Randal Charlton Leaves TechTown to Run New Program for Older Entrepreneurs
Wayne State University’s business incubator TechTown announced today that current executive director Randal Charlton has stepped down to transition into a leadership position with BOOM! The New Economy, a new program supporting the Baby Boom generation’s reinvention as entrepreneurs. Leslie Smith, TechTown’s current general manager, will take over his position starting Nov. 1.
TechTown was established in 2000 when Wayne State, General Motors, and the Henry Ford Health System created a business and technology incubator, hoping to create an engine of economic growth both in Southeast Michigan and across the state. TechTown, which currently hosts about 250 companies, provides incubation and acceleration resources that include space for lease, coaching, mentoring, educational workshops, and access to talent and capital. Charlton, an Xconomist, has been TechTown’s executive director since 2007.
“In a sense, I’m not going anywhere,” Charlton says, noting that TechTown is a collaborator in the BOOM! program. “Every eight seconds, someone in the United States is turning 65. The issue is, are the baby boomers part of the probelm, or part of the solution? What we’re doing is developing a series of support systems for older adults who aren’t ready to retire…like myself.”
Charlton says the program will encourage baby boomers who want to be active in the nation’s economic recovery to get involved in three areas: establishing a startup, being a mentor, or becoming a “senior intern.”
“We’ve already started the senior intern program on a trial basis, and it’s worked quite well,” Charlton says. “It gives them hands-on experience working with members of Generation X and Generation Y, and their different approach to doing business.”
Also planned is an “encore” business plan competition where baby boomers will have the chance to reinvent themselves as entrepreneurs. Charlton points to data from the Kaufman Foundation that found more companies are being started by those over age 50 than those under 30.
“Above all, I want Detroit to lead the way toward reinvention for the rest of the country,” Charlton says. “The notion that all entrepreneurs are Mark Zuckerbergs is not entirely correct.”