March 31, 2022

Wayne State and Global Detroit partner to bring international startups to Michigan

Fuel innovation

First WSU Global EIR is a smart access spinoff from auto supplier Continental

Wayne State University and Global Detroit are partnering to help immigrant and international entrepreneurs launch high-growth startups in Southeast Michigan. Global Entrepreneur-in-Residence (Global EIR) places foreign-born startup founders at 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.

Simon Forster, a native of Regensburg, Germany, is Wayne State’s first Global EIR. The position will be housed in the Office of Business Innovation and Technology Commercialization, with support also coming from TechTown, Wayne State’s affiliated entrepreneurship hub. Forster is a co-founder of PassiveBolt, a B2B smart access technology company. PassiveBolt’s consumer product, Shepherd Lock, won the Consumer Technology Association’s CES 2020 and 2021 Innovation Awards for its touch-access keyless entry technology. The company recently participated in Endeavor Detroit’s inaugural ScaleUp, a selective mentorship program for exceptional leaders of future high-growth companies. Shepherd Lock was developed within Continental Automotive as part of the company’s Co-Pace Incubator in Munich. PassiveBolt spun off from Continental in 2018.

Over the last 25 years, immigrants have helped launch one-quarter of all the high-tech startups in the U.S. and approximately half of the startups in Silicon Valley. Of the 87 startups in the U.S. that had grown to valuations over $1 billion by 2019, more than half were launched by immigrants, including 21 by founders who originally came to the U.S. as international students. Obtaining a visa, however, is a major challenge facing international entrepreneurs who want to start a business in the United States.

Global EIR solves this problem by placing foreign-born startup founders in part-time university positions, drawing upon their skills and talents to support university centers of innovation, to teach and/or mentor. These university positions are eligible for an uncapped H-1B visa, enabling the EIRs to launch and grow their company in the U.S.

“We are 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.”

Global EIR was founded in Massachusetts, with programs at Babson College and the University of Massachusetts-Boston. Today a half dozen colleges and universities across the U.S. offer a Global EIR program. Global Detroit launched its Global EIR program in 2018 in partnership with the University of Michigan’s Economic Growth Institute, with funding from the William Davidson Foundation.

“Talent is the number one driver of strong economies,” said Ned Staebler, vice president for economic development at Wayne State and president and CEO of TechTown. “Attracting and keeping companies founded by international students and other global entrepreneurs makes great sense for our university, our city and region, and our state.”

Wayne State is the second Global EIR program in Michigan, launched with support from the William Davidson Foundation, the National League of Cities and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s Office. In its first three years of operation, Global Detroit’s Global EIR has supported seven founders from six companies. To date, the program’s participants have raised $15.6 million in venture capital and created 49 part-time and full-time jobs. Four of these founders have completed their Global EIR programs and all have received longer-term visas and are working full-time in their companies.

“Global EIR is a critical component of a forward-thinking, sustainable economic development strategy for Michigan,” said Ernestine Lyons, Global EIR program manager at Global Detroit. “From the Big Three in our past to companies like Duo Security and Logic Solutions today, businesses founded by immigrants and their children are vital to our state’s economic growth.”

For more information, visit


Wayne State is a premier urban research institution offering approximately 350 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to nearly 25,000 students.

Global Detroit is a regional economic development organization that develops and implements immigrant-inclusive policies, practices and programs to drive the revitalization of Detroit and the sustained prosperity of Southeast Michigan.


Kristin Palm
Phone: 313-618-2651
Kimberly Palter
Phone: (313) 483-1326

Subscribe to Today@Wayne

Direct to your inbox twice a week

Related articles