Xconomy Opens in Detroit to Tell a Vital Story of Innovation and Economic Transformation

4/20/10Follow @bbuderi

Even as the Detroit Red Wings seek to battle back in their NHL playoff series against the Phoenix Coyotes, entrepreneurs and innovators in Michigan are working overtime to help the state meet an economic challenge far more imposing than the Coyotes are on ice. That’s how we see it here at Xconomy, and that’s why it is with special pleasure and excitement that we announce today that Xconomy is bringing its hyperlocal coverage of key innovation clusters to Michigan with the launch of Xconomy Detroit. The Motor City (with our coverage including much of the rest of Michigan and northern Ohio) is now the fourth region in Xconomy’s network, joining Boston, Seattle, and San Diego.

Regular readers of Xconomy will recognize right away that Detroit doesn’t outwardly have the hallmarks of the other innovation clusters we cover, all of which are leaders in key areas of information technology and life sciences, and boast vibrant venture capital and entrepreneurial cultures.

But the innovation story playing out in Michigan is just as important, and in fact, the stakes may be far higher. To compete globally and thrive far into the future, the American auto industry will need to continue to reinvent itself. At the same time, entrepreneurs and government leaders recognize that the region needs a much broader economic base. That has led to a profusion of investments in areas outside (or peripherally related to) the automotive industry, such as biotechnology, biofuels, batteries, medical devices, software, and homeland security.

In each of these areas, scores of creative businesspeople and entrepreneurs are waiting to tell their stories and share their insights. And because we believe in the power of innovation and entrepreneurship to transform regional economies, we want to be on the ground in Detroit to hear what they have to say and watch the progress of their incredibly important efforts.

We have a personal stake as well. Xconomy is in many ways a Michigan and Big Ten publication. Executive editor Rebecca Zacks and chief correspondent Wade Roush are both Michigan natives, as is our business development manager in San Diego, Michele Gerus, who graduated from Wayne State University. National biotech editor Luke Timmerman grew up near Platteville in southwestern Wisconsin and attended the University of Wisconsin (he’s pressing hard for a Wisconsin bureau); and Seattle editor Greg Huang was largely raised in Urbana, IL, and did his undergraduate work at the University of Illinois.

With three highly talented Michiganders on our team, all of whom have left the state, we recognize that we also embody part of the problem: the best and the brightest must be retained in greater numbers if Michigan is going to succeed in transforming its economy. But we think that by better telling the stories of entrepreneurs and innovators—be they at startups or automakers and other public companies, and be they stories of success or failure—we can help cultivate a culture of innovation that will help keep talent in the state. All this will be enhanced by our events, which are aimed at bringing people together to share and discuss what they have learned.

Leading our on-the-ground coverage in Michigan is Xconomy Detroit correspondent Howard Lovy, an experienced (and prize-winning) writer about science, technology, and innovation who in 2001 was part of the launch team at Small Times, a nanotechnology publication based in Ann Arbor, MI. Howard has also written for Wired News, Salon.com, The Wall Street Journal, The Detroit News, The Scientist, Michigan Messenger, and The Ann Arbor Chronicle, among other publications. We’re extremely happy to have him working with us, and I think you’ll see from his posts that he lives and breathes the ethos of Michigan.

But Howard will not be alone. He will be working closely with the whole editorial team, with Midwest expats Wade and Luke, in particular, focusing on Detroit in their roles as chief correspondent and national biotech editor, respectively.

In each of our cities, Xconomy’s outstanding editorial team is supported by a group of advisors we call Xconomists, whose ranks include some of the world’s leading innovators. We are extremely pleased to launch Xconomy Detroit with a great and fast-growing body of Detroit Xconomists (listed here) who include David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research; angel investor Terry Cross, a founding member of the Michigan Venture Capital Association; University of Michigan dean of engineering David Munson Jr.; Roger Newton, founder of Esperion and former SVP for Pfizer Global R&D; Gilbert Omenn, director of the University of Michigan’s Center for Computational Medicine and Biology and former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; and entrepreneur Ann Marie Sastry, CEO of battery maker Sakti3.

