Fuel innovation in the news

Christianne Malone named to dual role with TechTown Detroit and Wayne State

The Wayne State University Office of Economic Development in Detroit and TechTown Detroit have named social architect and urbanist Christianne Malone to the dual role of assistant vice president for economic development and chief program officer. In her role, Malone will be responsible for the design, implementation, management, and continuous improvement of entrepreneurship programs for both the OED and TechTown. She will assist in advancing the overall economic development strategy for WSU and establish relationships with funders, community partners and external stakeholders. “Wayne State and TechTown gained a tremendous leader with the hire of Christianne Malone,” says Ned Staebler, vice president for economic development at Wayne State University and president and CEO of TechTown Detroit. “She’s not only an innovator in the economic development space, but she’s also a coalition builder, teacher, coach, and catalyzer who will bring her wide range of knowledge to benefit our entire community.’
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Gilbert philanthropy commits $10 million to grow startups in Detroit

In its latest philanthropic push in Detroit, the billionaire Gilbert family has committed $10 million over three years to help fund the ongoing activities of three organizations pushing to grow the area’s startup sector. The Gilbert Family Foundation formally launched Venture 313 on Thursday. The initiative aims to devote a variety of resources – financial and other forms, along with three partner organizations familiar to many in Detroit’s startup community – to provide Detroit-based founders with meaningful opportunities to participate in the innovation economy. As part of its involvement in the initiative, ID Ventures will source high-growth venture deals and invest between $25,000 and $250,000 using the SAFE note mechanism. TechTown, a longtime small business incubator in Detroit affiliated with Wayne State University, will invest in smaller businesses that are primarily looking to evolve from ideation to the creation of a minimum viable product. The incubator will provide grants ranging from $500 to $25,000, as well as ongoing support and coaching for entrepreneurs. “It is critical that we empower founders with the resources they need to turn a passion into a product, and continue to invest in their entrepreneurial journey,” said Ned Staebler, vice president for economic development at Wayne State University and president and CEO of TechTown. “The only way to achieve real and sustainable economic development is by investing on Main Street, and we are excited to join the Gilbert Family Foundation and Venture 313 to support the next generation of Detroit startups.”  
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Crain’s, Wayne State launch New World of Work professional development program

Experts in business management, organizational development and communications will facilitate a new professional development certification program designed to help mid-level managers navigate the changing workplace. Crain’s New World of Work will feature instructors from Wayne State University and guest speakers from the metro Detroit business community. The program includes 28 hours of instruction over eight weeks in a hybrid model. Participants who complete the program will receive a leadership certificate from Wayne State University. Crain’s New World of Work was designed in partnership with the university’s Executive and Professional Development team.  

Ned Staebler of TechTown and Wayne State University on challenges to equitable economic growth

The president and CEO of TechTown Detroit and vice president for economic development at Wayne State University, Ned Staebler, talks with host Jeff Sloan about the group’s pursuit of equitable growth, funding and access to opportunity for entrepreneurs. He shares success stories, but also explains the significant challenges to communities that have to occur to draw a talented workforce to Michigan.  
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Program aimed at spurring immigrant-founded startups launches at Wayne State

Wayne State University has officially launched a national effort aimed at bringing more immigrant startup founders to Southeast Michigan. The Detroit-based university said it has partnered with Global Detroit, part of the Massachusetts-based Global Entrepreneur-in-Residence (Global EIR) initiative, aimed at placing foreign-born startup founders at local universities to teach and mentor. The founders, in turn, become eligible for an H-1B visa, enabling them to launch and grow their companies in metro Detroit. As part of the launch at Wayne State, German immigrant and tech startup founder Simon Forster has been named as the first Global Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the university. “We’re excited to pair Wayne State’s leadership in advancing new technologies with Global EIR’s innovative approach to bringing and keeping international talent in Michigan,” said Lindsay Klee, Wayne State’s senior director of technology commercialization. “We’re equally excited to provide our students and faculty the opportunity to interact and learn from these global entrepreneurs.”  
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Product developed by Wayne State professor touted to be safer for marine life

After spending weeks and months in the water, the bottom of a boat can become a slimy mess, as algae and other marine organisms coat the hull. Biofouling, the accumulation of algae, barnacles and other marine organisms on underwater surfaces like the hulls of boats and ships, can slow down vessels and increase fuel consumption by as much as 40%, at a cost of $36 billion for the global shipping industry. It costs recreational boaters more in fuel, as well, because of the drag added to the boat. That’s why many boaters — recreational owners and commercial shippers — use a bottom paint containing an anti-foulant. More than 90% of current anti-foulants in the market rely on copper as a biocide, however. The heavy metal is designed to leach out of the paint while it is in the water, creating a toxic environment to deter wildlife from attaching to the hull, but it is also an endocrine disrupter that affects the life cycles of fish, according to Sheu-Jane Gallagher, one of the three co-founders and general manager of Repela Tech, a startup out of Wayne State University. A new technology developed in a lab at Wayne State University is being used in an attempt to change that, however. “Repela is all about sustainability, and what we are developing is a sustainable technology for boaters,” Gallagher said. Zhiqiang Cao, Ph.D., a professor of chemical engineering and materials science in Wayne State University’s College of Engineering, invented the underlying technology for the product and approached Gallagher and Edward Kim, the third co-founder of the company, about promoting and marketing marine applications for the technology.
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Techtown Detroit highlights their efforts to help during COVID-19 pandemic

