It's been called a start-up renaissance.
Detroit is increasingly flush with young companies, including a few gaining national notoriety, such as year-old Detroit Labs, of Super Bowl fame, and HiredMyWay, a two-year-old online recruiting service that's now expanding nationwide. What's more: Venture capital—once virtually nonexistent in Motor City—has set up shop, too. There are well-known firms, such as Detroit Venture Partners, which counts entrepreneurial celebrities Josh Linker and Dan Gilbert on its team, to smaller seed-stage firms, such as 313 Ventures. A patent office is even on its way in. In other words, it's a buzzing entrepreneurial ecosystem.
"What's really prompting a lot of this growth is our huge pool of talent here," says Jake Cohen, vice president of Detroit Venture Partners.
But where exactly is this talent coming from?
Detroit is far from being celebrated for its traditional education (a recent report found that nearly half of the adults in the city are functionally illiterate), but people knee-deep in this new economy will tell you that the foundation of Detroit's comeback is its growing entrepreneurial education system—a tapestry of universities, incubators, and competitions that foster growth and produce new talent in several industries.
"Over the past decade or so, we've built an incredibly efficient ecosystem to help entrepreneurs get off their feet. There's education and support for nearly every stage of a company," says Tina Bissell, business manager at the Michigan Initiative for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, which aims to foster entrepreneurship in public universities. "If we want this boom to continue, it boils down to making education a priority."
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