Antonio Lück brings a fresh perspective and strong entrepreneurial spirit to the board of Detroit Young Professionals
. He is a portfolio manager at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation
, where he oversees the MEDC's investments in 25 different companies and sits on most of those companies' boards. In his previous role, he first served Delphi as the Adams Entrepreneur Fellow by managing business development and later was hired to perform intellectual property analysis. During the 2006 E2Detroit
Conference competition, he won the "Exceptional Entrepreneur" title after his team developed a business plan and created a marketable product. Antonio's integral role in the launch of Monarch Antenna Inc., a new technology company spun out by Delphi, paved the way for him to be recognized as one of the 2008 "20 in their 20's" by Crain's Detroit Business
Antonio was born in Brazil and received degrees from universities in his home country in law from Faculdade de Direito Curitiba and in civil engineering from Universidade Federal do Paraná. He is a certified engineer and a licensed lawyer in Brazil and served as an advisor to the president of Universidade Tuiuti do Paraná for more than five years. During this period he was involved in creating the Project Office and the Intellectual Property Office in the University Tuiuti of Paraná. Stateside, Antonio received his MBA from Wayne State University and is an advisor to the school's MBA Association.
Remember my friend Alain Piette that I met at the WSU Alumni Association and who is a former Adams Entrepreneurial Fellow? Alain currently is the CEO for Spaceform, a company he spun out of Delphi. When I joined the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) last year as a portfolio manager, Spaceform was assigned as one of my companies, which received investment from MEDC in 2004. Sing it with me now: "It's a small world after all…."
I felt the energy behind entrepreneurship and the desire to create "the new" in this region from my time with Delphi; this feeling has become more evident as I continue to work at the MEDC. The State of Michigan has created a significant structure to provide an environment for entrepreneurship to thrive. One good example of MEDC's initiatives is the creation of 12 Smartzones to support entrepreneurs in their endeavors.
Another initiative is the 21st Century Jobs Fund, which has committed over $500 million over the last 10 years to grow new high-tech industries that will bring a diverse, vigorous economy to the state. Tom Baruch, the founder of CMEA Capital in San Francisco, confirms this view when he highlights how Michigan is ahead of the game regarding policies programs that spur entrepreneurship in the article "California's innovation model… Michigan".
Entrepreneurship is driven by one's desire to reinvent the world, to create something new, make it a better place. Detroit has a lot of vacant space with inexpensive rent and a multitude of talented workers. Just the right mix for innovative thinking that drives new business.
Chris Rizik, one of the region's most prominent venture capitalists, believes Detroit was held back by the "success of entrepreneurs over the last century and the creation of two generations of employees, not of entrepreneurs." I agree with him, fortunately, I continue to witness first hand this region overcoming these obstacles and flourishing for years to come.
Detroit has a lot of the DIY (Do It Yourself) culture. It is a place for you to be you, to find yourself, to see potential, to be. The city has great history and is a blank canvas for you can paint your transformation; be it in the arts, music, business, community service,…, you name it.
The Detroit DIY culture was highlighted well at TedX Detroit 2010. The conference energized me and broadened my vision of the many artists, musicians, poets, and business initiatives that are transforming Detroit. I believe the recent Johnny Knoxville movie, Detroit Lives, is another example of a very positive and accurate way to portray this view. BTW – Phil Cooley is in it!
Detroit's rebirth has begun. It is organic, germinating from seeds carefully harvested by Detroit's people and community. Our rebirth is authentic; a far cry from plastic-fake culture.
* Disclaimer: This blog reflects only Antonio Lück's point of view and is not supported by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
Detroit Young Professionals (DYP) began with a core group of nine folks. Initially the group was a loose structure. Our idea was to work together first to assess everyone's skills and interests and understand how each person would like to be involved in the organization.
We decided that DYP should be a grass roots movement to engage young professionals in community service, build leadership, and partake in civic and social events. We organized a few events in each of those areas and were satisfied with the team we were building. It was time to start giving shape to the group and therefore we went on a professional retreat to discuss the legal structure we should adopt as well as to define the vision and mission for DYP.
We organized a weekend retreat and by the end of the brainstorming sessions, we determined the DYP structure. DYP has a board of directors with 5-7 members and seven committees including Leadership, Social, Civic, Finance, Special Projects, Marketing, and Membership. The mission of the committees is to carry out the vision of being a regional nonprofit organization and to provide professional development, social networking, and civic engagement opportunities.
Also at the retreat we formed the mission of DYP - "Detroit Young Professionals are dedicated to making metro Detroit a better place and developing our region's next generation of leaders; bringing together diverse, forward-thinking individuals with a passion for cultivating creativity, entrepreneurship and a spirit of community in Metropolitan Detroit."
DYP is a volunteer-driven organization and we welcome persons of all ages and backgrounds to participate. Today DYP is a Michigan non-profit with over 15 volunteers working together to accomplish these goals and is in the process of becoming a 501(c)6.
Since DYP's genesis, I've had the pleasure of working with some amazing people who have made incredible contributions to the organization: Robin Dillard, Joe Shelton III, Charlene Minatee, Eddie Lee, and Phil Goldsmith. I thank them greatly for the opportunity.
Now, continuing the string of how I met people and how that evolved…
During my first semester (period of six months) in the US, I had the good fortune to meet Jeff Cahill. We met at the cookie table after donating blood at one of Wayne State's blood drives. We had a good conversation and met many times thereafter. When DYP started recruiting new members I invited Jeff to join. He jumped right in, initially taking over the leadership committee chairmanship. He then became the executive director in late 2009 (around 3½ years after we met). He recently gave up his position as the executive director to accompany his girlfriend to her new job as a university professor out of state. Jeff has made great contributions to the organization and will be missed.
