Executive leadership in business, commonly referred to as C-level talent, has proven to be one of the more significant bottlenecks in growing Ann Arbor's entrepreneurial ecosystem.
The University of Michigan's Office of Tech Transfer is helping loosen the neck on that bottle by adding two new serial entrepreneurs to its mentor-in-residence program. The goal is to have them help close the C-level gap with long-term solutions like building more tech start-ups and coaching the entrepreneurs who capitalize on them.
"What we're bringing in is seasoned C-level talent to develop our opportunities," says Ken Nisbet, executive director of University of Michigan Office of Tech Transfer
. "They are basically creating new venture with our projects."
Bill Brinkerhoff, a U-M alum, and former naval aviator Ken Spenser have become the newest mentors in residence, serving in that capacity for at least the next 12-18 months. The pair will work on a part-time basis with U-M Tech Transfer staff at the university's Venture Accelerator, helping evaluate new start-up opportunities and putting together teams to commercialize them.
Brinkerhoff is a former vice president at pharmaceutical firm Esperion, which was acquired by Pfizer in 2004 for $1.3 billion. He also co-founded Cerenis Therapeutics, an Ann Arbor company that created a drug that mimics good cholesterol to treat atherosclerosis. Spenser is a veteran venture capital fundraiser and co-founder of Better Rehab in Ann Arbor. He led the development and sale of the company's first product to Johnson & Johnson.
"There are some great people out there, we just don't have the numbers like they have in boston or Palo Alto," says Ken Nisbet, executive director of University of Michigan Office of Tech Transfer.
Nisbet acknowledges there isn't a quick fix to tilling the C-level talent gap, but it's work like this that will close it over the next generation with homegrown talent.
Source: Ken Nisbet, executive director of University of Michigan Office of Tech Transfer
Writer: Jon Zemke