Guest column: An Incomplete History of Greater Ann Arbor’s Innovation Community

January 21, 2020

MLive October, 2019

As President of Bank of Ann Arbor’s Technology Industry Group (BOAA TIG), I’ve had a front row seat for nearly two decades to the accelerated growth of Michigan’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. More specifically, I’ve seen the development of Ann Arbor’s technology, life sciences and venture capital community into a nationally recognized center for innovation. During the 2000s, while the state of Michigan was still grappling with the fall-out of its dominant industry—automotive—falling into recession, Ann Arbor was leading a recovery through diversification and entrepreneurship. There were many contributing factors, importantly including a renewed sense of purpose at the University of Michigan in playing a leadership role in the state’s economic future.

In 1999, the University of Michigan launched the Zell Lurie Institute (ZLI) and appointed Tom Kinnear as its Executive Director. When I returned to Ann Arbor in 2001 from California, ZLI was, I believe, the only entrepreneurial program at the university. Under Tom’s leadership, ZLI grew into a national leader in advancing the knowledge and practice of entrepreneurship and innovation through a broad range of activities, including academics, symposiums, competitions, and global community outreach. Tom has also been an active angel investor and mentor to many in the region’s innovation community, including myself. And I’d be remiss not to mention the Associate Director of ZLI and its Center for Venture Capital & Private Equity Finance, Mary Nickson, who deftly manages the annual MGCS and many other programs with enthusiasm and grace.

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