U-M Leaders Say Snyder Pick Good News for Startup Community, But Worry He’ll Be Held Up by Bureaucracy

11/10/10

Last week, Michigan voters elected political outsider Rick Snyder, whose resume more closely resembles that of a technology entrepreneur than a career politician, as the state’s next governor.

Before stepping into the political arena, Snyder served as president of computer giant Gateway, co-founded a venture capital firm called Avalon Investments, and was chairman of Ann Arbor SPARK, a business incubator.

As the self-proclaimed “tough nerd” prepares to take the reins of the state, leaders in the Ann Arbor startup community, which Snyder helped expand, say they’re excited to have someone in Lansing who understands their concerns. But some worry that despite his outsider perspective, he still might get bogged down in political bureaucracy.

Doug Neal, managing director for the University of Michigan’s Center for Entrepreneurship, which is housed in the College of Engineering, says although he doesn’t know what to expect from Snyder, he’s hopeful that the governor-elect will help foster an entrepreneurial spirit in the state.

“He seems very passionate about entrepreneurship and helping early-stage companies get going,” Neal says. “I think in general we’re optimistic that this will create a lot more focus and attention on the emerging opportunities.”

Neal says Snyder “really understands” that state funding opportunities for startup growth will have to be flexible, creative, and with limited restrictions. He added that he hopes Snyder will take the right steps to attract investors both in the state and around the country to help bring a variety of companies to the state, instead of just focusing on attracting one or two big ones.

Tom Kinnear, executive director of the Samuel Zell and Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies housed in U-M’s Ross School of Business, says he hopes Snyder will rid the state of complicated regulations and tax codes in order to incentivize businesses to move to or start in Michigan. He cited a bill currently pending in the state House and Senate—which he expects Snyder will support—that would give angel investors incentives to make risky investments in new companies as one way to foster the startup environment in the state.

“He’s not the mayor of Ann Arbor, so he’s going to take a pretty broad view of supporting all the centers of entrepreneurship in the state,” says Kinnear, who calls himself a friend of Snyder’s. “There’s a lot going on, and I think he will be very supportive of nurturing that.”

Indeed, U-M leaders recognize that Snyder will have to balance the concerns of … Next Page »

Jillian Berman is an intern for Xconomy Detroit. Follow @

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