TechTown 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.”  

Whitmer and regional Detroit coalition celebrate $52.2 million grant bringing more auto investment and jobs to southeast Michigan

Last Friday, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, the Detroit Regional Partnership, and a regional coalition of partners announced that they secured a $52.2 million advanced mobility grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge. The coalition was selected out of 60 finalists nationwide and won one of the largest grants out of 21 funded projects. It will advance the state’s mobility and electrification leadership and build on Michigan’s economic momentum. TechTown Detroit is one of the five co-recipients for the grant. “This grant will create and connect a robust, comprehensive startup ecosystem, fundamentally changing the game for early-stage companies in the mobility space in Detroit,” said Ned Staebler, vice president for economic development at Wayne State University and President and CEO of TechTown Detroit.    

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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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.
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Rick Haglund: Absence of viable regional transportation continues to hurt SE Michigan

Metro Detroit is regarded as having one of the worst public transit systems of any major metro area in the country. The region’s 4.2 million residents are mainly served by two unconnected and inadequate bus systems: DDOT in Detroit and SMART in the suburbs. There’s also the People Mover, an elevated train that rings downtown Detroit, and the QLine, a 3.3 mile-long streetcar that runs along Woodward Avenue from New Center to downtown Detroit. “It’s embarrassing and it really financially hurts us,” said Ned Staebler, vice president for economic development at Wayne State University in Detroit. Last year, voters across the country approved 47 out of 52 public transit proposals on local ballots, according to the American Public Transit Association. The biggest was in fast-growing Austin, Texas, where voters in November passed a $7.1 billion plan that will pay for new rail lines, a bus rapid transit (BRT) network, a downtown transit tunnel, e-bikes and more. An additional $300 million was approved to prevent transit-related real estate development from displacing low-income Austin residents from their homes. “They’re making investments in their future,” Staebler said about Austin’s ambitious transit plans. “If you don’t invest, you don’t succeed. We’re a case study of that.”