Katy Lind brings a variety of entrepreneurial experience to her new role as program manager for the University of Michigan's Desai Accelerator, but her journey into entrepreneurship was not a straight line.
Lind officially started at Desai March 5 after the previous manager, Alison Todak, left to serve as managing director of Ann Arbor co-working space Cahoots. As an undergrad, Lind studied dance and theater, but toward the end of her undergrad experience, she decided she wanted to go into business.
"I'm a curious person and I've always pursued things I'm excited about," she says.
She earned an MBA in entrepreneurship and marketing from Indiana University and went on to work in film marketing for three years. After that she worked with a marketing company that consults with Fortune 500 companies, and then spent 14 months working for startup Duo Security in Ann Arbor.
But as Duo grew, so did Lind's desire to start a business of her own. Her first venture, Nasty Soap, didn't work out, but Lind says she doesn't like the word "failure."
"I learned so much, and I wouldn't have been able to start Pincause if I hadn't gone through that," she says.
Pincause was the brainchild of Lind and her partner Nate Stevens. It's an online platform that commissions artists to create pins highlighting various causes, and funding those causes with a portion of the purchase price. In 14 months after the January 2017 launch, Pincause has raised about half a million dollars for various causes. Stevens continues to run the day-to-day operations there so Lind can concentrate full-time on her role at Desai.
One of her first initiatives at Desai is to double the program's intern staff from five to 10.
"What differentiates Desai from other business accelerator programs is that we have interns, period," she says. "When you're starting a business, it's difficult getting talent, and you don't usually need that talent as full-time employees. By doubling the intern staff, we give these startups even more access to highly-skilled talent so we can stay competitive with other accelerators."
Those interns will help the six startups that will make up the summer 2018 cohort at the accelerator. Applications closed in early March, and Desai staff are still going through applications to see which six startups will be chosen for the program that runs from June 11 to Sept. 28. Desai's summer program in previous years has been the launch pad for big startup successes, including MySwimPro and SAHI Cosmetics.
"I'm excited to be here, supporting entrepreneurs with the day-to-day issues they encounter," Lind says. "I'll be that person out in the field with them, and I've been where they are. Any problems they encounter, we will get through that together."
Along with growing the intern staff, Lind wants to grow Desai's reputation.
"We want Desai to gain recognition as a linchpin in the support network across the Midwest for our tech startups," she says. "We're a growing presence, and we're doing amazing things."
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of Desai Accelerator.