Association for Corporate Growth Heads for Capitol Hill to Raise the Visibility of Middle Market PE

In November, Amber Landis, who recently was named vice president of public policy at the Association for Corporate Growth, will relocate to Washington, D.C., to open ACG’s new office on Capitol Hill. Her move reflects the trade association’s growing commitment to promoting the middle-market business sector and the private equity industry that fuels its growth.

“My goal is to ensure that ACG’s middle-market voice is heard by legislators, lawmakers and regulators in Washington,” Landis explains. “Many people on Capitol Hill and outside the beltway do not understand the important role private equity plays in the U.S. economy by investing in, operating and growing middle-market companies, and how this contributes to business growth and job creation. To raise awareness of the work being done by ACG and its members who are active in private equity, I will devote considerable time in the nation’s capital to lobbying legislators directly, engaging regulators and educating decision makers.”

At this year’s Michigan Global Private Equity Conference, Landis will participate in an Oct. 9 public policy panel discussion focused on registration and regulatory compliance issues stemming from the passage of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act and more stringent Securities and Exchange Commission oversight, which have strongly impacted the PE industry during the past five years. “These changes have been challenging for the PE industry,” Landis says. “This new landscape has shifted private equity’s day-to-day attention to compliance issues versus helping middle-market portfolio companies grow.” Other proposals on Capitol Hill to reduce the favorable tax treatment of carried interest and to limit interest deductibility on corporate debt also will stimulate a lively debate among the public policy panelists.

ACG has recognized the need to inform and mobilize its members, who include middle-market PE professionals, investment bankers who help to fund PE deals and attorneys and advisors who facilitate PE transactions and other activities, according to Landis. “Our new PE regulatory task force will develop industry best practices related to co-investment, valuation and other matters and provide a platform where PE fund CFOs can connect and communicate with each other,” she says. “The task force also will outline key principles that we will share with legislators and regulators to increase their understanding of private equity and its positive impact.”

Register for the Private Equity Conference here:

Check out these other private equity events taking place on Thurs. Oct. 8: Ross Fireside Chat: PE consulting career panel and student meet & greet at the Ross School of Business (; and the Women Who Fund Forum, designed to connect women-owned business leaders with women in the venture capital and private equity industries (

‘Celebration of Entrepreneurship’ Attracts Michigan Students From Across the U-M Campus and Beyond

At the kickoff of this year’s Entrepalooza, Stewart Thornhill, executive director of the Zell Lurie Institute, described the annual event as “a celebration of entrepreneurship across campus.” Nearly 350 students from a variety of academic disciplines gathered for the Sept. 25 symposium at the Michigan League, which featured an insightful talk about the “confidence gap” among women by BBC broadcast journalist Katty Kay; personal insights from seven successful entrepreneurs, including Aaron Dworkin, who is now dean at the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance; and an “unconference.” Entrepalooza also attracted students from other universities, as well as representatives from co-sponsors, such as Ann Arbor SPARK.

Here are a few comments from this year’s attendees:

“The entrepreneurial ecosystem at U-M is very strong, and I want to be part of the innovation and new thinking on campus. I’m very interested in entrepreneurship and might want to start my own company after I finish college. The skills you learn as an entrepreneur can be applied to industry, as well.” – Joe Saginaw, BS ’19

“This is my first time at Entrepalooza, and I came to hear keynote speaker Katty Kay talk about the reasons why women lack confidence to project their ideas. I’m interested in health policy, and I want to be an innovator inside a large organization.” – Kristen Maurer, MPH ’16

“I liked the TED talk about GameStart, a company that is teaching computer programming to children. It prompted me to think about the way we interact with technology.” – Andrea Kopitz, LSA ’18

“I’m here to accept a Sam Zell Scholarship, which is awarded to students with a demonstrated interest in entrepreneurship. I was involved in starting Network Finance, a crowd-sourcing student loan company, and I’m on the student-led Social Venture Fund. I’m interested in combining an environmental impact with a social impact through renewable energy, and will probably go to work for a Clean Tech start-up after graduation.” – John Serron, MBA/MS ’16

“I have an interest in entrepreneurship and hope to be involved in the venture capital community. I’ve applied for a fellowship at Learn Capital, a California-based venture investment firm.” – Adam Levin, MBA ’17

“I’m a Zell Lurie Scholar and director of investments for the Social Venture Fund. Through the Dare to Dream grant program, I worked on the launch of Local Seeds, an online platform for community investing. I also assisted female entrepreneurs in Tanzania through the Innovations in Gender Equality initiative, a project of USAID, Land O’ Lakes International Development and the U-M’s William Davidson Institute. I came to Entrepalooza to learn more about the Zell Lurie Institute and various clubs on campus.” – Diana Callaghan, MBA ’16

