Bizdom Continues to Attract Out-of-State Talent

As Dan Gilbert, founder and chairman of Quicken Loans, continues snapping up downtown Detroit skyscrapers and adding to his dominion, the Bizdom tech startup accelerator that he established in the Motor City seems to be hitting its stride.

The chic, geek-magnet (in a good way) Madison Building—which houses Bizdom and a number of the startups incubated there, as well as VC firms, anchor tenants like Detroit Labs, and Twitter’s Detroit office—was featured prominently earlier this year in an upbeat article about Detroit’s tech scene in the Guardian. (A few months before that, the business magazine Inc. named it one of the world’s coolest office buildings, putting the Madison in the company of Google and Twitter.)

Bizdom portfolio companies like Chalkfly are gaining traction and raising additional capital, or winning significant industry awards like Wedit, or making enough revenue to give money back to Bizdom to seed future startups, like Campus Commandos and Core Merchant.

Maria LaLonde, Bizdom’s recruiting and development leader, says perhaps the most exciting evidence of Bizdom’s success is that, in the past year, startup teams have moved to Detroit for a stint in the accelerator from Boston, New York City, and Ohio. “We’re seeing, as we build our reputation, that we’re starting to attract talent from around the country,” she points out. “Not only are they launching a new business here, but they’re living in the city, too.”

LaLonde says more people are applying to Bizdom from around the country and even the world. LaLonde estimates that 40 percent of the applicants to the Summer 2013 session were from outside Michigan. “It’s really encouraging as people are understanding the opportunity in Detroit,” she says. “Without a doubt, that’s a major change.”

It was exactly a year ago that Bizdom dropped the “U” from its name and tweaked its business model. After undergoing an extensive screening process, entrepreneurs accepted into Bizdom receive up to $25,000 in seed funding, space in the Madison Building, and three months of intense mentoring from numerous marketing, sales, and technology experts from Quicken Loans’ network of companies in exchange for an 8 percent equity stake. At the end of the three months, startups get the opportunity to pitch for additional funding from Bizdom’s network of investors.

Bizdom also offers free or low-cost programming to the entrepreneurial community at large, and the Madison Building has become the go-to spot for those seeking to host tech events. (Even Xconomy couldn’t resist the lure of the rooftop deck overlooking Comerica Park; we held an event at the Madison in December.) Although the deadline to apply for Bizdom’s next session just passed, LaLonde says future prospects who think they can benefit from the Quicken Loans network should consider applying. “Real estate, gaming, sports, sales—tech ventures within these sectors would be an especially good fit for Bizdom,” she adds.

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