Michigan Venture Fellows Program Makes Inaugural Placements

The Michigan Venture Capital Association has placed four fellows from the inaugural class of its Michigan Venture Fellows Program. Sam Hogg has joined the Kalamazoo office of Open Prairie Ventures; Jared Stasik has joined Detroit Venture Partners; William Blake has joined Farmington Hills-based Beringea; and Linda Chamberlain has joined the Grand Rapids-based Michigan Accelerator Fund.

Funded last November by an $800,000 grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the Michigan Venture Fellows Program gives budding VCs the opportunity to work with a Michigan-based venture firm for a period of two years. The fellows are chosen after a rigorous application process, including a portion where the candidates must demonstrate strong Michigan ties, which usually involves a degree from a Michigan school. During their placements, fellows get a feel for the startup environment by getting deeply involved with at least one portfolio company. The hope is that the fellowship will lead to permanent employment in Michigan.

“It’s a program to encourage Michigan VC firms to source talent locally, and it’s an effort to get them to stay here,” Hogg explains. “A lot of people are coming from the coasts. Getting them to work here is easy, but getting them to stay is a challenge.”

Prior to landing the venture fellowship, Hogg was working for the San Francisco-based Nth Power, an energy-focused VC firm partnering with Detroit’s NextEnergy. Stasik was working in the Bay Area when he learned he had been accepted to the program. “It’s pretty amazing—I was working at a firm based in the Bay Area, and he was actually in the Bay Area,” Hogg says. “So one of us came back to Michigan, and one of us decided not to relocate there.”

Hogg, who is 30, says staying in Michigan was an easy sell. “The best part about Michigan is that it’s so unbelievably collaborative,” he notes. “Because there’s such a shortage of capital, syndicating investments is encouraged. We have such different areas of expertise that syndicating usually yields a group that is better up to the task.”

Hogg says Michigan VCs’ biggest challenge is its collective fear of failure. “Because we’re all small firms, everyone is really terrified to fail with their first fund or venture,” he adds. “I’ve been blessed to spend time in Silicon Valley, where there’s a totally different mentality that we need to have trickle back here.”

Challenges aside, Hogg says he hopes to spend his entire VC career in Michigan. “Michigan has a ton of strengths—there’s a phenomenal tech landscape, we just need more money and entrepreneurs. I’ve seen the Ann Arbor VC community go from a dot on the map to a pretty well-respected group in sectors like medical devices and data security, and that occurred in a decade. I can’t imagine it will take too much longer for other sectors to get there.”

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