First-Ever Detroit Startup Week Helps Black Business Hopefuls

The first annual Detroit Startup Week, powered by Chase, kicked off in May featuring over 100 events with some 2,500 participants attending free activities over the course of five days. Detroit’s inaugural Startup Week is expected to be largest first-year event in the global brand’s six-year history.

Ten learning tracks will be offered to entrepreneurs at all levels: technology, entrepreneurship 101, mobility, music, food-preneurship, art+design, civic innovation, neighborhood collaboration, social entrepreneurship, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

“Our city is unlike any other, with both ingenuity and a welcoming spirit, brilliance and grit, and opportunities abound. Detroit Startup Week is designed to glue together those opportunities, celebrate what’s already working, and lay the groundwork for what’s to come,” notes Kyle Bazzy, lead organizer.

[Related: Minority Entrepreneurs A Big Part of Detroit’s Comeback]

“Entrepreneurs are playing an invaluable role in Detroit’s comeback,” adds Jennifer Piepszak, CEO of Chase Business Banking, whose firm has committed $100 million over five years to Detroit’s economic recovery. “Detroit Startup Week is a great opportunity to recognize small businesses’ importance to the city’s recovery and to ensure they gain access to the necessary resources to support and grow.”

A few of the marquee speakers included Bill Ford, executive chairman, Ford Motor Company. “More than a century ago, Ford Motor Company was a startup business that applied innovative thinking and collaboration to get where it is today,” explains Ford, whose keynote kicked off the five-day event. “We are proud to support the next generation of entrepreneurs at Detroit Startup Week who embody that same spirit.”

Ford says the key to creating a strong business, is always dreaming up new ideas. “By the end of the year we’ll have the largest test fleet of autonomous vehicles of any OEM on the road,” Ford said. “The best advice that I got and will give to other people is to always remain curious as a person. Because so many executives get to where they think they’ve made it, and they shut down.”

His talk highlighted Ford’s efforts in mobility, from experimenting with electric bikes and employee shuttles to sensors that map remote areas in Africa to help deliver medicine and other services to isolated villages. He noted that the automaker needs to continue to explore these avenues, while continuing to make cars and trucks that people want.

“We have to do two things at once and do them well,” he said. “We have to continue to build our core business and do a great job of that. The other is that we have to imagine this new world and find a leadership role in that, as well. It does put a strain on management, but that’s the world we’re in. We don’t have a choice. We need to do both and we need to do both well and thoughtfully.”