Entrepreneurs, corporations, and those working in government and economic development gathered to talk about the future of Detroit earlier this year at the Detroit Policy Conference. Entrepreneurship as of late has been a large part of these important discussions.
Where do the entrepreneurs fit into the picture? From building up an urban farming industry, to growing small businesses and retail shops, and getting high-tech startups up to speed, there are plenty of entrepreneurs working to revitalize the city.
For the tech entrepreneur, in particular, there are quite a few advantages that can make starting up a company in Detroit easier than other tech hot spots. These advantages go beyond just the low cost of rent in the city. These four strategic advantages can help you get up and running faster. We all know the sooner your company is started, the sooner your company can grow.
Talent is re-tooling to fit tech jobs. It’s no surprise, with our auto manufacturing background, that Metro Detroit has one of the highest populations of STEM grads and STEM jobs in the nation. Check out the facts in Automation Alley’s recent industry report.
There's a movement now to help more and more Detroiters get into programming. New organizations are helping Detroiters learn to code, including the tech training institute Grand Circus, Sisters Code, Girl Develop It Detroit, and Apprend a new tech training company started by a local Detroiter.
Accelerators here are supporting tech startups. Detroit has a handful of great technology programs that help tech entrepreneurs get off the ground running. In Downtown Detroit, Bizdom’s accelerator helps entrepreneurs get seed funding and support. The accelerator is backed by billionaire Dan Gilbert, who founded and grew Quicken Loans to be one of the nation’s largest online mortgage lenders.
Recently, Techstars launched a mobility program in Detroit headed by venture capitalist Ted Serbinski. With Techstars success and mentorship network tapping into Detroit to help mobility startups, we can hope to see more entrepreneurs playing off our region's strengths.
Detroit is getting a high-speed fiber upgrade. Billionaire Dan Gilbert is also backing one of Detroit’s latest tech startups, Rocket Fiber. The startup is working on hooking up businesses in Downtown Detroit to gigabit Internet speeds. The company was started by a team of local entrepreneurs who, when informed that Google Fiber wasn’t planning a Detroit stop, took the initiative to create their own. Fiber services are estimated to hook up Detroit’s downtown residences and businesses to 1 gig speeds later this year. Faster Internet will surely help new tech innovations get going.
The City of Detroit and State of Michigan offer support to tech entrepreneurs. A huge infrastructure update like Rocket Fiber couldn’t happen so quickly without support of the city. Under Mayor Mike Duggan’s leadership, new programs have also been rolling out to help entrepreneurs, like the recent Motor City Match offering funding for real estate. The State of Michigan offers capital support through pre-seed funding when matched by private investments among other capital opportunities.
With a low cost for rent and infrastructure upgrades, it sure seems like Detroit’s new path out of bankruptcy might be a prime time for tech entrepreneurs.