From Tech Town to Maker Faire, Detroit’s Entrepreneurship Culture is Growing

5/18/10Follow @@lesamitchell

In April 2009, the Kauffman Foundation formally engaged on the ground to support the New Economy Initiative, TechTown, and other efforts to re-energize the Detroit entrepreneurial ecosystem. More than 1,500 individuals have since attended Kauffman’s FastTrac to the Future one-day events, which have exposed them to the opportunities and challenges of entrepreneurship. Over 800 individuals have completed the Kauffman/FastTrac workshops that provide the learning curricula that equip aspiring and existing entrepreneurs with the information, skills, and tools to start and grow businesses. The next series of workshops in Detroit will launch next week, on May 25 and 26.

While everyone in Detroit has been working at a fever pitch to build out a new ecosystem for entrepreneurship, the refreshing response from entrepreneurs NOT located in the region who want to help has been inspiring and encouraging. At Tim O’Reilly‘s FOO Camp last summer, I led a session on recovery in Detroit. Since that time, we have been watching the planning for the first Maker Faire Detroit scheduled for July 31 – August 1, 2010 at the Henry Ford Museum. Maker Faire aims to bring together inventors, designers, and artists of all ages to share their skills in an inspiring and exciting public forum. Bob Buderi, Wade Roush, and Howard Lovy at Xconomy, and the national voice of Xconomists in this column, have begun to chime in with great advice and a strong show of support.

The experience of Detroit over the next five years will be important. Can entrepreneurs working in partnership with innovators big companies, and with the support of state and federal government, lead a city to recovery? What are the lessons from other cities or regions that today we would call a cluster? I, for one, am committed to bringing my own social network to Detroit, and I bet if many of you who read Xconomy show up on July 31 for Maker Faire we could all work together to show what entrepreneurs can actually accomplish.

[Editor's note: To help launch Xconomy Detroit, we've queried our network of Xconomists and other innovation leaders around the country for their list of the most important things that entrepreneurs and innovators in Michigan can do to reinvigorate their regional economy.]

Lesa Mitchell is the Vice President of Innovation and Networks at the Kauffman Foundation. Her work is focused on understanding the barriers to firm formation and growth in new fields and defining network models that will support firm startup and growth. Follow @@lesamitchell

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