START GARDEN

ANNUAL REPORT 
2017

You know it when you feel it.

Possibility is the water everyone is swimming in. Status quo suggestions feel like a record needle scratching into an awkward silence.

Even the anxiety drenched hours where all glamour turns into feelings of inadequacy are still better than a day punching the clock.

Every once in a while, somebody says it out loud.

“This is the hardest thing 
 I’ve ever done. And, I don’t 
 think I’ll ever 
go back.”
BIRTHING THE 
NEW IS A GIFT

and an act of
 resistance

Never Underestimate the Power of the Status quo

When it comes to making this a great place to launch new and diverse businesses, our community is resource rich and impact poor.

Our failure is not a lack of intention, but the lack of real access to resources. Nor is it a failure to convene, but a failure to construct.

Thinking follows behavior. Behavior follows actions.

An airplane sitting still doesn’t take off by some outside force.

The Midwest 
isn’t what 
it used to be

“Through our travels, we have found that there are at least seven entities that help fuel the rise of startup ecosystems: local government, universities, investors, startup support organizations, corporations, local media and startups themselves. These groups use a variety of levers to help connect, convene, and support startups. These efforts, in turn, inspire an environment that is conducive to innovation and entrepreneurship.”

— Steve Case

Rise of the Rest 2018 Ecosystem Playbook

We must look 
at ourselves differently

1

Entrepreneurship lives and dies within an interconnected network of organizations, many of which we would not assume are critical to launching startups.

2


The environment rich for innovation and entrepreneurship in not a byproduct of startups, but is intentionally cultivated to serve and grow startups.

3
It is a combination of “levers” that need to be pulled across disparate entities to support a great ecosystem.

One community From 
many communities To Support a new generation of entrepreneurs

The System holding up entrepreneurship

Although these disparate entities exist within silos, each with their own rules and cultures, they all play a direct role in either accelerating or hindering entrepreneurs.

Each entity needs its own strategy that aligns with the greater community goal.

Each must answer the question, “In what unique way do we support entrepreneurship and innovation?”

ENTERPRISES

LOCAL MEDIA

STARTUPS &
TENT POLES

UNIVERSITIES

LOCAL
GOVERNMENT

PHILANTHROPY

INVESTORS

INCUBATORS

ACCELERATORS

COMMUNITY

BUILDERS

Multiple Strategies toward one goal

No one can be everything.

Everything can’t be centralized into
one place.

However, everything can move in the
same direction. Over time, what looks
like disconnected silos can be powered
by unifying principles, which define our
particular ecosystem.

Talk is Cheap
WE MUST 
BUILD THINGS

It starts with you

Start Garden’s own staff did not have the diversity or experience to work across a system that impacts all neighborhoods. By adopting a shared leadership model, where Darel Ross II & Jorge Gonzalez (former executive directors of LINC and West Michigan Hispanic Chamber), joined with Mike Morin & Paul Moore, Start Garden has 
a 360 degree view on local entrepreneurial development like no other organization.

the community is responsible to its future entrepreneurs

Never before has there been this much skin in the 
game from public, private, corporate and philanthropic sectors to support a next generation of startups. Start Garden’s funding sources touch every sector of our region. Which is essential because philanthropic dollars resource initiatives corporate dollars do not, public dollars resource efforts private dollars cannot.

IN LESS THAN 
 TWO YEARS, 
 WE’VE LAUNCHED PROJECTS 
 WITH THESE ORGANIZATIONS

We developed a pipeline 
of diverse talent to fuel our tech startups




Nationally, women & minorities continue to remain outside the tech industry.


At the global center for the tech & startup world, San Francisco, black and hispanic tech executives are below 5%, although they make up 21% of the city’s population.*

*Citylab, When it Comes to Tech, Racial Disparities are Far Worse than Gender Disparities

40 BOOTCAMP GRADS
22 WOMEN
10  PEOPLE OF COLOR
33 with college degree
20 over 30 years old
30% placed in jobs after 30 days
87% placed after 140 days

50 STUDENTS

attended coding
programs in Spanish

TWO NEIGHBORHOOD EVENTS WITH 500+ ATTENDEES
30 GRPS Students Visited
10  Area Tech Companies

We’re constructing 
the sandbox where innovation can play

The current wave of tech innovation embeds the intelligence into our physical spaces that we expect 
from our smartphones. Whereas one company can 
design and manufacture a smartphone, our homes, 
offices, transportation, and neighborhoods have
myriad stakeholders.