One of DYP's first partnered events with Wayne State was a panel I moderated called Get in the Game. It was a discussion on entrepreneurship and funding. Two of the people invited to speak were Phil Cooley from Slows BBQ, who's highly involved in grassroots movements in Detroit, and Jake Sigal from Myine Electronics, a.k.a. Livio Radio. Jake has become a good friend and we spent a lot of time this past summer conquering trails around Detroit on our mountain bikes.
Another eminent DYP event includes Become Your Catalyst for Change with Todd Hohauser, Therese Boldt, and Kay Douglas. We talked about developing yourself personally and how to grow into the career you want. On the same theme of entrepreneurship and starting your own business we produced another event called Entrepreneurs Expo with Kerry Doman, Matt Bower, Brent Yax and Brad Saarela. We highlighted each person's perspective on why and how they started their businesses.
Detroit Young Professionals has volunteered for Focus Hope, Capuchin Soup Kitchen, and tree planting with the Greening of Detroit. We also hosted a Halloween party last year at the Detroit Yacht Club in partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters. We have hosted a few mixer events, attended gala events, and for the past two years we celebrated our Vanguard Awards. The Vanguard Award is one of our most prestigious events in which DYP awards individuals who have made significant contributions to our community.
Some of the organizations we have partnered with include Wayne State University, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, The American Cancer Society, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Future Midwest.
Not only have I met many interesting people through DYP, DYP has also opened the door to other initiatives in Detroit like my good friend Erin Rose's Positive Detroit blog – tired of the negative news, she created this blog in February 2008, which has become a precursor in this current movement of showcasing the positive things others are saying about Detroit and what people are doing in our own backyards to create change. Recently my friend Steve Roginson, who I met through Kerry Doman from After5 Detroit, has spearheaded a movement called #MoveToDetroit to bring talent and people back to the city.
After living a year and a half in the suburbs, I plan on moving back to downtown Detroit early next year with my sister when she returns home from Brazil – and yep, I am starting to call Detroit home. I could go on and on with all the great initiatives and projects going on in Detroit, and I am always happy to talk about them. Feel free to contact me to chat.
It’s January 2006, and Detroit is my new adventure.
I had recently become a civil engineer and freshly accredited with the bar after concluding my JD. I studied simultaneously for both degrees while working part time as the advisor to the president of a 15,000-student private university, Universidade Tuiuti do Paraná. After I graduated, I worked full time for the president and was introduced to Wayne State’s former president, Dr. Irvin Reid. We established a collaboration between the two universities and I was awarded a full scholarship to complete my MBA at WSU.
I had not contemplated getting a masters' degree, considering I just completed years of finishing two degrees, and was not thinking about living in a different country. Oops, I forgot to mention, I am not from the Detroit area, let alone the United States. I was born and raised in Brazil. The deadline for the application was really close, so I had to make a (life-changing) decision pretty quick. On January 27, 2007 I arrived in Detroit, with two bags in hand, after spending five weeks backpacking in Europe with my sister. This is how my adventure in Detroit began.
When I first arrived in Detroit, I was very excited to be in a city where I only knew one person: Dr. Reid. The opportunity he has given me means more than he will ever know. The first four months in Detroit were great; everything I came across was a new discovery. Unfortunately, the following four months/next school semester were a bit different (I still don’t understand why Americans call a period of four months a semester, but I will go with it...). Peering out my window, all I saw was a deserted city with little for me in it. I missed home, my family, and friends.
I knew I had to make a change, and that was my attitude. I realized that Detroit is a city to dig deep, to search out and explore, a city full of hidden gems waiting patiently to be discovered! From there, the most dramatic and eye-opening transformation occurred: I discovered I was looking for the same things in Detroit I had been looking for in Brazil. I had to change, get in the flow, and explore!
With this new attitude of mine, I began to get involved in the community and meet people. I met Rakesh Prabhu playing pool at the Bronx Bar and realized we attended the same MBA class together. We went on to participate on the same team in the E2Detroit Adventure and won the title of Exceptional Entrepreneurs. Rakesh moved back to India in late 2007. Fast forward to 2009 – I attended Rakesh's wedding in December in Bangalore, fully dressed in traditional attire for the myriad number of ceremonies. Also during E2Detroit, I met Judy Johncox, Director of WSU's tech transfer office, along with many other interesting people involved in the entrepreneurial community in Michigan.
I also frequented meetings held by the Alumni Association at WSU. There I was introduced to Alain Piette, current CEO of Spaceform, and Therese Boldt, President of the WSU's Business School Alumni Association, friends to this day. They introduced me to one of my great friends Todd Hohauser from Harvey Hohauser and Associates (Executive Recruiting company). This began to take off and just snowball from there!
One day after class, Rakesh forwarded me an email containing the Adams Entrepreneurial Fellowship application. This was an opportunity to work with Jayson Pankin at Delphi, who was spinning off technology companies. This is exactly what I wanted to do and be part of! Both Alain (former Adams Fellowship recipient) and Judy knew Jayson and wrote letters of recommendation for me. I was chosen for the fellowship and began working with Jayson at Delphi Technologies, Inc. in December of 2007. Terry Cross, who administered the fellowship, became my mentor.
During that time, I was looking to get more involved in community activities in Detroit and I decided to accept John Nechiporchick's (my friend from the MBA program) invitation to attend a meeting to discuss forming a young professional organization in Detroit. Through Eddie Lee's leadership and a series of meetings later, we identified the consistent participants and Detroit Young Professionals (DYP) was born!