What educational, entrepreneurial or business development programs, if any, have you taken advantage of?
Two of the founders were MBA/MS students at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business
and Erb Institute
. We have received support from Ann Arbor SPARK
, New Enterprise Forum
, Great Lakes Entrepreneur's Quest
and Michigan Economic Development Corp
.Who was your first customer and where did you find them?
We are currently awaiting our first paying customer, however, a pilot was performed at a Michigan poultry ranch (referred by a contact at MLSIC), and a demonstration plant is in operation at an Ohio landfill (referred by one of our advisors). Where did you find your first employee?
The team members were all graduate students at the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. The last two summers we had interns from MSU. Our first external hire was via word of mouth.Have you promoted an intern to employee status, and if so how many times have you done it?
Not yet.Where have you turned to find capital to grow your company and which institutions have provided it?
We've been funded by the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund
, the First Step Fund
, and private investors, and are currently working with regional venture capital firms as well as various angel investor groups for additional funding. We have recently been awarded an Small Business Innovation Research grant from the EPA.What are some of the advantages to doing business here?
There are many synergistic research centers nearby (U-M, MSU and others), as well as strategic technical partners (engineering firms, and suppliers to our industry). There is a good talent pool for our future needs. There are many entrepreneurial support organizations as noted before, along with some early stage funding sources.If you could change one thing about this region, what would it be?
Further expand the pool of early stage funding sources. While the state programs have been helpful to us, and there are a number of good venture firms in the area, compared to the environment on the coasts (e.g. Silicon Valley, Boston), the number and size of venture investors is still relatively small. By the time you filter out investors that are focused on other types of industries, for example biomedical or IT/software, as well as those interested in later stage investments, the remaining pool is small. Given that venture investors want to co-invest, and see investors with the resources to fund larger later rounds, it is a bit of a challenge.