In this 7 UpFront segment, Techtown Detroit helped keep small businesses and startups from folding during the pandemic. It has been a tough year, but the organization has become a lifeline in Detroit. TechTown President and CEO Ned Staebler, joined the discussion. "Obviously, you know it's been a horrible year medically and emotionally for the community, but our small businesses, which make up more than half of the jobs in metro Detroit and across the country, have really suffered as well. Estimates have shown that, maybe, 25 or 30 percent of small businesses nationally have closed over the last year," Staebler says. "We hopped right in in March of 2020, recognizing that the vast majority of our clients only had two weeks of cash on hand we were able, in the first days of the pandemic, to help over 700 businesses with cash grants totaling more than 1.2 million dollars to help those businesses, which collectively employed more than 2,300 people, stay in business."
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U.S. Department of Commerce invests $754,840 in Cares Act Recovery Assistance to support medical technology innovators in southeast Michigan

Last Thursday, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) awarded a $754,840 CARES Act Recovery Assistance grant to TechTown Detroit to support innovation and entrepreneurship in the region’s medical and manufacturing sectors. This EDA grant, to be matched with $249,900 in local investment, is expected to generate $5.5 million in private investment. “TechTown has been helping to build a more resilient and inclusive economy by leveraging this region’s unique assets for more than 17 years, and now we have a partner at the highest level to help us expand our impact,” said Ned Staebler, president and CEO of TechTown Detroit. “With this grant from the Economic Development Administration, we’ll engage 25 regional stakeholders including healthcare systems, local government entities, private investors, universities and economic development organizations to advance regional innovation in medical technology, creating good-paying jobs and helping SE Michigan build back better.” “This critical support from the Economic Development Administration signals a commitment at the highest level to Detroit’s innovation ecosystem,” said Wayne State University President and TechTown Chair M. Roy Wilson. “With it, TechTown will continue to be a leader in driving the region’s economic recovery through the COVID-19 crisis via its MedHealth cluster. Since 2015, MedHealth has played a critical role in convening, educating and connecting medical innovation stakeholders in the Detroit region, and we are thrilled to work with the EDA to expand programs that will further catalyze entrepreneurship and business growth in the region’s healthcare sector.”  
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30 in their thirties 2021

Kelly Kozlowski, COO of TechTown Detroit, has found her place in operations. After working as COO of Automation Alley in Troy and COO for the Downtown Detroit Partnership, Kozlowski moved into the same position with TechTown. “I love the work of a COO,” she says. “I love the work of someone who’s working very closely with a leader, in support of that leader, and in partnership with that leader.” TechTown is a nonprofit entrepreneurship hub that supports businesses in and around Detroit by offering funding, workspaces, and programming. According to Kozlowski, finding startup capital can be a big hurdle. Many people who start a business first attempt what’s referred to as a “friends and family round,” asking loved ones for funds. It’s a route that typically isn’t an option in communities where generational wealth is scarce. TechTown partners with Wayne State University, which has resources and networks that TechTown wouldn’t be able to curate alone. In turn, TechTown can quickly change programming when necessary. Kozlowski’s role is dual-purpose; she’s also assistant vice president of economic development for Wayne State. In this role, she guides the development and execution of the university’s economic impact strategy, serving as a bridge between TechTown, Wayne State, and the community.

Bringing the student startup dream to life at Wayne State

Armed with care packages, clothes and clinical supplies, medical students in Detroit are learning outside the classroom. They are putting their knowledge and boots to the pavement, providing free health care to the city's homeless. Each week, students under the supervision of a registered physician or nurse practitioner get on their bikes and look for those in need. Programs such as Michigan State University's Detroit Street Care, Wayne State University's Street Medicine Detroit and the University of Michigan's Wolverine Street Medicine work together to treat as many of the city's homeless as possible. Jedidiah Bell, a fourth-year med student at Wayne State University and president of Street Medicine Detroit, says seeing issues from lack of health care access in his home country of Zimbabwe made him want to participate. "When I moved to the states for university and medical school, I saw the similar things [lack of access] with the homeless population," said Bell. "When I saw street medicine, I appreciated the model of how can we take medical care to the street and build up trust to bridge the gap between the homeless and the medical world." While the programs provide a vital service to the community, Bell says the real-world experience teaches students things the classroom or clinic can't. "It teaches medical students to hone-in on, not just medical conditions of patients, but to be able to sit down and form relationships and discuss other things that might be contributing to [patients'] health but might not come up during a traditional medical encounter." Bell says there's a widespread belief that the "students take away more from people on the streets than they take away from us." Anneliese Petersen, a second-year medical student at Wayne State University and volunteer with Street Medicine Detroit, says the experience also shows upcoming medical professionals another side of health -- the social determinants. "Things that are not strictly medical-based but have a strong impact on health and well-being. Income, access to health care, access to medication, being able to eat well, sleep well, to be able to relax and not be under chronic stress."
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Michigan Mobility Institute begins crafting curriculum in partnership with Wayne State

