University of Michigan Launches Desai Family Accelerator to Help Startups Move Forward

August 5, 2015

University of Michigan Launches Desai Family Accelerator to Help Startups Move Forward

Ann Arbor, Mich. – August 19, 2014 – The Desai Family Accelerator, a joint venture of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and the College of Engineering, announced its launch today. The Accelerator is dedicated to helping Michigan startups gain ground. It 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 Ross School’s Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies and the College of Engineering’s Center for Entrepreneurship. The addition of the Accelerator will expand on existing entrepreneurial programs and courses offered by both entrepreneurial programs that include a wide array of action-based learning opportunities and support, such as business plan competitions, grants, seminars and the Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization (M-TRAC) program.

“Support for entrepreneurship and education are core to the mission of the DS Foundation, and the Desai Family Accelerator brings these two elements together in perfect harmony,” said Bharat Desai, U-M Ross MBA (’81) and founder of Syntel, Inc., a global technology services company. “This is a very personal cause for me, since I have first-hand experience navigating the challenging journey from student to entrepreneur.”

“We look forward to seeing significant success stories emerging from this Accelerator, and believe this initiative will provide a boost to the local entrepreneurial ecosystem and encourage the establishment of new and innovative ventures in Michigan,” said Desai.

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.”

Former TechStars Associate to Lead Desai Family Accelerator
Kelly LaPierre has been named Managing Director of the Desai Family Accelerator, 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. To learn more, please contact LaPierre at

About the Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies
The Institute and its Center for Venture Capital and Private Equity Finance, at the University of Michigan Stephen M. Ross School of Business, bring together a potent mix of knowledge, experience and opportunities from the front lines of entrepreneurship and alternative investments. The student learning experience is further enhanced through internships, entrepreneurial clubs and events that serve to provide viable networks and engage the business community. The School’s three student-led investment funds, with over $7M under management, immerse students in the business assessment and investment process. Founding Board Members include Samuel Zell, Chairman of Equity Group Investments, and Eugene Applebaum, Founder of Arbor Drugs, Inc. For more information, visit the Institute at

About the Center for Entrepreneurship
The Center for Entrepreneurship (CFE), part of the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan, provides academic programs, commercialization training and broad support resources for students, faculty and community members. Among its many initiatives, CFE co-developed and co-teaches the undergraduate Program in Entrepreneurship, the Master of Entrepreneurship and the National Science Foundation I-Corps program for faculty research commercialization. CFE co-manages the TechArb student startup incubator and provides overall support to Michigan’s economic development efforts. Its teaching philosophy focuses on experiential learning with an emphasis on the development of an entrepreneurial mindset, with resources such as structured venture incubation programs, global access to both internal and external advisors, mentorship, talent and funding. CFE’s mission is to ensure support for entrepreneurs from discovery through venture creation, and to enhance and expand an appreciation for entrepreneurial thinking for its students. For more information, please visit

About the Stephen M. Ross School of Business
The Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan is a vibrant and distinctive learning community grounded in the principle that business can be an extraordinary vehicle for positive change in today’s dynamic global economy. At the Ross School of Business, our mission is to develop leaders who make a positive difference in the world. Through thought and action, members of the Ross community drive change and innovation that improves business and society. The Ross School is consistently ranked among the world’s leading business schools. Academic degree programs include the Full-time MBA, Part-time MBA (Evening and Weekend formats), Executive MBA, Global MBA, Master of Accounting, Master of Supply Chain Management, BBA, and PhD. In addition, the school delivers non-degree, open-enrollment and custom executive education programs targeting general management, leadership development, and strategic human resource management.