Michigan Founders Fund Launches to Support High-Growth Entrepreneurs and Local Communities Throughout the State of Michigan

An organization led by startup founders and investors aims to grow the presence of successful, diverse-led ventures and advance civic leadership in Michigan’s entrepreneurial ecosystem

ANN ARBOR, Mich.--()--Michigan Founders Fund (MFF), announced its newly established 501(c)3 nonprofit to serve the needs of entrepreneurial growth and community impact across the state of Michigan. Established as a standalone organization in December 2021, MFF was previously serving the community as the Ann Arbor Entrepreneurs Fund, an initiative of the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation.

“There has never been a better time to be a founder in Michigan, or an investor,” explains Trista Van Tine, Executive Director and co-founder of Michigan Founders Fund. “We are at an inflection point for high-growth entrepreneurship and its long-term impact in our state. At Michigan Founders Fund, we are leaning into this momentum because we know the significant economic, social and cultural gains that come from successful tech ecosystems. Our approach to this work is about helping founders find fellowship with other founders and find their voice in the communities where they live and operate - founders for founders and founders for community.”

According to data from Pitchbook, in 2020 alone, more than 60 new ventures launched in the state looking to revolutionize industries from financial services, to the future of the workforce, to healthcare and mobility. Michigan is the fastest growing state for VC investment (886% growth between 2016 - 2020, according to Crunchbase) and in recent years, Michigan has seen its cities ranked at the top of multiple lists showcasing innovation hubs. From companies that were launched since 2010, there are more than 675 active, venture-backed startups in operation representing thousands of advanced sector jobs.

Michigan Founders Fund provides startup leaders with programming and company-building support, culture-building tools, data, and a simple mechanism for philanthropic giving designed to create stronger, more inclusive communities across the state. MFF members - tech founders and investors - have pledged 1% of equity, carry or profit into a fund for Michigan-based grantmaking.

On why he is a co-founder of Michigan Founders Fund and actively involved in the network, Dug Song, Chief Strategy Officer, Cisco and co-founder of Duo Security shares, “Technology is a great equalizer. To generate wealth via technology, you don’t need to have come from money. You don’t need to have land. You don’t need to have factories, raw materials, or natural resources. But to generate community wealth, tech founders and their companies need to be intentional about building a larger success that benefits all. The growing impact of Michigan’s tech sector gives us the opportunity to build an innovation economy where all belong, and I couldn’t be prouder of the founders and teams who have committed to building a more inclusive future for all.”

“Looking at the combined resources throughout the state, Michigan has all the makings of a thriving tech hub. Now is the time to amplify the Michigan story,” states Adrian Fortino, Board Treasurer and Managing Director of Mercury Fund. “For us, the earlier in the startup lifecycle that we can support founders and get them connected to one another, the more we can drive density and inclusivity. This drives capital and talent attraction, necessitating a broader cultural shift in how our economic development entities and regulators view this sector in the state.”

Adds Van Tine, “Our work is designed to further equity, inclusion and a ‘give where you live’ ethos, meaning more founders will be empowered and equipped to financially support their communities and address key issues our state struggles with.”

One MFF program driving equity and inclusion practices in the tech ecosystem is the MFF Future Founders Program, a DEI-focused internship program to provide underrepresented students with a pathway into the startup industry and to help companies develop or strengthen their DEI initiatives and access local and diverse talent pools. In 2021, over 75 students applied from colleges across the state and 12 students were hired for different startup companies, of which 58% identified as female and 92% BIPOC. Now in its second year, 20 companies from Grand Rapids, Detroit and Ann Arbor have signed on to offer paid internships to underrepresented, Michigan-based undergraduate students and over 145 students have applied. Bank of Ann Arbor has also signed on to provide multi-year financial support to the program.

“Bank of Ann Arbor is excited to announce a multi-year lead-sponsorship commitment to support the Future Founders Internship Program,” comments Michael Cole, President, Technology Industry Group, Bank of Ann Arbor. “As a community working to build a foundation for Michigan’s next generation economy, we have much to be proud of over the past two decades. However, there is no greater area of need than the development of a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable base of talent to provide the type of leadership needed in the 21st century. Michigan Founders Fund has designed the Future Founders Internship program for this purpose. At Bank of Ann Arbor, we are honored to participate and look forward to meeting and working with the future leaders in this program.”

Joining the organization to lead community engagement and manage the Future Founders Program, is Sarah Craft, formerly Detroit Director for Venture for America.

Michigan Founders Fund has appointed a new Board of Directors, co-chaired by Dug Song, Chief Strategy Officer, Cisco and co-founder of Duo Security, co-chaired by Bhushan Kulkarni, co-founder and CEO of InfoReady, with Adrian Fortino, Managing Director, Mercury Fund as Treasurer. The organization will continue to build out a small, diverse executive board through 2022.

The organization has also appointed a new 12-person Advisory Council composed of prominent founders, VCs and ecosystem builders to accelerate its founder network and support programs.

For more information about the unique opportunities available to entrepreneurs through the Michigan Founders Fund and how to become a member, please visit www.MichiganFoundersFund.org.

About Michigan Founders Fund

Michigan Founders Fund is the state’s founder community. Together, we are committed to fellowship, cultural intention, and funding solutions that uplift communities across the state where we live and operate. By equipping startup leaders with founder-first programming and company-building support, diversity, equity, and inclusion-focused initiatives, culture-building tools, and a simple mechanism for philanthropic giving, we empower each other to accelerate economic development and collectively serve Michigan. The MFF network of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists have pledged 1% of equity, profit or investment carry from their businesses into a fund for state-based grantmaking. Michigan Founders Fund is a spin-off of the Ann Arbor Entrepreneurs Fund, an initiative of the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation that was launched in 2019 with a focus on Washtenaw County. The newly established and re-structured organization is dedicated to serving the needs of communities throughout the state of Michigan and all its high-growth founders and already has 40 pledged members.


Trista Van Tine

Release Summary

Michigan Founders Fund launches to support high-growth entrepreneurs and local communities throughout the state of Michigan.

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Trista Van Tine