We are also incredibly fortunate to have the support of some forward-looking underwriters and partners in Michigan. First and foremost is the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, whose vision and support really made Xconomy Detroit possible. And right alongside the Kauffman Foundation are a group of others who believe in what we are doing and see how important better coverage of the Detroit innovation scene is: the law firm Dykema, the Science & Technology Directorate of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, DTE Energy Ventures, Flagship Ventures, RPM Ventures, MichBio, TechTown, and the Bank of Ann Arbor. Thank you to one and all.

We are extremely excited to come to Detroit, and we’re proud to join the local innovation community, which has embraced us incredibly warmly over the last several months, as we worked to get Xconomy Detroit off the ground. We really hope you like what Xconomy is doing, and look forward to hearing how you think we can do it even better at editors@xconomy.com.

Bob is Xconomy's founder and editor in chief. You can e-mail him at bbuderi@xconomy.com, call him at 617.500.5926. Follow @bbuderi

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  • Michael Gaiss

    It’s a big day for Detroit/Southeastern Michigan innovation economy with the arrival of Xconomy. It would have been easy for Xconomy to expand into another tech-centric city like Austin, Boulder or Atlanta. Hats off to the team there for making a BOLD move; one that has the opportunity to have both real and lasting impact on the direction of the region. As a native of southeastern Michigan (25 years removed), in terms of contributing to the long-term outlook for the area, kudos that they went with the higher risk, higher reward option here.

    Also, while I expect Detroit will have its moment in the sun here, recognize that building a truly vibrant innovation economy will take years of hard work. It’s a process (related article at http://www.hcp.com/PRW_EntrepreneurialSuccess) that will rely on the establishment of sustainable foundations of innovative ideas, experienced entrepreneurs, sources of capital, company-building ecosystem. Buckle down for the long-haul and stay committed. Hopefully in 5-10 years the community will look back and see today as one of those early seminal steps that helped set the course for a new direction.

    Finally some unsolicited advice for Detroit – don’t go at it alone. The region has exported talent to both coasts and beyond. Maybe more so that any other state in the country. Figure out a creative way to tap that network and company/industry-building expertise to give back to the region. Find those ex-pats that have founded or run successful entrepreneurial companies, are potential sources of angel or institutional capital, have extensive experience working with start-ups (directly or from a service provider standpoint) or have been in the middle of contributing/enhancing other vibrant ecosystems. Make them part of the solution. Nail this and you’ll shave years off the renaissance that we all so much hope to see.

  • http://www.dailygrommet.com Jules Pieri

    Wow…I knew you guys were on the verge of opening another Xconomy beat, but I never dreamed it would be in my own home town. I already enjoy checking in with your stories about San Diego and Seattle, while living in Boston. But DETROIT…I will really want to stay close to your coverage there.

    I echo Michael’s thoughts and congratulations on your being independent and unconventional in this choice. And…I think it will prove to be very smart. People who grow up in places that make things are natural innovators, hackers, and creators. I think Detroit will surprise us all, like Pittsburgh. I hear the hacker labs and spaces in Detroit are more dense than anywhere else in the country. I am not surprised. Well done Xconomy!

  • Lesa Mitchell

    Great advice from all. Detroit is working hard to collaborate with both coasts. Our friends from the valley are helping out by hosting a Maker Faire in Detroit on July 31. We are finding all sorts of former Michigan people on the coasts that have offered to help and we want to take advantage of it at every turn. One of Bob’s team grew up in Detroit thus the initial connection. Thanks to Xconomy for making this bold move.

  • http://www.dailygrommet.com Jules Pieri

    Lesa,

    Can you get in touch with me about the Maker Faire? I have a collaboration idea. jules @ dailygrommet.com

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