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Wednesday, 29 January 2014 22:18

MiQuest seeks to spur ‘culture of entrepreneurship’

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The combination of an Ann Arbor group that runs a statewide business plan competition for startups and a small business foundation seeks to create a greater entrepreneurial culture across Michigan.

Great Lakes Entrepreneur’s Quest merged with the Small Business Foundation of Michigan to form MiQuest, which has a mission to “Ignite, Unleash and Promote a Culture of Entrepreneurship.”

“We have a vision of seeing Michigan as the state for entrepreneurship,” MiQuest President Diane Durance said.

While leaders of the new group agree that the entrepreneurial climate in Michigan is on the upswing in recent years, much more needs to occur to better position and restore the state to the entrepreneurial status of the past.

MiQuest Chairman Yan Ness, the CEO of Ann Arbor-based Online Tech, cites statistics that show that 42 startup companies were formed in Michigan per 1,000 people in 1977. Today, that rate is 20 per 1,000 people, Ness said.

That decline is not unique to Michigan. Across the U.S., the startup rate went from 63 to 30 per 1,000 people during the same timeframe, Ness said.

“People talk about how entrepreneurial we are and all that stuff, when actually we’re not,” Ness said. “Looking at the data, it breeds a pretty healthy sense of dissatisfaction of the trend. We have to stop patting ourselves on the back about how great we’re doing the last four years and use that obvious data-driven fact and that dissatisfaction to drive for a future vision.”

GLEQ has been best known for an annual business plan competition that last year awarded nearly $1 million in capital to startup companies. The top prize in 2013 went to Grand Rapids-based Varsity News Network, which won $500,000.

GLEQ also matches participating startups with volunteer business coaches.

Merging with the Small Business Foundation of Michigan will enable GLEQ to expand programming to support second-stage businesses that are growing, and to venture into additional sectors. In its four years, GLEQ primarily focused on early-stage companies involved in the high-technology, life sciences, alternative energy and automotive industries.

MiQuest wants to work with “entrepreneurs in any industry that are innovative and ambitious in their business goals,” Durance said.

“We’re looking for those entrepreneurs that really want to be impactful in growing their businesses and creating jobs in Michigan,” she said.

Among the programs run by the Small Business Foundation of Michigan are an annual report on the state’s entrepreneurial climate that this year is scheduled to be issued in June and the Michigan Celebrates Small Business event in May that honors the list of “50 Companies to Watch” in the state.

Read 4501 times Last modified on Wednesday, 29 January 2014 22:24

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