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Michigan venture capital fund celebrates success

Grand Rapids based venture capital firm Start Garden recently obtained over $1 million in investments, a mark that has left founder Rick DeVos confident that the firm will complete its goal of starting 100 new Michigan businesses every year. Start Garden has provided funding to 68 start ups since the firm was formed in April 2012. DeVos explained that Start Garden seeks to invest in companies that are likely to "grow at an accelerated rate beyond the performance of services or the selling of goods."

Start Garden began as 5X5, a competition that awarded select business pitches with $5,000 checks in order to help Michigan residents create new companies. Eventually, the competition was retooled and branded as Start Garden, replacing the no-string-attached cash awards with investment opportunities for startups to experiment with new business ideas. After three months, Start Garden's investors will decide whether to drop a business or fund it with more money.

Start Garden has received over 1,000 submissions, authorizing initial funding of $5,000 for just 61. Of those successful pitches, 25 were dropped after the initial three month period. The remaining 43 projects either received further funding or were placed on hold until they demonstrate further progress. Some projects have received as much as $50,000 in funding.

DeVos claims Start Garden's model has proven successful in encouraging potential entrepreneurs to make concrete progress on their ideas while simultaneously allowing them to experiment with new idea. He added that it allows investors to make more informed decisions, though he noted that he does not expect to see a return on any of the firm's investments for several years.

DeVos says Start Garden hopes to continue its rapid growth, hinting at plans to participate in larger investment deals that will help it achieve its goal of fostering entrepreneurship in Michigan.

Source:, "Rick DeVos reflects on Start Garden as venture capital fund passes $1 million investment mark," Garret Ellison, Dec. 12, 2012

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