by Ned Staebler
It’s been a busy two months since I became CEO of TechTown, succeeding the indomitable Leslie Lynn Smith. And in this time, there is one refrain I have heard more than any other:
“Are you crazy?”
Not because this isn’t a great gig, mind you. But because it is a demanding position, as leading any forward-thinking enterprise is. And because I already have a demanding position leading another forward-thinking enterprise, the Office of Economic Development at Wayne State University.
But no one knows better than the folks at TechTown that the craziest ideas are often the best ones. Think about it: here are two organizations, always closely allied, both filled with talented people working to strengthen Detroit’s economy through entrepreneurship, small business support, research and technology partnerships, and neighborhood economic development. Separately, our programs are making a mark regionally and in neighborhoods across Detroit. We’re both major economic drivers in Midtown—Wayne State with $2.5 billion in economic impact each year; TechTown, which has helped companies raise over $107.26 million in capital and contributed 1,190 jobs to the local economy. And, we’re both helping local businesses grow and thrive, community organizations drive progress, and entrepreneurs turn ideas into ventures.
But what might be the impact when we more closely align, say, TechTown’s SWOT Cities and Wayne State’s Detroit Revitalization Fellows? Incubation and acceleration at TechTown with Wayne State’s Front Door for Business Engagement? DTX Launch Detroit and Blackstone LaunchPad?
Wayne State and TechTown have always worked closely together. And the university has supported TechTown since founding it, in partnership with General Motors and Henry Ford Health System, more than a decade ago. But now it’s time to take stock of our complementary efforts and sharpen the focus. We’re moving out of incubation mode and into full-blown launch. Sound crazy? I don’t think so. I call that good common sense. And I’m excited as heck to get going.