This year the Midwest Growth Capital Symposium will observe the 40th anniversary of its launch in March 1980.
The 2020 event promises to surpass all expectations by featuring top-tier investment-industry leaders as speakers and panelists and by showcasing the best and brightest startups in Michigan and the Midwest.
“We are going to have two well-known keynote speakers and dozens of superior startup companies that will be presenting to investors,” says David Brophy, University of Michigan Professor of Finance, director of the U-M Center for Venture Capital and Private Equity Finance and founder of the MGCS. “Through the 15-year success of my Financing Technology Commercialization class in the Ross School of Business, we now have better access to more ready-for-market companies in Michigan and the Midwest.”
These high-potential, high-growth companies ― including numerous University of Michigan spinouts through the Office of Technology Transfer ― are commercializing research discoveries and new technologies in the life sciences, health care, advanced manufacturing and other sectors.
“These companies are thinking large and aiming high,” Brophy remarks. “We’re seeing investment coming from other parts of the country and from around the world. This has become Michigan’s global business financed by global investors.”
Over the past four decades, the Symposium has built a strong base of support and gained wide recognition by global investors and entrepreneurs alike as a place where deals get done and companies get funded.
“We always have offered connectivity to the market for our U-M Tech Transfer companies and have encouraged commercialization,” Brophy explains. “This is a critical part of the whole research equation. If you can’t get research discoveries to market and monetize technological innovations, you won’t generate the financial support to sustain research efforts at the University.”
The MGCS also has helped to ignite interest in several exciting initiatives in Southeast Michigan. These include the new $300 million U-M research and education center that will anchor 14-acre Detroit Center for Innovation and Wipro’s new Automotive Innovation Center, which will develop cutting-edge solutions that leverage artificial intelligence, analytics, Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT), cloud and crowd sourcing.
This groundswell of entrepreneurial and investment activity has not gone unnoticed.
Other Midwestern research universities are now sending their technology-transfer professionals to the MGCS and showcasing their research projects and startups. Western Michigan University and Michigan Technological University have joined Professor Brophy’s Financing Technology Commercialization program at Michigan Ross to work on real companies alongside their U-M counterparts.
Venture capitalists, private equity investors and serial entrepreneurs have been frequent guest speakers at the Symposium. And 40 serial entrepreneurs, including many from Ann Arbor’s New Enterprise Forum, serve as volunteer mentors in Brophy’s Financing Technology Commercialization course.
“The whole idea of building businesses and getting them funded has permeated the state of Michigan and expanded to neighboring states,” Brophy comments. “People are seeing what we’ve got and who we are. Michigan stands tall.”
Certainly, he concedes, there are challenges that must be addressed. Fundraising is one area where more work needs to be done.
“We haven’t convinced institutional investors in Michigan of the value of investing in local startups, either through deals syndicated by local venture capital funds or directly in the companies,” Brophy explains. “That is one thing that’s holding us back.”
Still, the success of the Midwest Growth Capital Symposium over the past 40 years has been impressive.
“We’re not there yet,” Brophy says. “So, we need investors and entrepreneurs to come to this event, share evidence of their success with our attendees, and keep the momentum going.”