There is no better place than Michiganto find valuable resources for entrepreneurs looking to grow their businesses. Just ask Gerry Roston, Ph.D. He is the current CEO of InPore Technologies, a startup company that won the first $100,000 SmartZone Award in the 2010 Great Lakes Entrepreneur’s Quest (GLEQ) Statewide Business Plan Competition. “We have an embarrassment of riches for entrepreneurs in this state,” said Roston, “And we all work together well. In terms of the co-operation, we might be the best in the country.”
Among the state resources and initiatives cited by Roston are:
- Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center (MI-SBTDC): Works with small businesses on financial models, as well as technology and strategic road-mapping;
- Michigan SmartZone Network: Provides incubator services, training programs, and business plan assistance;
- Great Lakes Entrepreneur’s Quest (GLEQ): Contest that provides mentoring and business plan coaching;
- Michigan Growth Capital Symposium (MGCS): Leading Midwest event that brings together hundreds of investors and startup companies;
- New Enterprise Forum (NEF): Helps entrepreneurs prepare a pitch for potential investors;
- Annual Collaboration for Entrepreneurship (ACE): Educational and networking event that brings together 1,000 people focused on entrepreneurship;
- Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition: A new international business plan competition.
Roston, who is an entrepreneur coach and mentor himself, was honored to have submitted the top business plan in the 2010 GLEQ competition. “It was really quite a lot of fun. I’m very active in the regional startup community, and GLEQ is an organization that I’ve mentored for and I’ve been very supportive of and to be recognized as the first winner of that was really quite an honor because there were a number of good companies in that competition,” he said.
As an early stage consultant for technology companies, Roston took on the executive role at InPore Technologies to help move the startup to the next level. The East Lansing-based company is a spinout from Michigan State University’s chemistry department. Originally founded by MSU Professor Thomas Pinnavaia, Ph.D. in 1996 as a consulting business named Claytec, Inc., the company was renamed and restructured in July 2010. Today, its major focus is producing and selling its product, Silapore™.
“We make a silicate particle — which is sand — and it has lots of holes in it. It turns out that when you have this substance, it does all sorts of really cool things,” said Roston. “ . . . We know that it makes plastics stronger. We also know that it improves the flame retardancy of plastics. And what’s interesting is it does both of those at the same time.” InPore Technologies recently discovered that Silapore™ can also dramatically improve water purification membranes used in large desalination plants or for industrial clean water.
If all goes well, Roston expects to move on to another technology startup in a couple of years. Currently, InPore is trying to raise money to develop a pilot plant that will allow the company to increase production of Silapore™ and start closing customer orders.