“I like TED-style talks where entrepreneurs share their stories and provide encouragement and tips for success. I’m also excited to connect with classmates outside the Ross School of Business. I’m interested in social impact consulting. After graduation, I will return to PricewaterhouseCoopers, where previously I was a senior associate doing public sector consulting at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.” – Matt Townsend, MBA ’16

“I started this journey 35 years ago and returned to school after raising and home-schooling my seven children. I found information about Entrepalooza online and decided to come.” – Jacqueline Schmidt, Eastern Michigan University student

“I like the idea of an unconference. It’s fun and can produce some good ideas. It’s also an efficient way to connect across campus, share goals, talk to people and do some networking. At many conferences, people spend much of their time in silence.”- Jonathan Kuuskoski, assistant director of entrepreneurship and career services, U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance



The Social Venture Fund is now accepting business plans for its 2015-16 investment cycle

The Social Venture Fund (SvF) has started its annual call for business plans for the 2015-2016 investment round and will be accepting applications until Sunday, October 25th. The Fund seeks innovative, high-impact, for-profit social enterprises to fund during its next investment round in spring 2016. As the nation’s first student-led impact investing fund, the SVF currently has five companies in its portfolio. Read about them here:

SVF Investment Criteria

  • Social Enterprise: The Social Venture Fund focuses exclusively on for-profit social enterprises that are committed to positive and measurable social and/or environmental impact. In evaluating potential investments, SvF employs rigorous social and financial valuation techniques to ensure that companies have the potential to provide a strong blended social and financial return.
  • Alignment with Investment Areas: SvF invests in (typically) post-revenue companies responding to critical challenges within the Education, Food Systems & Environment, Health, and Urban Revitalization sectors.
  • Investment Amounts and Stage: SvF invests $50,000 – $100,000 in equity or convertible debt notes as part of larger capital rounds, typically seed or Series A. Post-investment, SvF provides portfolio companies access to resources at the University of Michigan to help them scale quickly and deliver on their social or environmental mission.
  • Change Agent Entrepreneurs: SvF invests in inspiring leaders capable of assembling a world-class management team that shares their passion and commitment to the enterprise’s sustained impact.
  • Location: SvF focuses on businesses based in the United States. The Urban Revitalization circle is particularly interested in plans for the Southeast Michigan/Detroit area.

To Apply:

Please submit a 3-4 page business plan by Sunday, October 25, 2015. Your submitted materials should include:

  • Business model
  • Traction to date
  • Leadership team information including background and relevant experience
  • Description of positive social/environmental impact including key supporting metrics or research
  • Revenue projections and financials in table format

Submit materials at:

Learn more about the Social Venture Fund’s approach to investing and portfolio management at

If you have any questions, please contact Diana Callaghan at

2015 Entrepalooza’s ‘Unconference’ Unlocks Ideation and Unleashes Entrepreneurial Innovation

Olga Nichols, BBA ’17, had never been to an “unconference” before. But at this year’s Entrepalooza, she had an opportunity to take part in the participant-driven format, which focuses on the informal exchange of information and ideas among attendees rather than on the formal remarks delivered by a guest speaker. “This is the best way for everyone to be heard,” Nichols said. “In our team we talked about ideas and took them to the next level.”

The unconference segment of Entrepalooza, held Sept. 25 in the Michigan League on the University of Michigan campus, challenged students to come up with ideas for increasing diversity in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. On a large bulletin board in the League’s second-floor concourse, unconference organizers posted 12 different headings that represented different approaches to increasing diversity, such as market outreach, mentoring, funding, events, alumni engagement, addressing stereotypes, action-based learning and integrating entrepreneurship into education. Then they invited students to choose their favorite headings and form teams to brainstorm about innovative ideas and strategies for putting thought into action. Six topics were considered during each of two rounds in the session

At the end of the unconference, each team had 60 seconds to present its most creative ideas to the entire student gathering, which was asked to vote on the best presentation. Among the strategies and solutions that surfaced were:

  • Offering cross-mentoring to students across schools and colleges
  • Making resources for IP easier to access
  • Sharing case studies written by students
  • Raising capital from alumni
  • Giving student interns more responsibility in host companies
  • Opening U-M events to other colleges and the community
  • Creating a centralized website for entrepreneurship events and resources
  • Supporting projects that promote cross-disciplinary collaboration
  • Launching additional business incubators and accelerators
  • Engaging U-M researchers to help solve social problems in Detroit
  • Promoting greater collaboration among universities within and outside Michigan

Unconference participants said they enjoyed the loosely structured, highly creative team format for generating innovative solutions and driving positive change. “This experience was about the conversation, about bouncing ideas off one another and about creating an upward spiral rather than being fed information,” said Sharena Rice, a post-baccalaureate student in neuroscience.

