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Our Blog

12.3.13 An unusual retrospective: Looking back on what’s still to come

This is the time of year when, typically, we spend time looking back, simultaneously celebrating what we accomplished and bemoaning the things we did not. I recently read a provocative blog suggesting that, instead of creating an annual letter that looks back, we draft one that looks forward and paints a vision of what our next year’s annual letter may say. The writer suggested such a letter may help us make good decisions about how we spend our time by identifying the change we want to participate in during the coming year.

I like that idea. So, I’ve decided to give it a shot:

Wow, 2014 was an amazing year for TechTown and Detroit!

Detroit emerged from bankruptcy financially healthy and with a stable foundation to complete the reimagining of this great city. Mayor Duggan and the Detroit City Council worked in an unprecedented spirit of collaboration to create safe neighborhoods, quality transportation options and economic opportunities for Detroit citizens.

The M-1 Rail Project started as planned this spring and the enthusiasm around this crucial first step toward the development of a world-class urban transit system has been high. Philanthropic, private and public partners have come together to advance the project while minimizing disruption to small business owners, Detroit residents and visitors.

The TechTown Innovation District in Midtown celebrated the grand openings of its collaborative co-working space, Junction440, and the district living room, an outdoor gathering space where entrepreneurs, partners, residents and guests can explore new opportunities, exchange ideas and create deep and lasting connections.

The Wayne State University Multi-Disciplinary Research Building construction project has been going gangbusters all year and will open next year, adding another source of talent, energy and innovation to the district.

In our placemaking portfolio, Blocks, TechTown completed the onboarding of five additional neighborhoods to its SWOT City program, which develops and supports the execution of economic vibrancy visions in partnership with Detroit neighborhoods by incorporating acceleration strategies with community development activities and curating the appropriate resources into neighborhoods to eliminate roadblocks and expand opportunities. Additionally, TechTown’s Retail Boot Camp graduated 15 retailers whose doors opened in the city during the year.

Our technology-based programming, Labs, also saw extraordinary gains in its pipeline development and proof-of-concept activities, evaluating over 50 partner technologies for commercial potential. Our Labs Venture Accelerator graduated 20 companies and helped another 12 decide to abandon their ideas after having identified issues with the product, technology, market or team, saving critical resources for our clients. Eight team members from the failed concepts were moved onto other start-up teams.

The Detroit Technology Exchange (DTX), of which we’re a proud partner, expanded its programs by adding two new partners to the collaborative, increasing its footprint and capacity to support Detroit tech startups. The DTX program graduated 12 new student-run businesses, seated 6 new fellows in the network and deployed 6 additional entrepreneurs in residence across the platform to mine promising technologies.

All TechTown programs saw increased participation by women, African-Americans and Latinos as direct result of our commitment to offer more inclusive programming and adopt proven strategies to attract and engage with a broader, more diverse population of entrepreneurs and professionals who sit in service to small business support, economic development and the tech scene in Detroit.

All in all, 2014 was an amazing year, during which we built on the work of years past and expanded our work to serve even more people in this city we love so much. (Oh, I almost forgot! We’re so happy that the Detroit Police were able to identify and apprehend the arsonists responsible for the numerous fires at the Heidelberg Project. Art and expression are too important to the human experience, and we have an obligation to protect it from attack.)

Here’s to a fantastic 2015.