Former serial entrepreneur and university lecturer (Stanford, Berkeley) Steve Blank spends a few days in Ann Arbor and assesses both our strengths and weaknesses.
His final summation: We are a community with only one hand clapping.Excerpt:
"Visiting Silicon Valley you can’t mistake that its primary business is innovation. In Ann Arbor and southeast Michigan entrepreneurship is a small part of a more diverse business culture. One of the characteristics of a cluster is that it isn’t hard to find other like-minded individuals. In Ann Arbor, they’re scattered in between the auto industry, biotech, hospital workers, etc. As a consequence Ann Arbor lacks the culture of risk-taking and respect for failure critical in an innovation cluster. You see it in the existing angel groups and VCs. They feel more like banks than risk capital. And that lack of tolerance for failure and comfort with the status quo gets fed back to the entrepreneurs. Getting a few experienced super-angels and/or VCs seeding 5-10 Lean Startup deals here a year, with a couple of Cleantech/energy deals as well, could kickstart the culture.Not My Problem
The interesting thing is that no one seems to own the problem. The University of Michigan tech transfer office has an incubator but 1) mixes software, hardware, med devices and life sciences deals in the same program, and 2) takes no ownership of figuring out how to get a risk capital ecosystem in place. Surprisingly, the same with the entrepreneurship center in the Business School. I would have thought they’d be leading the charge."
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