Michigan Mobility Institute executive director Jessica Robinson says the process of creating a first-of-its-kind Master of Mobility degree is "well underway," thanks to the institute's new partnership with Wayne State University. The institute made headlines earlier this year when it announced its intention to create the high-level educational credential in mobility. Robinson says Wayne State's College of Engineering was an ideal inaugural educational partner to collaborate with in creating the coursework and formal structure for the degree. Wayne State's existing dual focus on both cutting-edge research work and connecting its grads to jobs in the field also is a plus. WSU professors are already working on classes that are applicable to next-generation mobility careers, which will form an important base upon which to build a regimen of highly specialized mobility coursework. Wayne State will provide the Michigan Mobility Institute's physical campus for the time being. Other space needs may arise with time, and if they do Robinson says the institute will work with WSU and other partners to create them.
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Detroit, U-M, MSU, and Wayne State Form Economic Analysis Partnership

The University of Michigan, Wayne State University and Michigan State University will partner to give economic data -- which will be used to evaluate local economic conditions and plan for an improvement in economic opportunities -- to Detroit through the City of Detroit University Economic Partnership. The project aims to accomplish three tasks: provide an economic forecast for Detroit each year; build an econometric forecasting model for Detroit's economy and the city's major tax revenues; and to develop local economic indicators, indices and reports. University of Michigan's Research Seminar in Quantitative Economics will lead the partnership, while Michigan State University will give revenue modeling and forecasting through its Center for Local Government Finance and Policy. Wayne State University's contribution will focus on providing data on housing and property tax modeling. Michigan State and Wayne State have previous experience creating economic analyses using local governments' internal data. Available data will also come from government agencies and initiatives including the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Internal Revenue Service and the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. "We'll combine the city's internal data with publicly available data to construct Detroit-specific estimates of building activity, measures of activity in residential and commercial real estate, total commerce and tourism activity," Allen Goodman, director of the master's program in economics at Wayne State, said in a press release.
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LinkedIn shows off its new space in Detroit's downtown

LinkedIn opened the doors of its new permanent regional home on Woodward to visitors Wednesday, among the latest businesses to locate in the downtown Detroit corridor. Officials and area professionals were on hand to celebrate with the professional network site's space at 1523 Woodward, a 75,000-square-foot office in the Albert Kahn-designed Sanders and Grinnell buildings. Keith Whitfield, provost of Wayne State University, said he’s excited to have LinkedIn expanding in Detroit. There’s so much to do, there’s so much capacity and so much opportunity,” he said. “We want to make the opportunities for people, the mobility for people in terms of jobs.” 
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Marijuana a sure thing for entrepreneurs?

Jeff Stoltman, a professor of marketing and entrepreneurship at Wayne State University's Mike Ilitch School of Business, said a lot of his students look at opening a marijuana business as a sure thing. Stoltman said he pushes his students who are interested in the pot business to dig deeper into market realities. "They’re looking at this tremendous explosive growth in the states where the cannabis business was liberated a little earlier and there is this ‘Why not here, why not me?’ They don’t dig too deep to find out who is really benefiting the most of those kind of operations and what was the path that they took and can they replicate that here.”
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Motor City Match winner Rebel Cycle Studio opens in Detroit

A 35-year-old Wayne State University writing instructor is offering more classes outside of her day job. Amy Latawiec invested $40,000 to launch Rebel Cycle Studio LLC in the Detroit City Fieldhouse in Detroit's lower east side. The new fitness center's mission is to "shatter perceptions of what healthy 'looks' like" by promoting a supportive, body-positive environment in cycling classes for beginners to experts. The indoor cycle studio won a $5,000 grant from Motor City Match in August to get the off the ground. Latawiec, a former triathlete who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2012, was inspired to open the studio as a graduate student at Wayne State University. She earned bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees from the Detroit college.
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WSU hosts DHack June 21-24

WSU hosted 600 attendees on campus for the newly rebranded DHack: Detroit's Hackathon. During DHack, college and high school students and the community came together to create tech projects in an overnight event culminating in cash and technology prizes for the winning projects. Formerly known as HackWSU, DHack transformed the second floor of the David Adamany Undergraduate Library into a hub of ideas and innovation as beginner, intermediate and expert hackers collaborating on software and hardware projects, including mobile apps, web applications, robotics, drones and more. .