U-M Launches New Accelerator Open to All Michigan Startups

8/20/14Follow @XconomyDET

The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and College of Engineering have teamed up to launch the Desai Family Accelerator, which will help support early-stage ventures with mentorship and financial resources. Plus, there’s a twist: Despite being backed by U-M, the accelerator is open to any Michigan startup.

“They don’t have to have a University of Michigan connection,” says Kelly LaPierre, the accelerator’s managing director. “The teams just have to be willing to locate in Ann Arbor for the three- or four-month session.”

The Desai Family Accelerator will be managed by the Ross School’s Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies and the College of Engineering’s Center for Entrepreneurship. LaPierre expects the accelerator to host five to 10 startups per session, though the first session’s starting date has not yet been scheduled.

LaPierre also says the accelerator will help startups during that key phase between early development and the point where they’re ready for external investment. The accelerator’s programming will build on the existing entrepreneurial coursework and programs at the university and will include many opportunities for “action-based learning” through business plan competitions, seminars, and the Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization program. The accelerator tenants will also have access to office space at Pillar Technology in downtown Ann Arbor.

“[The accelerator] is a cool opportunity for startups to fit within the existing entrepreneurial ecosystem in Ann Arbor,” LaPierre adds.

LaPierre says there are still a lot of specifics to be worked out, like the amount of investment the accelerator will offer to its startups in exchange for a slice of equity; how much equity also needs to be determined. She also emphasizes that the accelerator doesn’t plan to focus on a specific kind of startup.

“We’re industry agnostic,” LaPierre says of the accelerator’s focus. “We’re interested in startups that can make significant progress in three to four months and be investment-ready.”

For LaPierre, managing an accelerator is nothing new. The Michigan native and U-M alum previously worked for TechStars Boston, as well as Bizdom and Grand Circus in Detroit.

The Desai Family Accelerator is funded by the Desai Sethi Family Foundation and the Davidson Foundation. Bharat Desai, who graduated from the Ross School in 1981 and founded the technology services company Syntel, said in a press release that his family’s desire to fund the accelerator is a “very personal cause for me since I have first-hand experience navigating the challenging journey from student to entrepreneur.”

For more information about the accelerator application process, contact klapierre@umich.edu.

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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