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The SmartEnergy Fund

44 E Cross St
Ypsilanti, MI 48198

Graham Brown

What educational, entrepreneurial or business development programs, if any, have you taken advantage of?
The founders are students at the University of Michigan (Ross School of Business, School of Natural Resources & Environment, and School of Economics). We have worked with advisors from the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise and the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies.

Who was your first customer and where did you find them?
Although we are working with the Clean Energy Coalition to implement a pilot program, we don't currently have customers for The SmartEnergy Fund.

Where did you find your first employee?
Since we haven't incorporated yet, we have no official employees. Thanks to a grant from the Ford Motor Company Fund, we're hiring two program-development interns to work with the Clean Energy Coalition this summer. We expect to hire interns from one of the University of Michigan's graduate programs.

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 have received early-stage concept development support from the Ford Motor Company Fund (granted via the Erb Institute) and from the Michigan Clean Energy Prize competition. We will be hiring interns to develop a full fundraising plan for the summer.

What are some of the advantages to doing business here?
Although as a student and a non-native I can't really comment with any degree of experience, Michigan seems to have a very entrepreneurship-supportive business climate. From SmartEnergy's perspective, Michigan also has the right combination of smaller municipalities that are concerned with energy costs and may also be paying increased attention to their environmental footprint. Historically, Michigan's energy codes have not been among the nation's best - and combined with an older building stock, that's an opportunity for businesses working in energy efficiency.

What could local leaders do to help attract and retain more entrepreneurial young people to Metro Detroit?
Aggressively re-brand Metro Detroit as one of the nation's leading centers in clean-tech and sustainable business, and create incentives to match.

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