What educational, entrepreneurial or business development programs, if any, have you taken advantage of?
I'm involved in many of those programs, but as an advisor.Who was your first customer and where did you find them?
The first fund in which we invested was Ann Arbor's Arboretum Ventures.Where did you find your first employee?
We had worked together at Ardesta, my prior firm.Where have you turned to find capital to grow your company and which institutions have provided it?
While we ourselves are in the capital business, we can function because of the investments we received from major organizations such as DTE, CMS, AAA Michigan, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Huntington Bank and the Kellogg Foundation.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 are making these changes, but not fast enough. But the biggest change we need to make is in our mindset. The success of the automotive industry created two generations of employees, not entrepreneurs, and we have spent several years trying not to lose what we have rather than trying to create something new. The current situation we face has thankfully caused thousands to rethink their careers and has opened them up to greater, but somewhat riskier, opportunities. It is from these that there will be new success.
We will need to bring along those who are still in the old mindset and we will need to help train talented, motivated people to move in new directions where there is greater opportunity. We're already late to the party on this, so we have to push this at a good speed.What advice would you give to someone who was thinking about opening a business here?
I think someone starting a business here will find a greater receptivity than ever from both government and from the citizenry. This is a region that is hungry for new successes and that has a lot of talent available. There is also an increasing number of organizations and people who just want to help. My advice is to take advantage of the offers by those around you who want you to succeed and don't get discouraged if you run into walls. The most successful entrepreneurs I've seen here have "not taken no for an answer," and have been creative in finding alternate paths to success when their initial path didn't work.