The cities that incubate these new technologies 
will be the communities with high trust, low friction relationships that accelerate collaboration.

Incubator @ 40 Pearl St

112 members
52 companies
47 events

LORA NETWORK COLLABORATORS

START GARDEN
ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES, CITY OF GR
MOBILE GR
ISERVE
OST
STEELCASE
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN

6
GATEWAYS

Open-Access Maker Space Study

144 stakeholders engaged 6 sites considered 4 financial models built 1 assessment for viability delivered

We’ve married startup
 innovations with 
enterprise engines

“The per capita GDP premium among American cities is greater than that of their European counter parts, and the dynamism of the U.S. economy comes from the wide swath of middleweight cities across the nation….”

— Bruce Katz, Jeremy Nowack; The New Localism

We say, “It’s not startup versus enterprise. It’s startup 
and enterprise.” Manufacturing companies are not tech companies. Tech companies are not manufacturers. They need each other. The strategic alliance between startup and enterprise is broadly recognized as essential to compete.

Innovation Teams of

Amway
Faurecia
Meijer
Priority Health
Spectrum
Steelcase

Hosted @ 40 Pearl

25 startups from
7 cities
5 countries

LEADERS FROM

Detroit
Ann Arbor
Lansing
Traverse City
Kalamazoo
Grand Rapids

Hosted @ SXSW 2017

5 panels
3 parties
1,400 visitors
24,500 livestream views
26 Outside Venture Capital funds introduced to the Ecosystem 28,396 Followers online (up from 22,075 in 2016)

LAUNCHING PLATFORMS
 TO STOP THINKING, AND START DOING ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Forbes ranks Grand Rapids 51 out of 52 worst cities for African Americans based on wealth creation & participation in entrepreneurship.

“If minorities started and owned businesses at the same rate as non-minorities do, the United States would have more than 1 million additional employer businesses and as much as an extra 9.5 million jobs in the economy, all else being equal.”

— The Kauffman Foundation
 State of Entrepreneurship 2017

Since taking 5X5 Night on the road

$80,000 grants given to
16 aspiring entrepreneurs
9 women
5 African-American
3 Hispanic

Startup Weekend 2017, in 48 hours

1 record broken for regional attendance
150 attendees
14 attempts to launch a startup

Convening ecosystem support organizations:

25 entrepreneur support organizations
12 workshops
2 system level maps
1 plan for 2018 collective impact project

The City is 
the Incubator

We use the phrase, “Powered by Start Garden” to mean two things.

First, the platforms and programs we operate internally.


More importantly, it means pulling together an entire system that no single entity can replace to collectively move toward one goal…


To make this place the best place to start a business and stay.

Annual Report 
Contributors

Paul Moore, Creative Direction & Layout
Maria Vandermolen, Concept & Photography
Joseph Ross Parks, Photography
Tricia Jackson, Photography
Digital Concrete, Website
Illustrations:
Ngadiuba Alina
Gayatri
Iconathon
Lil Squid
Thibault Geffroy AUX, Layout & Strategy Assistance

Ecosystem Sponsors

ADAC
Adamy Valuation Advisors Inc
Atomic Object
Axios HR
Bill & Karen Lawrence
Cascade Engineering
Chemical Bank
Craig Hall
Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.
Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce
Hines Corporation
The Iserv Company
Jandernoa Foundation
Jay Preston
Lake Michigan Credit Union
McGarry Bair
Meijer, Inc.
Open Systems Technology
PNC Bank
Spindance
Switch
Wege Foundation

Foundational Support

DeVos Family Foundations
Frey Foundation
Grand Rapids
SmartZonesm
W.K. Kellogg Foundation

Seamless 
Consortium

Amway
Faurecia
Meijer, Inc.
Priority Health
Spectrum Health
Steelcase Inc

5x5 Sponsors

ArtPrize
Bank of America
BDO
Farmhaus Cider
Fenn Valley Winery
Grand Valley State University
Huntington Bank
KnitIt
Michigan Economic Development Corporation
Muskegon Angels
New Holland Brewing
Rehmann
Spectrum Health
Varnum LLP
Haworth
Work Sighted