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Royal Oak, MI 48067

Ben Bator

Who was your first customer and where did you find them?
We don't have customers, we have users. Our first users/contributors were our friends. We found them in our inbox. Thankfully, they were okay with that.

Where did you find your first employee?
Lauren and I were friends since college, and we ran the site ourselves in the beginning. After the site became popular, we needed to focus on the business, so we hired my brother, Philip Bator, as our editor. He reads 5,000-7,000 texts every day and posts 30 of the best to textsfromlastnight.com.

Have you promoted an intern to employee status, and if so how many times have you done it?
We hired our developer, Todd Zusman, after he helped us with a side project. He did an amazing job, outpacing a team of developers we already had in place. It was an easy decision to make.

Where have you turned to find capital to grow your company and which institutions have provided it?
We have multiple revenue streams including advertising, entertainment deals and application sales.

What could local leaders do to help attract and retain more entrepreneurial young people to Metro Detroit?
It starts with connecting entrepreneurs so that we're not all moving in silence and isolation. This is especially important between the Ann Arbor and Detroit. Community enables serendipity, and events that allow us to meet and work together will allow great things to occur. Flexible/community workspaces are important, but I've seen promising collectives run into unnecessary hurdles. Finally, I think that earlier connections need to be made between universities and local startups. Students need internships, startups need motivated staff. It also serves as an example to students that interesting opportunities exist in Detroit, not just Chicago, NYC and elsewhere.

It's often said that Metro Detroit and Michigan need to reinvent their economies to be competitive. Are we making those changes, and if so are we making enough of them or doing it fast enough?
We're not. Too many people are taking their ideas and talents elsewhere. Even our former governor and her family are off to California. For entrepreneurs, we need to take action and implement our ideas instead of waiting around for something to happen. We have an opportunity to mold Detroit into what we need, a chance to answer the question "Why Detroit?" however we like, but we need to get moving to make it happen now.

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