TRAVERSE CITY — Technology startup incubator 20Fathoms has received a $50,000 state grant to help fund a position that can provide additional support services in the tech entrepreneurial space.
The Michigan Strategic Fund board approved the Business Incubator Program grant at its meeting this morning. The six-month grant — which can be extended with additional funding — provides salary, expenses and travel funding for a “gateway representative” who is responsible for client services in locally designated SmartZones. The grant requires a 1-to-1 match.
“We thank the MEDC for this funding to support entrepreneurs and startups in Northern Lower Michigan. We’ve seen considerable growth in the number of technology-based startups in our region and through this funding we’ll be able to better connect founders to the valuable resources available in the State of Michigan including access to capital,” 20Fathoms Executive Director Eric Roberts said in an emailed statement.
State officials highlighted the need for funding to 20Fathoms and for a region with relatively sparse tech startup support. The incubator is the only Michigan Economic Development Corp. Business Accelerator Fund administrator in the northern Lower Peninsula, according to an MEDC memo on the grant.
Since 2009, the Michigan Strategic Fund has provided funding for business incubators to support tech-sector growth. The gatekeeper representative program was established in 2015 to support designated SmartZones across Michigan.
“The program was developed in response to the need for a key point of contact at the SmartZones experienced in working with high tech start-ups and with an understanding of the statewide high-tech entrepreneurial ecosystem,” according to the MEDC memo.
“20Fathoms, though not technically a true SmartZone, fulfills the only SmartZone like role in northern lower Michigan,” the memo adds.
Founded in 2018, 20Fathoms is a “critical organization” in the northern Lower Peninsula that provides business incubation, access to capital and a network of business leaders outside of a traditional SmartZone, or designated locations where tech companies and researchers share community assets. The nearest SmartZone from Traverse City is about 125 miles away.
Over the past four years, 20Fathoms has graduated six startups from its business incubator and provided 250 individuals with tech education.