Lansing’s got incubators.
Lansing’s got pitch competitions.
Lansing’s got startup programming.
What Lansing was missing, up until recently, were startup accelerators to help those startups move past the startup stage. Detroit had them. Ann Arbor had them. Grand Rapids had them.
And now, Lansing has two.
The folks at LEAP (Lansing Economic Area Partnership), Spartan Innovations, MSU Federal Credit Union, and those passionate about the startup community in Lansing, recognized the strides Lansing is taking to becoming a thriving startup ecosystem. They also recognized what it needed to continue those strides past the initial stages.
Those startups needed:
- to get traction in the marketplace
- to be profitable
- opportunities to raise outside funding
And now, Lansing introduces two startup accelerator programs that can help them do that.
One of those programs is Lansing PROTO, Michigan’s first product development accelerator program.
For 8 months, those accepted into the program will have access to programming and funding that will take them from a startup into the marketplace and help them reach certain milestones. They will have access to mentors and manufacturing and maker experts.
According to Tony Willis of LEAP, this program is simply assisting in an already rich history present in the community. “Lansing has a unique history of creating products, from automobiles to isotopes.” LEAP’s product based accelerator is simply embracing this history and encouraging a trend that is already apparent through events such as the Hatching and Greenlight. Folks in Michigan love to build things.
The program sets out to meet the specific needs of startups looking to build a product such as assistance filing a patent, finding locations to produce the product and finding the funding to build it.
PROTO is looking to assist startups in a number of ways and under the accelerator umbrella they have a few different programs meant to help companies move forward.
The Accelerator: Those accepted into the program will receive up to $15,000 in seed funding to be used for prototyping, branding, and manufacturing.
Services: They offer a platform for inventors, makers, creatives, and entrepreneurs to connect their services and turn each others ideas into reality. Those in the program will have access to a number of services from 3D printing to branding and legal assistance.
Crowdfunding: The CrowdFUND/Crowd Support program is designed to assist innovators with successfully launching a crowdfunding campaign.
Lansing PROTO is accepting applications right now and will be accepting 2-3 teams. Once you apply they will look at different aspects of your business such as where you’ve already invested capital, the likelihood of success for your product within the 8 month period and, most importantly, that the business is looking to solve a real problem.
You can look on their website for more information and find out if your startup could be the right fit.
Tom Stewart, one of the founders of Conquer, MSU’s Accelerator Program, agrees that Lansing has, so far, done a great job of supporting startup ideas and assisting with company formation. “We’ve done well in that stage,” he says, “and now it’s time to grow up in the ecosystem and help companies get traction, be profitable, and raise outside funding.”
While the two accelerators have similar goals, Conquer is open to all startups rather than just product based companies. And, while the program is supported by MSU, it is open to anyone to apply.
Those participating in the Conquer program will have access to:
Investment- $20,000 and 5% equity in the business
Space- Access to an innovative workspace in East Lansing
Mentorship- Learn from experts in their field
Resources- Get resources like legal advice and development assistance
As an added perk, as the program is MSU supported, those participating will have access to the MSU Alumni Network. “If you need a service,” says Tom, “There is someone here that can help you.”
By the end of their 3-month-program, Conquer hopes to see revenue positive companies, at least one company that receives an outside investment and companies that can fund at least 1 full-time employee.
Conquer is also accepting applications right now; check out the website for more information.
With the appearance of two accelerators, it’s apparent that Lansing’s startup ecosystem has matured and is ready to start offering even more resources than it has in the past. “Just three years ago,” says Tony, “The Hatching didn’t exist and the TIC was the only incubator. Everything has been building and it’s the right time for programs like this.”