Detroit's '2.0 Mode' Can Open Doors for Minority Entrepreneurs, Advocates Say

April 23, 2015, 4:52 PM by  Alan Stamm

Carla Harris, a senior executive at Morgan Stanley headquarters in midtown Manhattan, sees "an interesting opportunity" for Detroit to become to be a model city for minority business start-ups.

Harris, who moderated a Techweek panel at the Detroit Athletic Club last week, is among influential backers of an effort to make Detroit the American city that attracts and nurtures minority tech entrepreneurs, Sarah Schmid reports at the Xconomy national news site.

Morgan Stanley sponsored a three-day PowerMoves@Detroit event with boot camps and public pitches by minority business developers from Michigan and beyond.

Carla Harris: "Chaos does create opportunity, and that opportunity can drive innovation and inclusion."

Schmid, Detroit editor for the site reporting on business, life sciences and technology news, quotes Harris, vice chair of global wealth management and senior client adviser: 

“One of the reasons we’re looking at cities like Detroit is that, when a city has gone through a crisis and now is in 2.0 mode, it’s an interesting opportunity to participate in that pivot. Chaos does create opportunity, and that opportunity can drive innovation and inclusion.” 

The local Xconomy editor also quotes Earl Robinson, president of the PowerMoves organization in New Orleans:

“There’s an incredible amount of entrepreneurial talent in Detroit thanks to a wealth of resources and impressive innovation economy. . . .

"There’s more corporate wealth and investing in Detroit [than in New Orleans]. When you marry that impact with the Dan Gilberts of the world, it’s huge. In New Orleans, our startup community is seven to 10 years old and growing nicely, but it has nowhere near the level of corporate or family office support that Detroit has. . . .

"Detroit really has the chance to get it right. You can build a city on cutting-edge technology with Fortune 500 companies and an incredibly diverse group of people innovating.”

The PowerMoves pop-up went beyond talk by awarding $40,000 to each of two fledgling firms -- GAPro System of Southfield and LISNR of Cincinnati. Here's what they do:

  • GAPro, a cloud-based insurance information system, is led by founder Herbert Gibson -- a Detroit native with a Walsh College master's degree in management.
  • LISNR is a mobile marketing firm founded and led by Rodney WIlliams of Cincinnati. Its product is a high-frequency, inaudible  "digital sound file that turns any speaker or piece of media into a beacon" for promotional content. 

Seed financing also went to two of the 17 pre-revenue startups participating in advance training, pitch preparation here and demo day presentations:

  • Warranty Ninja: $20,000 to Detroit developers of a platform to provide warranty and product registration services for businesses and consumers. The startup is based at TechTown.
  • Ida Byrd-Hill: $10,000 to support a Detroit mother's board game teaching students about the “wild, wild world of intellectual property” as a way of inspiring them to them to think innovatively about their futures. It's called "Fluke: The Wealth Building Game of Accidental Inventions."

Read more:  Xconomy

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