Proven Leader

Proven Leader

Angel Gambino, an angel (yes) investor who recently returned to her native Detroit to build out an events/retail/startup space in the Corktown neighborhood, was an MTV executive and a founding Bebo executive before AOL Time Warner acquired the company for $847 million. During the 2012 Olympics in London, she served as a team liaison for the U.S. women’s soccer team, meaning she oversaw every aspect---including living at Olympic Village---of the team's participation in the global event.

Credit: Detroit Regional Chamber

Go With the Flow

Go With the Flow

Terry Cross, the founder of Windward Associates and a longtime Southeast Michigan angel investor, has sailed in 25 Mackinac Races on the Great Lakes: Twelve from Port Huron and 13 from Chicago. Windward, by the way, is a sailing term. “It means the direction from which the wind is blowing, which is exactly the position I want to be in to absorb the information flow of potential opportunity,” he says.

Credit: Damian Gadal

Preparing to Launch

Preparing to Launch

Jim Matheson is a partner at Boston-based Flagship Ventures, which opened an office in Ann Arbor last year. Previously, he was a Navy top gun pilot. Rather than Goose or Maverick, though, his call sign was Fuzzy. He's shown here circa Operation Desert Storm in the cockpit of an F-14.

Inside Joke

Inside Joke

The wife of Tangent Medical Technologies' CEO Jeff Williams names some of the rooms in their house after companies he has sold. For instance, Handylab is the name of the couple’s wine room.

Credit: J and R Photography

Starring Role

Starring Role

Leslie Smith, CEO of TechTown, played the lead in the Hartland Players' production of “Wit." The play is essentially a two-hour monologue about a woman diagnosed with cancer and her journey to death as related to the poetry of John Dunne. Of the experience, Smith says: “It was my first, only, and last time on stage.”

American Badass

American Badass

Dug Song, CEO of Duo Security, taught Kid Rock how to play roulette. “We drove from Los Angeles to Vegas together one summer, years before he was an international superstar, blasting Biz Markie raps the whole way,” he says. “He won big (well, for the cheap tables) betting on his son's birthday.” Check out the backstory, published in Grand Royal, the Beastie Boys' magazine, by his friend Ian Rogers. Dug Song: You, sir, are the real badass.

Credit: Linh Song

Soul Man

Soul Man

Chris Rizik, CEO and fund manager of the Renaissance Venture Fund, owns and operates the most popular soul music website in the world, Soul Tracks. Rizik, a Flint, MI, native who grew up in a musical family, says his appreciation of soul music began early. He counted the Four Tops, Donny Hathaway, and the Spinners as favorites. “The best concert I ever saw was in 1972 at [Flint's] Whiting Auditorium,” he says. “The Spinners opened up for the Temptations and just stole the show.”

Credit: Dig Detroit Downtown

Anything This Guy Can't Do?

Anything This Guy Can't Do?

Josh Linkner, the bestselling author who founded ePrize and now runs Detroit Venture Partners, studied music at the prestigious Berklee College of Music and is, to this day, a working jazz guitarist.

Wonder Twins

Wonder Twins

Martin Dober, vice president of Invest Detroit, has an identical twin brother, Matthew, who lives in California. They have the same personalized license plates reading: “1dertwn.” But, Dober notes, “His is a California plate, and mine is a much nicer looking Michigan plate.”

Bon Voyage

Bon Voyage

A great, great, great (12 or 13 greats, he thinks) grandfather of Hugo Braun, co-founder of North Coast Technology Investors of Midland and Ann Arbor, was the mayor of Plymouth, England, when the pilgrims left on the Mayflower.

Indiana Bigelow

Indiana Bigelow

Lauren Bigelow, CEO of Growth Capital Network in Ann Arbor, spent her time in the 1990s as a pre-historic archaeologist. “One of the most amazing things I excavated was at Hacinebi, a site north of the Turkish/Syrian border on the Euphrates River,” she says. “It was a beautifully carved, bone stamp seal from a level that carbon dated to the 4th millennium B.C.” Back then, writing hadn’t yet been developed, but there were rudimentary forms that signaled ownership. This seal would have been impressed onto wet clay to indicate who owned the contents of a bag or a jar.

When people ask me for a “fun fact” about my life, I usually tell them some version of the story of how a friend and I stalked Canadian film director Guy Maddin all the way to Winnipeg, an incident that wound up as a chapter in Maddin’s book.

I’m not the only one with amusing adventures to share, of course. Here at Xconomy we want to know all we can about the people who are working to rebuild metro Detroit’s economy, so we asked leaders in Southeast Michigan’s innovation community for their “fun facts” and strange-but-true tales. Click through the slideshow above to see who volunteered as a liaison to the U.S. women’s soccer team in the 2012 Olympics, who owns and operates the world’s most successful soul music website in their downtime, and who taught Kid Rock to play roulette in the back of a speeding car.

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

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