Report: MI Graduates Starting Companies at Double the National Average

5/30/13Follow @XconomyDET

The University Research Corridor (URC), a partnership launched in 2006 by Michigan’s three major research universities, released a report today at the Mackinac Policy Conference detailing a sharp increase in entrepreneurial activity among its graduates.

According to the report, alumni from the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and Wayne State University are starting their own companies at double the national average rate of all college graduates since 1996. The report also found that, over the past five years, URC alumni were more successful than the average U.S. business owner at keeping their startups alive.

The report relied on survey responses from over 40,000 of the three universities’ 1.2 million living alumni. The report was prepared by East Lansing, MI-based Anderson Economic Group.

Jeff Mason, executive director of the URC, calls the findings a pleasant surprise. “That URC alumni were twice as likely to start companies—that really did surprise us,” he says. “We saw how extensive and deep entrepreneurship is in the three schools’ alumni.”

The URC has released a report every year since 2007, and past topics have highlighted various business sectors in Michigan like renewable energy or advanced manufacturing, but this was the first report to touch on entrepreneurs across all sectors of the economy. Mason says the reason the URC chose to highlight entrepreneurship this year is because it was such a hot topic of conversation. “There was a lot of emphasis and dialog around entrepreneurship in Michigan,” Mason adds. “It seemed like the right time.”

A lot of state and university resources have gone toward propping up Michigan’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, especially as it intersects with the three major research universities in the URC.  From business incubators to master’s degree programs to investment funds, the three universities now offer more than 40 programs to bolster startups.

The report had another somewhat unexpected finding: About half of the companies started by URC alumni are based in Michigan, which helps contradict the accepted narrative that most of the top talent coming out of Michigan universities flees for the coasts right after graduation. “Some alumni move around the nation and globe, but we have a healthy number here, which helps Michigan’s economic prosperity.”

Mason also pointed out that URC alumni are starting companies earlier in their post-collegiate careers than other graduates. He credits the entrepreneurial programs and curriculum at MSU, U-M, and WSU for that statistic.

So, how do the three Michigan universities stack up against the nation’s powerhouse research universities such as MIT, Harvard, or Stanford? “We want to stack up well against ourselves in three to five years,” Mason points out. “It’s hard to compare apples to apples. We’re just drawing attention to what the students coming out of our institutions are doing, and we want to see a continuation of that momentum.”

Sarah Schmid is the editor of Xconomy Detroit. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET

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  • http://www.growdetroit.com Alex Southern

    A great example of this can be seen at MPowered, the U-M student led entrepreneurship org. An impressive group for certain!