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Michigan venture firm Start Garden ends first year

In the year since its founding, Michigan-based Start Garden has helped fund over 100 businesses, investing approximately $2.3 million in project ranging from sustainable African food to revolutionary business software. Start Garden's founder, the grandson of another prominent Michigan entrepreneur, says he hopes to push Michigan to embrace new ideas and take risk on potentially ground-breaking startups.

Start Garden recently completed its first year, during which time it supported hundreds of business ideas in a wide range of industries. Every week, the company chooses two projects for a $5,000 investment. One of these businesses is selected solely by Start Garden, while the other is chosen via an open online poll. Some businesses go on to raise a substantial amount of funds, while others earn less. For instance, Start Garden invested around $500,000 in a business developing software aimed at facilitating communication between corporate computer systems, while a firm developing boxed food for Africa received $5,000.

This is not to say that a single $5,000 investment is less helpful than a larger investment. Start Garden's founder sees $5,000 as an ideal amount for determining whether a proposed business might be marketable, especially when paired with the numerous corporate connections Start Garden offers to participating firms.

Start Garden focuses primarily on new or small startups, but the founder has been surprised by how fast some of the ideas develop into full-fledged businesses. For instance, the software firm that received $500,000 from Start Garden went on to secure $1.25 million worth of funding, allowing it expand and enter new markets in a way that would have been impossible without funding.

The firm has yet to see any of its projects return on their investments, but its operators say they are aware that it could take years or even decades for the firms to reach profitability.

Source:, "Start Garden 'close on some larger deals,' says Rick DeVos as venture firm closes first year" Garret Ellison, Apr. 28, 2013

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