SURGE marks five years of launching startups

SURGE is marking five years of being a resource for entrepreneurs launching new businesses. That investment has resulted in 135 startups raising more than $38 million in capital and creating or retaining 400 jobs.
The milestone will be marked with a SURGE Celebration at the Holland Civic Center from 5-7 p.m. on June 17. The event is being hosted by Lakeshore Advantage, the local economic development organization that assists employers with growth opportunities in Ottawa and Allegan counties.
This outdoor in-person event will spotlight five years of accomplishments within the Holland SmartZone and showcase local startup companies. It also will provide an opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas as part of Start Garden 100, Michigan’s largest business competition, which awards $1,000 to 100 candidates and $20,000 to the 10 finalists.
“Our community has a long history of developing, innovating, and making world-renowned products. The resources, provided by the SmartZone and support services developed by our team, will ensure that history continues for many years to come,” says Lakeshore Advantage President Jennifer Owens. “The SURGE Celebration will showcase the years of work and our thriving ecosystem of entrepreneurs and startups.”  
Culture of innovation
The SURGE Celebration brings together leaders and champions of the Holland SmartZone as well as business and community members interested in fostering a local culture of innovation and learning more about the region’s startup community. 
Gentex, the region’s largest employer, will be showcasing the company’s cutting-edge technology and products, developed and manufactured locally in West Michigan. Gentex is the premier sponsor of the SURGE Celebration, demonstrating its continued commitment to innovation and economic opportunity in the region.
“As a growing tech company and longtime local employer, Gentex remains committed to supporting economic development efforts that help our area grow and maintain its world-class business climate,” says Gentex Chief Technology Officer Neil Boehm. “In addition, we know the pandemic has created unique needs among established employers and the startup community alike, which is why we’re further motivated to renew our support for both Lakeshore Advantage and the entrepreneurial resources SURGE provides.” 
SmartZone funding
SURGE, the entrepreneurial support organization managed by Lakeshore Advantage, navigates startup companies to their next growth milestones and receives funding through the Holland SmartZone. 
The Holland SmartZone, established in 2016, is one of 20 such zones throughout Michigan where tech-based companies, entrepreneurs, and researchers can locate in close proximity to community assets that assist in startup company activity. 
The Michigan SmartZone network is managed through the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC). The MEDC is a sponsor of the SURGE Celebration in support of statewide entrepreneurship.
“Michigan has a proud reputation for its entrepreneurial spirit and world-class innovation in part thanks to the passion and commitment of partners like Lakeshore Advantage in supporting startups here in the state,” says Fred Molnar, vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation at the MEDC. “The MEDC is proud to support the work that Lakeshore Advantage has accomplished through its SURGE programs and resources over the past five years to support the West Michigan startup community. We look forward to building on our partnership with them to continue growing Michigan’s entrepreneurial ecosystem in the years to come.”
Connect with entrepreneurs

The SURGE Celebration will include the opportunity to connect with entrepreneurs and their products on display. 
Start Garden, an entrepreneurial support organization based in Grand Rapids, will also be present, collecting business idea pitches for its Start Garden 100 business ideas pitch competition. Individuals who pitch a business idea at the Start Garden pop-up booth at the Holland Civic Center on June 17 will receive free admission to the SURGE Celebration. More about Start Garden 100 at
“We invite the community to come out and meet our startups and entrepreneurs and get that first-hand experience of the products and technologies being developed here,” says Amanda Chocko, director of entrepreneurship at Lakeshore Advantage. “It’s one thing to hear that great things are happening, it’s entirely different to come out and enjoy a night of food, fun, and connection with this fantastic startup community.”

Tickets are $25. More details at


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Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.