MBA Student Gains Entrepreneurial Know-How to Start Supply-Chain Services Company

Shannon Beeman
June 14, 2016

Bill Crane, Evening MBA

Founder and CEO, IndustryStar Solutions

Bill Crane had the ambition but lacked the know-how to start his own company. “I’ve always had an entrepreneurial bug,” Crane explains, “but I knew I didn’t have the tools I needed to raise capital from investors and manage the financial side of a business. I chose the Ross School as the place to acquire those tools, in large part because of the wonderful entrepreneurial programs offered by the Zell Lurie Institute.” Crane says Ross’s practical, action-based curriculum fulfilled his need for a results-oriented MBA education. The Institute’s entrepreneurial-studies faculty and workshops helped him assess his 10 years of operations experience at large corporations and small start-ups and then scour the ideation landscape for an entrepreneurial venture that would allow him to apply his knowledge and skill set.

“Some of the start-ups where I had worked before entering Ross struggled with building supply-chain management organizations from scratch due to resource constraints and lack of experience,” Crane says. “After talking with people across various industries, I identified an opportunity to create a company that offers services and software for managing supply-chain systems to high-growth start-ups in the automotive, consumer-electronics and life-sciences sectors.” Crane decided to turn down an opportunity in venture capital and strike out on his own to launch IndustryStar Solutions in December 2013. The Zell Law And Entrepreneurship (ZEAL) program’s student-run Entrepreneurship Clinic at the U-M Law School provided him with pro bono assistance in drafting legal agreements and a utility patent on supply-chain software technology while demystifying complex terminology and filing requirements. Zell Lurie’s Dare to Dream program awarded IndustryStar Solutions a $1,500 grant to accelerate its development. TechArb offered Crane and his five full-time employees professional office space where they could meet with suppliers, prospective clients and interested investors. The company was cash-flow positive in its third month.

Since relocating to an office suite at Ann Arbor SPARK in early January, Crane has hired additional employees, recruited new customers in Canada and the United Kingdom and boosted the company’s revenue, which he projects will double this year. “The University as a whole did a great job of helping us build our company early on and then connecting us to outside resources as we grew,” he concludes.