“There is a reason a lot of startups fail, and that is because they make a lot of mistakes.”
By: Mary Genson | Metro
METRO DETROIT — Incubators and accelerators sound like technical terms, but they can also make business sense.
Incubators are a resource geared toward early-stage startup companies seeking coaching and mentorship. Among the several services that incubators offer are office spaces, business planning, coaching and education opportunities.
Companies that already have a viable product or service and are ready to take the business to the next level can take advantage of an accelerator.
In July 2002, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation assisted in creating the SmartZone business accelerator program, with tech hubs that provide resources and promote collaboration, innovation, research and business development.
There are currently 20 SmartZones in Michigan, five of which are in metro Detroit. These include OU Inc. in Rochester Hills, Velocity Center in Sterling Heights, Automation Alley in Troy, Centrepolis Accelerator in Southfield and TechTown in Detroit.
Velocity Center is an incubator and an accelerator located in the Sterling Heights Innovation District. They provide resources for companies throughout Macomb County and beyond.
The Velocity Center team offers entrepreneurial support, business resources and access to connections to help businesses work through challenges and answer difficult questions.
“I would say between education, coaching, mentorship and networking, we can really help you do things a little bit faster and help learn from other people’s mistakes,” said April Boyle, Velocity Center’s senior advisor for entrepreneurship and innovation.
Several kinds of spaces are available at the facilities of the Velocity Center, including dedicated offices, coworking spaces, conference rooms, a podcast studio and an outdoor venue that can accommodate up to 250 people.
“I think that face-to-face interaction is really important for building relationships, learning, brainstorming and problem-solving,” Boyle said.
There are several different spaces at the Velocity Center to accommodate a business’s needs. For example, The Element coworking space begins at $100 per month and $25 per day. Included in these plans are 24/7 key-fob building access, Wi-Fi internet, a private phone booth, a common dining area, conference room access, storage lockers and a comfortable workplace.
Boyle said many of their programs are free of charge.
Centrepolis Accelerator in Southfield focuses on helping second-stage startups bring their business to the next level. It has commercialized over 150 products and created over 360 jobs.
Business strategy, marketing strategy, market research, supporting fundraising, identifying customers and competitive landscape research are among the services Centrepolis Accelerator provides.
Centrepolis Accelerator is federally and state-funded, as well as funded by family offices and foundations. Because of this, they are able to provide services at a reduced rate.
The co-working space membership option at Centrepolis Accelerator starts at $225 per month and includes access to conference rooms, workshops and networking opportunities. Other amenities included are a prototyping lab, free and discounted software licenses, event space, front desk service, daily coffee, storage, and more.
If a business owner wants a dedicated workspace, it costs $325 per month and $425 per month for a fully furnished office space with a private locking door. Members can also choose to go for the prototyping lab option for $125 a month.
“There is a reason a lot of startups fail, and that is because they make a lot of mistakes,” Centrepolis Accelerator Program and Marketing Administrator Riley Lenhard said.
Lenhard said Centrepolis is the only hardware-based accelerator in Michigan and one of few in the country. Hardware refers to any tangible product.
“We have 35-plus experts and residents that have two to three decades of experience and have literally made every mistake known to man, and we contract them in to help our clients avoid making those mistakes,” Lenhard said.
One of the businesses that has worked extensively with Centrepolis Accelerator is Wareologie.
“We always tell our clients when we bring them on to view us as an extension of their team and we are willing to provide support wherever that is,” Lenhard said.
Wareologie specializes in rehabilitation equipment and helps empower people with physical limitations by increasing their ability to be independent.
The first product Centrepolis Accelerator helped Wareologie founder Gina Adams commercialize was Buttons 2 Button, a magnetic button adapter that helps people who struggle with buttoning their shirts.
“Launching a company has tremendous risk,” Adams said. “What the accelerator has done is help in those areas where, no matter how prepared you think (you) are, there are always going to be these hurdles.”
Adams said the accelerator not only helps build products, but helps develop a good marketing strategy that ensures the product is a good market fit.
She said Wareologie would not be where it is today without the help of an accelerator. The FDA certified Women’s Business Enterprise National Council company currently sells 10 personal care products, three kitchen aids, six bathroom aids, three therapy devices and three products that help seniors be active.
“If you want to start a business, you should always contact your local SmartZone incubator,” Lenhard said. “That should be one of your first stepping stones when starting a business.”