Trail-Blazing Entrepreneurs Share Their Personal and Professional Stories with U-M Students at 2015 Entrepalooza

In keeping with this year’s Entrepalooza theme, “Entrepreneurship through a Kaleidoscope,” seven entrepreneurs from highly diverse backgrounds shared their personal and professional stories of entrepreneurial passion, challenge and triumph with U-M students on Friday, Sept. 25. The annual entrepreneurship conference is co-sponsored by the Zell Lurie Institute and its partners at the University of Michigan and in the Ann Arbor community.

The series of TED-style talks was led by Aaron Dworkin ─ a violinist, poet, diversity advocate and arts entrepreneur ─ who returned to his alma mater this fall to assume the position of dean at the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance. Dworkin is the founder of the Detroit-based Sphinx Organization, which works to engage black and Latino youth in classical music and increase their representation in the nation’s top symphony orchestras.

His accolades ─ including being named a MacArthur Fellow and serving as President Obama’s first appointee to the National Council on the Arts ─ belie Dworkin’s humble beginnings in Monticello, New York, where his white Catholic mother and black Jehovah’s Witness father put him up for adoption two weeks after he was born. Two white Jewish neuroscientists adopted him and lived first in New York City and later in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Learning to play the violin at age 5 opened up a new world for young Dworkin. “It was my violin that empowered me and made me feel relevant to the world around me,” he told students. Years later, when Dworkin enrolled as a music student at Michigan, he began to explore ways to take his relationship with the violin and achieve that relevance on a broader scale.

“Michigan empowered me to be relevant to my art form and my community,” Dworkin said. “As an undergraduate, I had an opportunity to be entrepreneurial and build an organization that was relevant.” His idea for the Sphinx Organization began as a music competition for minorities and grew into what has become a leading performing arts organization dedicated to changing lives through the power of diversity and the arts.

Now, as dean of the SMTD, Dworkin is bringing his background as an arts entrepreneur into play through the launch of the EXCEL program, which provides entrepreneurship training and career services for all U-M students engaged in the performing arts. “We want students to wake up every day doing the work we’ve empowered them to do,” he said.

Following Dworkin’s TED talk, the six other featured entrepreneurs spoke about the inspiration, adversity or deep desire that prompted them to launch and grow their entrepreneurial companies. Here are a few highlights of their TED talks:

Mary Lemmer, co-founder and CEO of Foodscape, said: “I didn’t choose to be an entrepreneur. I just wanted to create things.” Her entrepreneurial journey began at age 17 when she launched Iorio’s Gelato in Ann Arbor. Her words of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs included: “Find something enjoyable to do.  Be optimistic, honest and true to yourself. Burn your fears, because that will allow you to accomplish things you thought were impossible.”

Dawn White, co-founder, president and chief technology officer of Accio, noted that entrepreneurial enterprises and careers rarely follow a straight-line path to success. She encouraged young entrepreneurs not to fixate on a single idea and to look for tools and people who can help them along the way. “There’s never been a better time to be an entrepreneur,” she remarked.

Nate Aschenback, co-founder of GameStart, recalled that when he was growing up, playing video games was an escape. Not so today. “Games are creative and generative, and give kids the ability to create bonds and build community,” he observed. Omitting play and fun from the learning experience is “like running a marathon on stilts.”

Justin DeLay, co-founder and chief marketing officer of TempoIQ, reflected on the importance of helping yourself, helping someone else and asking for help. “Needing help is counterintuitive to the image of a self-made entrepreneur,” he noted. “Yet the ultimate job of an entrepreneur is to build a business that scales ─ and the only way to do that is to ask for help.” For many, admitting they need help and asking for it can be a humbling experience. “But the best thing about help is that it helps.”

Lisa McLaughlin, co-founder and CEO of Workit Health, narrated a profound life story of how alcohol abuse during her student days took her to “rock bottom” and how recovery from her addition led to her to become a social entrepreneur. “My friend taught me how to live healthy and turn my life around,” she said. “For the past seven years, I’ve been working with top companies on social issues.” McLaughlin shared a quote that reflected her approach to entrepreneurship: “Do you want to be a poet or do you want to write poetry?”

