MGCS: a Cornerstone of the ‘New Michigan’

Shannon Beeman
March 31, 2011

HandyLab, NanoBio, Accuri Cytometers – these are just a few of the successful startups that have risen through the muddy Michigan economy in the last decade. All were nurtured with venture capital support, and they are helping to form a bright outlook for emerging sectors in the state. “The venture capital and entrepreneurial industries in Michigan are actually thriving quite nicely, representing the new economy,” said Tom Kinnear, incoming Michigan Venture Capital Association vice-chairman and treasurer for 2011 and managing director of the Zell Lurie Institute at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. “It’s the creation of new kinds of industries in information technology, networking, biomaterials and sciences, and medical devices. It has been growing over the last few years, not shrinking like the rest of the economy. What you have is a small but growing cadre of the new Michigan. It’s pretty critical to its revival.”

Kinnear credits the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium (MGCS) for helping to generate VC interest over the last three decades, ramping up to the momentum evident today. The success of the MGCS, he says, lies in its partnerships. “The genesis of this goes back to Professor David Brophy and his Center for Venture Capital and Private Equity Finance, the Zell Lurie Institute, and the Michigan Venture Capital Association. It’s like a stool – the first leg is the Center for Venture Capital and the Zell Lurie Institute, and the others have joined in to make the stool much sturdier on all counts.”

Ron Reed, incoming Michigan Venture Capital Association chairman for 2011 and managing director of Seneca Partners, notes that the MGCS is a beacon for the state – acting as a magnet for the movers and shakers in Michigan and the Midwest, and a center of gravity for VC activity. “Nationally it’s a well-known event among all venture capitalists who spend any time thinking about Michigan,” he said. “If you’re an investor elsewhere and you’re thinking about tapping into the Michigan market, there isn’t a more efficient place to meet your peers and begin getting a sample of your deals than the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium. Whether you see the deal there or not, you’re going to meet the right syndicate for any future deals you might consider in Michigan or the Great Lakes region. It’s just one more brick in a foundation highlighting and celebrating this growth-stage activity in our local economy.”

Reed presented as an entrepreneur at the MGCS in the late 1990’s, and remembers the valuable counsel he received from VC’s at the event. His company went on to raise $17 million in venture capital. His involvement in the Symposium has steadily increased over time. “Certainly while I’ve been involved in the Michigan Venture Capital Association for the last five years, I believe we’ve held a board meeting at the Symposium every year,” he said.