‘TechTown 2.0’ Expands Focus

TechTown has undergone some changes recently as Leslie Smith transitions into her new role as executive director. Nothing drastic, she says, but rather an expansion of its incubator business model to include targeted outreach to a few Detroit neighborhoods in order to make its entrepreneurial mission more accessible, an increased focus on microenterprise and procurement opportunities, and an increased partnership with nearby anchor institutions such as Henry Ford Hospital.

“We’ve come to understand that, in order to serve some of our constituents, we have to meet them where they are,” Smith says.

One thing TechTown plans to do is to increase its focus on connecting companies with procurement opportunities at the three anchor institutions in Midtown: Wayne State University, Henry Ford Hospital, and the Detroit Medical Center (DMC).

TechTown also wants to increase the number of high-growth IT companies in its portfolio from 20 percent to 3o percent. Smith says one way to do that is to commercialize more of the technology coming out of Henry Ford and the DMC.

“If there’s a new, innovative device or tool or process, we want to help commercialize that,” Smith says. “For example, Henry Ford has an Innovation Institute. We want to be on the receiving end of that pipeline.”

Smith says TechTown has doubled down on its commitment to help create a more vibrant city through stronger relationships with its local and regional partners. Part of that commitment involves going into communities with strong leaders and organizations already in place. Steve Tobocman, a former state legislator who has lately been spearheading the Global Detroit initiative, has been tapped to lead an effort to stabilize neighborhoods through a microenterprise training program geared towards immigrants and people of color.

Based on a model that was implemented successfully in the Twin Cities, the Detroit program will focus on … Next Page »

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