Desai Family Accelerator Launches to Help Startups Move Forward

Shannon Beeman
August 19, 2014
Tom Frank, Kelly LaPierre, Steward Thornhil

Tom Frank, Kelly LaPierre, Stewart Thornhill

The Desai Family Accelerator, a joint venture of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and the College of Engineering, launched today. The Accelerator is dedicated to helping Michigan startups gain ground and will provide the physical infrastructure, financial resources and mentorship to support early-stage ventures as they reach the critical phase between early-stage development and the point at which they seek external investors. Funding and support for the Accelerator is being provided by the Desai Sethi (DS) Family Foundation and the Davidson Foundation.

The Desai Family Accelerator will be managed by the Zell Lurie Institute along with the College of Engineering’s Center for Entrepreneurship. Companies selected to participate in the Accelerator will have access to:

  • Mentoring from faculty and one of the most expansive alumni networks in the country
  • Office space at Pillar Technology in downtown Ann Arbor, Mich.
  • Investment with funding from the program to help advance their ventures
  • Staffing support by engaging entrepreneurial students via internships and other programs

“This Accelerator is a great example of two world class programs coming together,” said Tom Frank, Executive Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship. “Most successful startups have multidisciplinary backgrounds, so the joint work of the Center for Entrepreneurship and the Zell Lurie Institute for this Accelerator will offer a complete value proposition to the companies who are involved. Our goal is to create and support more ventures from Michigan-based teams.”

Stewart Thornhill, Executive Director of the Zell Lurie Institute, added, “Tom and I both saw tremendous potential for positive impact that an accelerator could have in a budding entrepreneurial hub like Michigan. We also see it as a valuable learning opportunity for students across the University. While there are a variety of incubators, very few of our peers offer this type of accelerator and we are excited to launch this program for the companies and students alike.”

Kelly LaPierre has been named Managing Director, where she will lead the execution and development of the program, including the establishment and management of investments, and the mentoring and counseling of the program’s early startup businesses. LaPierre will also work closely with the region’s business and campus communities to further these relationships.

LaPierre joins the Accelerator from Detroit-based Grand Circus (funded by Detroit Venture Partners), where she served as the Director of Marketing and Operations. Previously, she has worked with a variety of startup companies at the Boston-based investment fund TechStars and at the Detroit-based entrepreneurship accelerator Bizdom.

“Having grown up in Michigan, I always wanted to return to be a part of the economic development in the state,” said LaPierre. “I’ve seen the impact that an accelerator can have on the startup ecosystem, and as a U-M alumna, I am excited to replicate that in Ann Arbor. The Desai Family Accelerator will be a very unique addition to the resources that are available to startups in the area.”

In the coming weeks, information on the application process will be made available. It will be open to any Michigan-based startup, even if there is not a University affiliation.