TechTown Detroit receives $400,000 grant from the US Economic Development Administration to build a pool of angel investors for founders of color and women

Grant to be used to recruit and train 200 high-net individuals 

underrepresented in angel investor community

Sept. 30, 2021

DETROIT – Today, the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship is awarding TechTown Detroit a grant of $400,000 to unlock angel capital and diversify angel investing throughout Michigan and the Great Lakes region. The grant is part of the Build to Scale Program, which aims to accelerate technology entrepreneurship by increasing inclusive access to business support and startup capital.

“The Build to Scale Program strengthens entrepreneurial ecosystems across the country that are essential in the Biden Administration’s efforts to build back better,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo. “This work is critical in developing the innovation and entrepreneurship our country needs to build back better and increase American competitiveness on the global stage.”

This year’s Build to Scale Program has two components – the Capital Challenge and the Venture Challenge. TechTown Detroit’s award is part of the Capital Challenge, which seeks to support entrepreneurship and accelerate company growth in communities, regions or combinations of regions; Capital Challenge aims to increase access to capital in communities where risk capital is lacking or in short supply.

The EDA grant will allow TechTown Detroit, in partnership with the Angel Capital Association (ACA), VentureWell and Ann Arbor SPARK (AAS), to recruit and train 200 high-net-worth individuals from Michigan who are underrepresented in the angel investor community and activate their potential as investors with a goal of supporting 50 projects, totaling $34.7 million in early-stage capital.

“Expanding the pool of angel investors to include more people who intrinsically understand the experience of founders of color and women is critical to unlocking more high risk capital and creating a more robust innovation ecosystem,” said Ned Staebler, president and CEO of TechTown Detroit.

All of the recruits will complete the ACA’s Angel University Angel Investing Basics program and be encouraged to continue learning and deepening their engagement, network and experience in angel investing.

“The Angel Capital Association is pleased to be part of the winning team that will deploy smart practices to build and maintain a thriving startup ecosystem,” said Patrick Gouhin, CEO of Angel Capital Association. “As part of the grant, we are excited to deliver the world class education that investors and ecosystem builders will need based upon the ACA Angel University curriculum that has been curated by the world’s best angel investing practitioners.”

TechTown Capital Strategist Dawn Batts added, “This project will boost metro Detroit’s innovation-driven economic development by increasing diversity in Michigan and the Great Lakes region’s angel investing community. By activating more angel investors who identify as people of color and women, this project will unlock more capital in the community and increase the number of diverse perspectives in investment decision-making roles.”

TechTown, ACA, VentureWell and AAS will work together to resolve recurring gaps in funding for Michigan’s early-stage science and technology ecosystem. This grant will allow Michigan and the Great Lakes region to serve as a living laboratory to prove that intentional interventions on the supply side of the capital equation can have a lasting and profound impact on the region, the entrepreneurs they serve and the economies in which they reside.

“VentureWell is committed to supporting the ecosystems and communities that are critical to the success of early-stage science and technology innovations, which includes supporting a diverse and robust angel investment community. By offering experiential training through our ASPIRE program as part of this project, we can strengthen innovation and entrepreneurship networks and provide opportunities for both new and established investors to work closely together to support startups,” said Christina Tamer, director at VentureWell.

“Ann Arbor SPARK started an initiative a few years ago to recruit more wealthy Michiganders to make investments in Michigan startups,” said Skip Simms, manager, Michigan Angel Community. “This grant will help us and the other partners expose opportunities to investors and continue the growth in the number of investors growing our economy.”

EDA’s Build to Scale Program presents grants to organizations that are aiding companies in developing the next generation of technologies. The federal program advances the growth of connected, innovation-centric economies that increase job growth, enable the workforce of tomorrow, enhance global competitiveness and foster global competitiveness through technology commercialization and entrepreneurship.


TechTown President & CEO Ned Staebler with Alejandra Y. Castillo, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development

TechTown President & CEO Ned Staebler gives a tour of TechTown to Alejandra Y. Castillo, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development