Jill Ford, special advisor to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, came to the Motor City from the San Francisco Bay area to head Detroit’s innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives. “I’ve embraced making intellectual choices about what I want to do, and being passionate and brave enough to make those choices,” she remarked. Many of Ford’s choices reflect her desire to live a life by design. “I choose to be curious. I choose to be generous. I choose to be fearless. I choose to be relevant. I chose Detroit because I’m truly fascinated by the opportunity I see following its bankruptcy to give people a chance to be relevant, locally and globally.”

U-Mich included in Fortune’s list of top universities that produce the most VC-funded female startup founders

We’re very excited to be included in Fortune’s list of top universities that produce the most VC-funded female startup founders. According to the article, the University of Michigan placed seventh with 35 female startup founders within their network undergraduate alumni. Also, the University of Michigan ranked ninth with 12 female MBA alumni who have founded their own startup. To view the full Fortune article, click here:

BBC Broadcast Journalist Katty Kay Urges University of Michigan Female Students to Close the Confidence Gap

Women now make up half of the U.S. workforce and are gaining traction in middle management. But something is blocking their career pathways to top executive positions at leading companies, where female CEOs are few and far between. What’s holding women back is their acute lack of confidence, said BBC broadcast journalist and best-selling author Katty Kay, who spoke at this year’s Entrepalooza conference at the University of Michigan on Friday, Sept. 25.

“There’s not just a confidence gap, but a confidence chasm that separates the sexes,” said Kay, who is the lead anchor for BBC World News America and the co-author (with Claire Shipman) of two books, Womenomics and The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance ─ What Women Should Know. “Success, it turns out, correlates just as closely with confidence as it does with competence. No wonder that women, despite all our progress, are still woefully underrepresented at the highest levels.”

In researching their books, Kay and Shipman talked with other highly successful women and interviewed psychologists to gain insights into the confidence gap. What they found is that women routinely underestimate their abilities and performance while men have a tendency to overestimate both. Compared to their male counterparts, women don’t consider themselves as ready for promotions at work and often attribute their success on the job to being “lucky” rather than talented. When it comes to negotiating salaries and raises, women typically place a lower value on their abilities and ask for less money, less often than men do.

Where does this confidence gap originate? Kay said it begins early in life for girls, who are rewarded for good behavior and perfectionism and shielded from danger and disappointment. Boys, in contrast, learn through sports to be risk takers, strong competitors and resilient players, even in the face of failure. “We are setting up a cycle where girls are praised for not upsetting the applecart, being disruptive or drawing attention to themselves,” said Kay, who acknowledged she had fallen into this same parent trap in raising her eldest daughter as “a classic good girl” who helped to care for three younger siblings and oversee household duties. “We need to teach girls to take risks and fail and then keep going. We also need to discourage them from trying to be perfect and encourage them to be bad girls rather than good girls all the time.”

During her 25-year career at BBC, Kay faced many situations both inside and outside the newsroom that challenged her self-assuredness and forced her to develop her own credo for confidence. “I’ve learned that my abilities are higher than I think, and I’ve learned that I can learn in a new job situation,” she said. “I’ve also learned to look at my own track record and to see not only the downside of risk, but also the upside.”

The good news, Kay told her U-M audience, which included many female undergraduate and graduate students, is that the confidence gap between the sexes can be closed. Drawing on her own experiences and insights, Kay offered the following advice to women who want to develop a sense of confidence that will propel them to greater heights in their professional and social lives:

  • Believe in your talent and abilities
  • Take action and risks that push you outside your comfort zone
  • Be willing to accept failure and try again
  • Learn to learn
  • Avoid ruminating, second-guessing and over thinking
  • Stop assuming the blame when things go wrong and crediting other people or circumstances when things go right
  • Promote yourself and your capabilities
  • Support workplace changes that encourage and reward other women

In conclusion, Kay said that the unique talents and experiences women bring to the table can play out well in the world of business and help companies outperform the competition. “We want to be authentic and don’t want to lose that quality,” she remarked. “But we don’t want to let the confidence gap hold us back.”

Zell Lurie Institute Executive Director Stewart Thornhill recognized the 2015 Zell, Mondry, Kinnear and Diener scholars at the beginning of Entrepalooza. The event was sponsored by the Zell Lurie Institute, the Michigan Entrepreneur & Venture Club, the Center for Entrepreneurship, the School of Information, Innovate Blue and Ann Arbor SPARK.


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