New Michigan Incubator, NextWave, Helps Businesses Get Capital, Exposure

8/17/10

Nancy Skinner, CEO of NextWave Media Studios and part owner of the just-opened NextWave business space in Troy, MI, describes her new digs as a “different animal” from your average incubator.

It is more than just shared office space, she says. “If we deem that your company has good prospects, then we’re going to throw all of our resources into it,” Skinner says. “We’re going to help you with building a business plan, marketing, access to capital.”

Not only that, but NextWave gives its chosen companies “very aggressive growth objectives” within certain periods of time, she says. If they succeed, then they can advance and get bigger and better offices, and even a flag on the NextWave flagpole.

“It’s not a ‘Survivor’ ‘you’re off the island,’ but it’s not an indefinite ‘we’re going to support you forever’ kind of thing,” Skinner says.

It’s funny that Skinner mentions a reality show, because she’s producing one right now in her studios at the NextWave incubator, although she will not yet reveal what the show’s about. Skinner is a TV and radio personality in her own right, appearing regularly as an analyst on Fox News, and she had her own syndicated radio talk show out of Chicago for eight years. She beams with pride about her new studios at the NextWave incubator, which had its grand opening July 15 at 15 Mile Road and Stephenson Highway. They took over, and renovated, the first two floors of the DuPont building.

Skinner also took over an 88-seat auditorium and rebuilt it into a full high-def TV and audio studio that she calls a “Digitorium.” She does her almost-daily Fox News spots from there, but the main purpose is to give tenant companies the capability to produce live-streaming Web events, podcasts, viral videos, anything they need to help spread the word about their companies.

“So many companies, especially these high-tech geeky guys, think that they need to hire some big old Campbell-Ewald [a large, Warren, MI-based ad agency] and then have a huge multimillion-dollar campaign,” Skinner says. “But with the state of the art of technology, and with hungrier, more creative little teams like mine here, you don’t need to do that.

“We can sit down and help you figure out what your message is, how to develop content around it, how to deliver it to the audiences that you need.”

She’s currently working with DuPont Automotive on some humorous videos that she hopes will go viral.

NextWave’s main purpose is to house later-stage companies such as Silk Route Global, a $10 million company that develops supply chain software. Silk Route has 90 employees worldwide, with offices also in the United Kingdom and India.

The incubator is run by Jeff Sloan of Aria Equities, whom I profiled in Xconomy back in May.

NextWave is owned by the Troy-based VC firm Indus Capital, and its principal founder is Amjad Hussain, formerly the CIO of Handleman, a now-bankrupt music distributor. NextWave works with Wingspan Capital Partners in Birmingham, MI to help fund second-stage companies in the targeted industries of nanotechnology, alternative energy, IT, supply chain logistics, and media.

NextWave currently houses four early-stage companies and five later-stage companies. The goal is to house 14 companies. NextWave is also working on opening offices in the United Kingdom and in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. They’re not interested in opening incubators in places like New York or Singapore. They’re looking for more areas like Detroit, where there’s tons of talent, but underdeveloped business enterprises.

“We’re looking for good ideas. We’re looking for entrepreneurs. We’re looking to help people,” Skinner says. “A lot of people have good ideas. They just don’t do anything with it. We can help them with all the resources we have and all the combined experience.”

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