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Start Garden's Paul Moore addresses the LDFA board Friday morning Start Garden's Paul Moore addresses the LDFA board Friday morning PHOTO: Nick Manes

City approves Start Garden affiliate to administer GR SmartZone, deliver regional entrepreneurship services

BY Friday, March 25, 2016 01:40pm

GRAND RAPIDS — The plan to streamline the delivery of entrepreneurial support services in the West Michigan area has taken another step forward.

This morning, the board of the Local Development Finance Authority (LDFA) unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding between the City of Grand Rapids SmartZone Local Development Authority and a new nonprofit entity that will administer the tax incremental financing district.

The nonprofit — Grand Rapids-based SG Ecosystem Inc. — is an affiliate of $15 million venture capital fund Start Garden LLC and will allow the fund’s new nonprofit arm to provide entrepreneurial support services in the West Michigan region.

The one-year contract, worth $725,000, takes effect April 1, 2016.

While the new nonprofit entity — which is still in the process of being formed — shares a name and address with the existing VC fund, Start Garden COO Mike Morin said that the two entities will be completely separate.

“We’re leveraging the brand equity and the assets that have been created (by Start Garden), which of course the fund was instrumental in helping build,” Morin said. “This is just the next logical step.”

Morin will serve as CEO of the new Start Garden Ecosystem entity, which will “provide, market, accelerate, incubate and provide concierge services related to high technology entrepreneurship throughout the Authority District,” according to the of the new contract.

As MiBiz previously reported, the implementation of the contract makes for some significant changes for how entrepreneurial services will be delivered in West Michigan.

Previously, the LDFA had contracted with Grand Valley State University to administer many of the programs and organizations, which includes Emerge West Michigan and business incubator GR Current.

That contract was terminated this morning by vote of the LDFA board following its approval of the deal with the Start Garden-affiliated entity.

The termination of the GVSU contract allows for SG Ecosystem to implement its plans and goals, which Morin said are similar to what’s been in place but more focused on metrics and the market needs of entrepreneurs.

“This new entity kind of replaces the old Start Garden, the old Emerge, the old GR Current — but it’s really not the same as any of those,” Morin said. “We started investigating and those entities were focused on service delivery. We realized there really wasn’t an entity that was overarching the entire ecosystem and providing data, insight and communication. … I think a lot of this gets back to shifting things from a view of the ecosystem to the actual entrepreneurs that are functioning within the ecosystem.”

Read 3292 times Last modified on Friday, 25 March 2016 15:40
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