U-M's Desai Accelerator announces new endowment funding, extended program

The University of Michigan's Desai Accelerator has just announced two significant developments to expand the services it offers to early-stage tech startups.


The Desai Accelerator Endowment Fund has been formed to fund the program, thanks to a donation from the Desai Sethi Family Foundation, and the length of the program is being extended.


Angela Kujava, managing director of the accelerator, says the organization is grateful that the Desai Sethi Family Foundation decided to continue its support in a very meaningful way.


"In a way, we will have perpetual funds to support the accelerator. And it really shows their support not only for us, but for the startups and the university," Kujava says. "It's a nod to the success that has happened in this area and will continue to happen."


Since 2015, Desai Accelerator has run five cohorts. The accelerator has invested over $1 million in its portfolio of 26 companies.


Previously, over the course of 90 days, participating startups would each be provided with up to $50,000 in funding, collaborative work space in downtown Ann Arbor, and mentorship opportunities. In 2020, the program is being expanded to 10 months.


Kujava says the change is a response to direct feedback gathered from participants over the course of the program's history.


"The intensity of the program seemed to be a bit much for them to really feel like they could adequately take advantage of all the resources while still running their business," she says.

"For many of the startups, it was their first business, so they are still learning the ins and outs of running a business and the learning curve is pretty steep."


Startups that participate this year can expect a few other new elements. One is a two-week boot camp retreat at the beginning of the program, designed to provide an intensive period of goal setting and bonding opportunities for the cohort.


"The assumption that fostering longer-term relationships with mentors will yield better results is one of the driving factors of the new program format," Kujava says.


She adds that the new timeline means more local businesses can support participants by becoming mentors, speakers, or workshop leaders.


"There will definitely be more opportunities for folks to come in and share their expertise. Business development, sales, and revenue growth is an area where our startups could really use some additional assistance," Kujava says. "We hope that more people will join us as our program improves and evolves."


Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at jaishreeedit@gmail.com.


Photos courtesy of Desai Accelerator.

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