder.

Stew Nelson can tell you what the problem is and how to fix it. Well known in SE Michigan, Stew is an investor, past president of NEF, CEO and founder of Mayasil, and partner in the consulting group, MODG. On Wednesday, September 6, Nelson unpacked this problem with the “Entrepreneur’s Equity Roadmap™: Raising Money Without Giving Away the Business” at Spark Central in Ann Arbor, MI.

The problem is the gap between founder’s expectations and the investor’s expectations. Called the Milestone Gap™, by Nelson and co-writer Gary Hazan, it refers to the gap between what a founder sees as a milestone (completing a prototype, for example) and what an investor sees as a meaningful milestone (achieving financial goals or valuation). Like ships passing in the night, founders and investors have a brief encounter, but then drift on with the founder wondering, “What happened?” “There’s a gap between what the entrepreneur wants to show vs. what the investor wants to see,” Nelson says.

Closing the gap? Following are some of Nelson’s basic rules the founder needs to understand to close the gap.

For a start, founders need to address their pitch in the investor’s language; learn about the investor’s side, and deliver a message that considers questions the investor will have. Too often, the founder pitches their great idea, plans for the business, and thinks it is what will persuade the investor. Better to take a deep dive into understanding what the investor wants to know about your business. Make sure the goals you outline in the pitch are the goals an investor wants to see achieved. An investor will want to see that the funding round you are asking for will take the founder’s business to the next round of funding. Nelson calls it creating an “updraft.”

The investor wants to know about the monetary needs of the business and how the founder plans on addressing them. Monetary needs include product development, costs to do marketing and sales, and head count costs.

Of course a successful funding raise comes with it’s own costs—giving away equity and control. For a lot of founders the hardest one to swallow is the loss of absolute control. “Think of it this way, do you want to be rich or king?” Nelson said. It’s important for the founder to understand that in their relationship with an investor you must play by the “...Golden Rule: he who has the gold makes the rules.”

The Entrepreneur’s Equity Roadmap™ is far more detailed and thorough than the scope of this article can cover. It’s easy to learn more: all you have to do is visit the NEF website,, and go to the Resources page. You’ll see a link to the PDF on the right side. While you’re on that page check out the other great resources NEF has for founders.

Commercialization time for start-ups in the automotive mobility space can take 2 to 3 times that of the start-ups in the Innovation / Consumer Electronics space. From 1910 to 2010 typical times have dropped from 16 years after patent award to 14.  The Global Automotive & Mobility Innovation Challenge (GAMIC) cuts this in half.

The GAMIC organizing committee is made up of auto industry executives with close ties to decision makers at all major OEMs and many Tier 1 suppliers as well as experienced entrepreneurs.  Building on such a rich network, GAMIC offers over $300,000 in auto industry professional guidance – from business development to IP support to PR, as well as assistance with key high-level industry connections.  These benefits are the invaluable key to accelerated commercialization by opening doors that the cash prizes by many other competitions simply cannot.

A number of GAMIC alumni are already in production as 2nd tier suppliers; others have licensed their technology to major Tier 1 suppliers, received development contracts from industrial partners, and/or received government funding for further product development.  All semi-finalists receive exposure to multiple Midwest-US and Canadian angel groups.

GAMIC is pleased to announce that it is open for applications for its 10th annual competition. 

Who should apply?  Companies that fit the following criteria:

  • Innovation space: Automotive and/or mobility applications
  • Innovation type: physical (mechanical, chemical, electrical), and/or digital product/systems, testing, manufacturing or other enabling innovations
  • Revenue: Less than $500,000 in funding or revenue to date
  • State of innovation advancement: Developed a proof-of-concept and/or a working model
  • State of business planning: Developed an initial business plan covering the technology and a go-to-market plan
  • Location: Willing to present in-person or via video conference at quarter-finals  in Northern California; Southeast Michigan; or Ontario, Canada

You can find more information on the applicable technology sectors for GAMIC and application instructions at GAMIC website.  Due date is 15 October 2017.

For more information, please visit GAMIC 10th Annual Competition.

Free, weekly program developed by the Kauffman Foundation helps build startup communities nationwide

(Oakland County, Mich.) Oakland County soon will be the newest home of a national program to engage, educate and connect local entrepreneurs. Founded by the Kauffman Foundation, 1 Million Cups is based on the notion that entrepreneurs network and discover solutions over a million cups of coffee. The free, weekly gathering helps build startup communities on a grassroots level.

Beginning September 13, entrepreneurs, innovators, funders and all interested community members are invited to attend each Wednesday from 9 to 10 a.m. at The Oakland County Executive Office Building, located at 2100 Pontiac Lake Road, Waterford Township, Michigan.

The program’s model is consistent in each city: Every Wednesday morning, two early-stage startups present their companies to an audience of mentors, advisers, entrepreneurs and fellow community members. Each founder presents for six minutes, followed by a 20-minute question-and-answer session with the audience.

The inaugural 1 Million Cups in Oakland County will feature presentations by Innovative Dronomics, which provides situational awareness and premise information to every first responder involved at an emergency, and Facility Health Inc. leverages their real-world CHFM facility management experience to ultimately improve patient care through predictive investment in the physical environment.

In each 1 Million Cups city, local community members drive the program as volunteer organizers.

The inaugural organizing team in Oakland County includes:

  • Kendra Corman, managing director of H2H Consulting
  • Greg Doyle, manager, Oakland County One Stop Shop Business Center
  • Thomas Fehrenbach, business development, Oakland County
  • Scott Garretson, co-founder, Brilliant Chemistry
  • Yusuf Hai, managing director, CIG Capital Advisors
  • Michael Keith, founder, The Office Coffee Shop
  • Jay Patel, president and CEO, Amtech Electrocircuits
  • Erick Phillips, business consultant, Oakland County Business Center
  • Thomas Raymond, business consultant, Oakland County
  • Jason Verbrugghe, owner, DPro Healthcare
  • Vernell Wilson, owner, ARight for U.

“As an entrepreneur myself, I understand the value of connecting and supporting others in their entrepreneurial journey,” Patel said. “1 Million Cups Oakland County is the first of its kind in Michigan, and I am proud to be on the inaugural organizing team.”

Entrepreneurs across Oakland County are welcome and encouraged to apply to present their business. If interested, please visit to submit your application.

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful. The Kauffman Foundation is based in Kansas City, Missouri, and uses its $2 billion in assets to collaboratively help people be self-sufficient, productive citizens. For more information, visit and connect with us at and

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.