If you want to know the state of Detroit entrepreneurship, all you had to do was attend the 3rd Annual Detroit Demo Day at The Fillmore this past Friday. I had an opportunity to do so and was amazed.
Over $1,000,000 was awarded to entrepreneurs in the categories of Start-Up; Growth; and Scale. There is no need for me to write a summary of the winners; there are plenty of news articles in the Free Press, Detroit News, and Crain’s to give you that information. I want to focus on different aspects.
First, there are numerous restaurant and food businesses competing for dollars. This only reinforces recent articles about food entrepreneurship in the city. These food entrepreneurs need capital to build commercial kitchens so they can more efficiently produce and distribute their products, to meet the growing demand. I was surprised that these food entrepreneurs aren’t working together to collaborate on a large kitchen they could all share. They all seem to want their own space.
Next, the diversity in the crowd reinforced the melting pot status of Detroit. I could not count the number of nationalities and ethnicities there! Entrepreneurship knows no barriers when it comes to heritage and lineage.
Next, the entrepreneurial DNA is seeping into the blood of Detroiters of all ages. I saw Detroiters from ages 5 to 75, all interested in learning about the new businesses, pursuing their own entrepreneurial dream, and supporting colleagues in their entrepreneurial journey.
Perhaps the biggest benefit and most interesting aspect of this event was the opportunity to simply meet other people interested in the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Detroit. I had amazing conversations with people of all stripes about what they are doing, what they thought were the main obstacles to growth of the entrepreneurship and possible solutions, different entrepreneurial business ideas they had seen, and more.
The one area where I was disappointed was the lack of Tech and Health Care start-ups. Of more than 500 applicants, only 3 Tech/Health Care companies were finalists.
Too often Detroiters tend to punish ourselves for having a run-down city, that’s losing population, with stagnant growth, and simply not being like San Francisco, Boston, Austin, or other so-called entrepreneurial meccas. While start-ups may abound in these cities, most entrepreneurial growth is occurring in smaller cities, like Milwaukee, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Portland, Nashville, and others. And you can now add Detroit to this list. The one area where I was disappointed was the lack of Tech and Health Care start-ups. Of more than 500 applicants, only 3 Tech/Health Care companies were finalists.
It’s clear the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well. The Fillmore was filled to capacity, and the passion, emotion, and spirit, were palpable.
Next time there is an event in Detroit, I hope you’ll attend and support all the people who are putting their heart, passion, energy, not to mention in many cases, their life savings, on the line to pursue their dream.