More than 300 attend Michigan Growth Capital Symposium
When David J. Brophy organized the first Michigan Growth Capital Symposium, he anticipated the event would outgrow its usefulness in a year or two as venture capitalists and entrepreneurs flocked to the midwest.
That was 22 years ago, Brophy, director of the Business School Center for Venture Capital and Private Equity, told more than 300 venture capitalists and entrepreneurs who met at this year’s Michigan Growth Capital Symposium held June 11-12 at the Business School. The event is known as the “conference where deals get done.”
Organized this year by Ann Arbor’s IT Zone, the symposium is an opportunity for senior management teams from venture capital firms, investment banks and private investors with growth stage companies to develop partnerships and other beneficial relationships. Thirty companies from seven states presented their business plans.
The symposium featured such notables as Steven Lazarus, founder and managing director of Arch Ventures; Dixon Doll, managing general partner of DCM-Doll Capital Management; Dan Weinfurter, founder and past CEO of Parson Group; and Dan Loague, executive director of the National Association of Seed and Venture Funds, as keynote speakers.
Speaking as part of a panel discussion titled “Growing Midwest Businesses,” Rick Snyder, MBA ’79, CEO and founder of Ardesta LLC, said the midwest needs to leverage its resources, which include strong research universities in Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin and their technology transfer offices, as well as state-level organizations like the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Snyder used Kalamazoo as a role model for building a venture technology community from nothing.
“We’re rotten at marketing ourselves. It’s the old humble thing. We work really hard. We do good stuff. We just don’t like to tell anyone. It’s a really bad habit,” Snyder warned.
Teamwork is another area where midwesterners could improve. “In the midwest, we’re supposed to be nice, friendly people,” Snyder said, except when it comes to working together in teams. He cited fights between counties and communities competing for new industries. We’re competing in a national and international economy, and communities must work together to attract businesses to a state or region, Snyder said.
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Mary Jo Frank