Blog: Antonio Lück

Brazil native Antonio Lück, portfolio manager at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, has lived in the Detroit area for under four years, yet has built a chain of friendships and activities that many would take a lifetime to amass. This week he writes on how a collaboration between a Brazil university and WSU brought him to Detroit's shores, the seeding of the Detroit Young Professionals volunteer and leadership group, and entrepreneurial gusto in the city.

Post 1: Adventure Detroit

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!