Start Garden is growing entrepreneurs in Grand Rapids

Kristin Coppens

| 3 min read

In Grand Rapids, we have come to expect nothing short of the overwhelming success of ArtPrize from entrepreneur, Rick DeVos. His latest venture, Start Garden aims to be just as successful for entrepreneurs and the business climate in the community. In general terms, Start Garden is a $15,000,000 venture capital fund; however, for the community, it’s much more.
As DeVos explains, “we want to be a catalyst igniting the broader seed community. We look at ourselves as a concierge for startups, but we also have insights and deep connections. The end goal is a massive reduction in friction.”
Start Garden aims to encourage, enrich, and build the generation of ideas for start-up businesses in the community. Recently acquiring a space at 50 Louis St. NW, the Start Garden hub is sort of a clubhouse type space with a classroom-like feel during the day and an event space at night.
On the surface, you may not think Start Garden is much different than the influx of venture capital funds and start up ideas already present. After delving deeper, it’s apparent that Start Garden is indeed the catalyst that DeVos aimed to produce.
Start Garden is different because it invests in increments instead of large lump sums. The hub of interaction occurs through the Start Garden website, as the launching point of idea submission and endorsements. The fund invests in two ideas per week as a way to catapult said ideas into the market and discover whether or not they are businesses. Each week, Start Garden invests $5,000 in two ideas: one chosen by the Start Garden team and one chosen by the public. Moving beyond that initial $5,000 investment, the funded ideas have 60-90 ideas to work on a hypothesis for their company and use that money to test it.
Based on the success of the initial hypothesis and test, the funded idea updates the Start Garden team at their monthly “update night,” giving Start Garden the opportunity to invest the next amount of $20,000 if they deem the project pliable. The last steps occur while the Start Garden team watches the funded projects closely and makes the decision to extend the investment anywhere from $50,000 to $500,000. In other words, the ideas progress from ideas to projects to startups.
Along the way, the Start Garden team assists the individuals associated with the funded ideas in connecting with partners and other investors applicable to the future of their business. The hub also provides advising hours for everyone involved in the Start Garden initiatives to receive tips and get questions answered by experts in various fields.
For West Michigan, Start Garden brings the possibility of economic development, financial capital, social capital and intellectual capital. As with ArtPrize, allowing the public to vote enhances those goals and stresses how important our community is in achieving a viral pipeline of startup business initiatives.
Stay tuned, as we feature various funded ideas made possible by the people of West Michigan and the Start Garden team.
What do you think the start-up industry buzz provides for our communities?
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