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Our Blog

6.20.12 Missiontown: Reigniting Detroit’s Entrepreneurial Culture

 

Leslie Lynn Smith

A blog by TechTown President and CEO Leslie Smith

Someone recently asked, what’s in a name? I don’t know the answer. I spend my time focused on the needs and opportunities that exist within the context of the TechTown mission but accept the advice to consider a change.

Founded in 2000, TechTown was poised and prepared to serve in 2009 when the New Economy Initiative (NEI) and Kauffman Foundation proposed a bold, novel programming concept in hopes of returning the city of Detroit to its storied roots in innovation and restoring economic vibrancy. ReadyTown.

In the midst of great economic stress and fueled by the spirit of entrepreneurship, NEI and Kauffman, without the benefit of hindsight, showed leadership, courage and commitment by making an unprecedented investment in the city of Detroit. BoldTown.

Then, taking straight from the pages of the Steve Jobs How To Manual, and without the luxury of years and years of planning, the TechTown team began tackling a monumental task: to shift the culture of Detroit back to one of innovation and entrepreneurialism. No time for detailed program design, output analysis, admission criteria or graduation standards. No time for best practice analysis. No benchmarking, two-year study or business plan modeling. The need was dire. A response was needed. ActionTown.

So, FastTrack to the Future was launched and in the three initial training conferences, 1,500 Detroiters received information and access to entrepreneurial training programs; 67 percent of the people trained in 2009 were unemployed for all or part of that year. At the end of their FastTrack training, half of them started new businesses. EngageTown.

The processes weren’t perfect. Mistakes were made, clients were frustrated and the enterprise pivoted – and continues to do so. Not frivolously, or haphazardly, but as needed to meet the evolving needs of the city it serves. PivotTown.

And we’re proud of it.

TechTown has made itself a place where people with bold ideas make their start. Since 2009, 8,000 people have been exposed to entrepreneurship through TechTown’s networking events, workshops and incubation programs. Stem cell scientists and microenterprise entrepreneurs alike have found the guidance and resources they need to realize their dreams at TechTown.

We are a diverse community of entrepreneurs, launching a portfolio of startups to fill the economic gaps within our city. Each of these startups, regardless of industry, is enriching the region through their commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship. StartUpTown.

We celebrate our successes and failures, because through each of them, we grow. We become better partners, highly focused on outcomes and impact. We don’t have the option to do anything else. Our city needs us and we stand ready to serve. MissionTown.

So, shall we consider that name change? Perhaps we just did.