Bill Coughlin ─ who has been a catalyst for technological innovation and entrepreneurial activity within Ford Motor Co. and the state of Michigan for well over a decade as president and CEO of Ford Global Technologies ─ will deliver his keynote remarks on Wednesday morning, May 20, the second day of this year’s Michigan Growth Capital Symposium. During his talk, Coughlin will provide insights into entrepreneurial innovation through the lens of Michigan’s premier global automotive company.
“We are pleased to welcome Bill to the Symposium and look forward to hearing his remarks about the growing interaction between large innovation-minded corporations in Michigan and entrepreneurial technological start-up companies that have been launched here,” says MGCS founder David Brophy, finance professor and director of the Center for Venture Capital and Private Equity Finance at the Ross School of Business. “There is a disruptive set of technologies in our state that has global implications and global markets. We need strong partnerships with Ford and other major players to develop the full potential of this entrepreneurial innovation.”
While at Ford, Coughlin was instrumental in developing TechShop in Detroit, a do-it-yourself workshop for inventors that has fostered innovation and contributed to a dramatic increase in patentable ideas by Ford employees. In 2013, he was honored as Entrepreneur of the Year by Automation Alley, a Troy, Mich.-based technology business association.
More recently, Coughlin spearheaded efforts to bring Techstars, a national network of business start-up accelerators, to Detroit. The Motor City version, known as “Techstars Mobility, Driven by Detroit,” is supported by Ford, in partnership with Magna International and Verizon Telematics. The 13-week boot camp is designed to spur the growth of next-generation start-up companies focused on exciting technological innovations in mobility and transportation, ranging from ride-sharing to new rubber technology for tires.
“Bill will talk about all the different kinds of entrepreneurial companies we showcase at the Symposium and how they can interact with Techstars Mobilty and the program’s three corporate sponsors,” Brophy says. “This is the type of synergy and collaboration that’s needed to keep the wheels of Michigan’s entrepreneurial economy turning.”
Over the long haul, Michigan’s entrepreneurial-driven economic success will depend on several key actions. “First, we need to produce more and stronger companies that are building products and services based on disruptive technologies and business models,” Brophy explains. “Second, we need to further the development of our system of financial intermediaries within the state who can marshal resources from high-net-worth investors and institutional investors and direct those resources to these high-growth companies.”
The third factor, he continues, is “to encourage potential investors to pay serious attention to the role entrepreneurial activity has played, is playing and will continue to play in our state. We hope these institutions and individuals are attending this year’s Symposium to find out what’s going on, evaluate the entrepreneurial companies and venture funds we’ve brought together and then put their own money to work here in Michigan.”