Ann Arbor welcomes new early stage VC firm, Michigan eLab

Michigan eLab is the latest venture capital firm to pop up in Ann Arbor's growing dandelion field of investment companies.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based venture capital firm will specialize in making early stage investments in technology and IT start-ups. Its founders will also focus on making investments that will keep local entrepreneurs, inventors and their innovative technologies in Michigan and grow the region's burgeoning entrepreneurial ecosystem.

"We're really passionate about creating the next evolution of the next entrepreneurial ecosystem here," says Doug Neal, director of Michigan eLab.

Neal is also the executive director at the University of Michigan's Center for Entrepreneurship. He and three other co-founders started working on Michigan eLab earlier this year. The other co-founders include Rick Bolander, Scott Chou (venture capital veterans since the 1990s) and Bob Stefanski (a Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur with a number of technology start-up exits under his belt).

"We pretty much live and breathe this technology space," Neal says.

Michigan eLab is aiming to create a $40 million fund in its first go around. Neal expects to have the fund's first funding round closing this fall. The venture capital firm's first investments should come shortly after that.

The Ann Arbor area is traditionally a hub for bio-technology and life sciences venture capital firms. However, a number of tech/IT-oriented VCs have launched from the college town or nearby in Metro Detroit over the last few years. Many of these firms specialize in early stage investments, such as Resonant Venture Partners and Detroit Venture Partners. The latter, based in downtown Detroit, is resetting the benchmark for local investing, aggressively investing in start-ups in a local sector that is known for a slower, more conservative approach. Neal expects Michigan eLab invest more like Detroit Venture Partners.

"There will probably be a handful (of investments) this fall," Neal says. "The goal is to make 40 investments over the next 4-5 years."

Source: Doug Neal, director of Michigan eLab
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.
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