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New VC Fund Is Linking Michigan To Silicon Valley

Michigan eLab, Venture Capital, Michigan startups, Ann Arbor startups

While the bankruptcy of Detroit has put Michigan in the news in a negative way, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel coming from startups and entrepreneurship. This isn’t anything new for the state of Michigan; after all at one point even cars were new technology.

While Detroit has a blossoming startup scene and is preparing to rebuild, Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan have a startup scene that’s starting to thrive. The latest startup-focused venture, a VC fund called Michigan eLab is the most recent organization to join the cause.

Most startup communities “everywhere else” struggle with two major things: access to capital and access to talent. The new Michigan eLab is positioned to help entrepreneurs in Ann Arbor with both.

MichiganeLablogoCrain’s Detroit reports that the new Michigan eLab is raising a first fund of $40 million dollars. While any startup community would welcome a new VC fund, Michigan eLab is uniquely positioned to bridge Ann Arbor and Michigan with Silicon Valley.

For starters the fund has two offices: one in Ann Arbor, the other in San Mateo California. An even bigger benefit that eLab brings to Ann Arbor is that three of the fund’s four founders have ties to Michigan. Doug Neal, one of the fund’s founders is originally from Mt. Pleasant. Neal spent 15 years in Silicon Valley with companies like Hewlett-Packard and Symantec before co-founding his own startup Mobile Automation.  That company sold to iPass Inc in 2005 for $20 million dollars.

Rick Bolander is another one of the Michigan eLab founders with ties to both Silicon Valley and Michigan. Bolander graduated from the University of Michigan with a master’s in electrical engineering. He went on to launch Chicago’s Blue Sky Ventures and then co-founded San Mateo-based Gabriel Venture Partners.

Bob Stefanski is the third founder with ties to both Silicon Valley and Michigan. He is a graduate of UM earning both an engineering and a law degree. Stefanski is a partner in the Silicon Valley-based Reed Smith LLP. He is also the cofounder of Tibco Software, which has more than $1 billion in revenue according to Crain’s.

The final partner, Scott Chou, has no direct ties to Michigan or UM, but he is a managing director at Bolander’s Gabriel Venture Partners. Chou’s first venture deal was a 2001 seed round investment in NextG Networks, a California company, which sold to Texas-based Crown Castle International in December of 2011 for $1 billion dollars. That earned him a spot on the highly coveted top 100 venture capitalists in Silicon Valley list from AlwaysOn.

The founders of Michigan eLab hope to link Ann Arbor’s tech community, startups, and entrepreneurs with other famous founders with ties to the region. Those include: Larry Page, Dick Costolo, Skype’s Josh Silverman, Sun Microsystems co-founders Scott McNealy and Bill Joy, Groupon co-founder Brad Keywell, former Palm Inc. CEO Donna Dubinsky, and more.

Source: Crain’s Detroit.

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