Jason Mendelson Returns to Detroit to Talk Startup Ecosystems

2/11/14Follow @XconomyDET

When Jason Mendelson delivered the keynote speech at the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium two years ago, he made it clear he was feeling bullish about Detroit’s future prospects.

Mendelson is a metro Detroit native and a University of Michigan alum who went on to co-found the Foundry Group, a highly successful venture fund based in Boulder, CO. He was also instrumental in launching TechStars, an elite startup accelerator. The Foundry Group makes investments in early-stage information technology, Internet, and software startups, and partly because of that, Mendelson has kept his eye on Michigan startups through the years.

He told the crowd at the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium that he came to Ann Arbor in 2005 as “a VC with a checkbook,” ready to invest in the local software space, but there wasn’t a single company he felt was promising enough to warrant cutting a check. On a return trip in 2009, he was pleased to discover the seeds of a genuine entrepreneurial ecosystem. Now, in 2014, that ecosystem has gotten exponentially stronger, and Mendelson will be in Detroit on March 17 to chat about how to sustain and nurture what we have growing here.

jason mendelson

To create a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem, Mendelson said, you need a creative class of people (especially on the technical side), strong universities spinning off people and ideas, financial capital, management talent, an engaged community with a real desire to see each other succeed, a supportive legal environment, a culture of risk-taking and respect for failure, and a history of success. The community must also be led by entrepreneurs, he stressed.

In 2012, Mendelson said it was “stunning” how much progress had already occurred in Michigan. What advice will he have for southeast Michigan’s startup scene two years later? Join us for what promises to be a lively discussion.

After Mendelson’s chat, a panel of local entrepreneurs—Brentt Baltimore, analyst at Detroit Venture Partners and co-founder of Tempro;  Carla Walker-Miller, president and CEO of Walker-Miller Energy Services; and Moses Lee, co-founder and CEO of Seelio—will join him onstage to continue the discussion. We hope to see you there; click here for details and ticket info.

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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