University of Michigan Impacting State’s Entrepreneurial Environment

Shannon Beeman
March 14, 2012

The annual Michigan Growth Capital Symposium (MGCS) is the place where investors and emerging companies can receive everything they need to grow and strengthen the state’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Thomas C. Kinnear, Ph.D., executive director of the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, describes the MGCS as the largest and most established gathering of funders and companies looking for funders. “It created a market where they can meet, where pitches can be made, and where serious people with serious money can evaluate what’s happening. That doesn’t go on anywhere else in the state at that scale.”

Dr. Kinnear says bringing all the parties together in one place is quite powerful and results in the creation of real funding for real companies. Normally, it can take several meetings in many locations to achieve this type of success. So each year, the highly-anticipated MGCS generates a lot of excitement among VCs and entrepreneurs. “It’s the one event of the year that everybody comes to and everybody looks forward to, because they know it is where they will actually see great deals,” he said. “The companies that want money will get to talk to more funders in one place than they can find anywhere else.”

The ability to have a positive impact on the state’s entrepreneurial environment is a major reason why Zell Lurie Institute continues to put resources into the MGCS each year.  It also uses the symposium as an educational tool. “We think that one of our roles beyond the classic teaching of students is to be a stimulator, a catalyst in the entire entrepreneurial community in the state and beyond,” said Dr. Kinnear. “To us, this is extremely important for stimulating the entrepreneurial environment around here, which then feeds back into our programs.”

Dr. Kinnear has the unique ability to look at the MGCS from a variety of perspectives. In addition to leading the Zell Lurie Institute, he is on the investment committee of Arboretum Ventures and serves as chairman of the board for the Venture Michigan Fund. All are collaborators with the MGCS. He says the forum offers Arboretum Ventures, an early-stage VC firm, a chance to network with potential funding partners and interact with a broad spectrum of companies looking for investors. The Venture Michigan Fund, which invests in other venture funds, is able to work in partnership with the MGCS as it attempts to increase the amount of available investment capital and the number of venture funds in the state.