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Mercury Fund

303 Detroit St
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Adrian Fortino on outside VCs investing in Michigan startups

Michigan’s business community has become more provincial in the last decade as fighting through a prolonged economic downturn has made doing business with locally based companies more important.

That's especially true in local startup circles where small businesses often brag about how they work with and rely on their local peers in the tech scene and investment community. That doesn’t mean investors from outside of Michigan are left on the outside looking in.

"It depends on how you do it," says Adrian Fortino, partner with Mercury Fund.

Mercury Fund is a venture capital firm specializing in early stage tech investments that is based in Houston. It has made a number of investments in Michigan-based startups over the years, including Deepfield and Swift Biosciences.

Fortino is an up-and-comer in Michigan’s venture capital community. He has worked at the First Step Fund and Detroit Innovate before becoming a partner at Mercury Fund late last year, helping to open its Michigan office in Ann Arbor. Fortino knew it was a good move because Mercury Fund had a long established presence in the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.

"I have known the guys at Mercury for years before I joined them," Fortino says. "Even though they were based in Houston they came up here all the time."

He points out that out-of-town VCs and angels who miss out on investment opportunities in Michigan can mainly chalk that up to not spending a lot of time in the Great Lakes State. Often those investors fly in for marquee events, like the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium in Ann Arbor or the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition in downtown Detroit.

Fortino says that locally based VCs, and those with offices here, have the edge because they are here living, working and networking with local entrepreneurs and leaders.

"It's based on relationships," Fortino says. "It's all about the relationships.'

And the number of those relationships has been steadily growing in Michigan over the last decade. The Great Lakes State's venture capital community has grown significantly in that time. Ann Arbor has recently been shown to have the greatest concentration of venture capital activity per capita in the U.S.

"We have extremely high-quality companies coming through Michigan," Fortino says. "There is a strong community of companies here. The talent pool is getting deeper every year."

- Written by Jon Zemke

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