If all goes as planned, you’ll see more West and East Coast venture capitalists at the 2014 Michigan Growth Capital Symposium on June 17 and 18 than in past years, predicts David Brophy, professor of finance and director of the University of Michigan Center for Venture Capital and Private Equity Finance, or CVP.
“We’re at a point now where we have promising entrepreneurial start-ups and a track record of venture-backed companies with steady growth and successful exits,” he says. “This is a good time to increase the volume and mix of symposium attendance. My efforts will be focused on attracting more VCs from both coasts, and broadening and deepening the engagement of our state, local and University venture communities.”
In recent years, Brophy has paved the way for expanding the MGCS’s outreach by co-hosting, with Jeff Gelfand, a series of Venture Capital and Private Equity Fireside Chats. These monthly gatherings have brought prominent U-M graduates who are now successful inventors, entrepreneurs and venture investors back to campus to talk about their careers, industry trends and future opportunities. In September, just before announcing the IPO, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo video-streamed a Fireside Chat with students in a packed Blau Auditorium at the Ross School of Business. In November, Tony Fadell, a 1991 College of Engineering graduate, shared his experiences as one of the creators of the Apple iPod and iPhone and the founder of the start-up company Nest Labs.
A number of entrepreneurs and venture investors who have left the Midwest are circling back to take another look at what the University and the state of Michigan have to offer ─ and they like what they are seeing. “We have technological capabilities here that are being rediscovered by people on both coasts,” Brophy says. “They are finding we can do things at the University and in Michigan that cannot be done other places, or be done as well.”
Overseas investors also are nibbling around the edges. “They always are interested in new technologies,” says Brophy, who has invited investors and business representatives from European and Asian companies to speak to students in his commercialization course. “They like to enter into partnerships and joint ventures. Indian investors, in particular, are interested in doing acquisitions.” Although the Chinese have been slow in coming to Michigan thus far, Brophy anticipates that will change.
“The whole idea of the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium and related programs is to promote cross-fertilization and connectivity among entrepreneurs and investors across a broad spectrum,” he says.