I first entered 1555 Broadway St. with little to no knowledge of venture capital – I applied for this Princeternship primarily out of admiration for the company’s mission (revitalizing Detroit’s economy), interest in their diverse portfolio of start-up companies, and enthusiasm to learn something new. While I still cannot boast a vast repertoire of venture capital expertise, the basics I learned and brief research I conducted have certainly peaked my interest.
My host, Eleanor Meegoda ’12, works with the Detroit Venture Partners as an analyst, alongside a team of other bright, determined people. She first gave me an in-depth explanation of DVP’s evaluations of start-ups’ business models, trustworthiness, valuation, etc. before investing in them. Once DVP invests in a company, it moves in with them so DVP can offer more support. About 70% of their portfolio companies reside in Detroit – luckily for me, as I was able to meet the teams of the companies situated nearby.
Lunch that day included a meeting about a summer event DVP will be holding, where companies can pitch their businesses to potential investors. After lunch, I visited Ginkgotree (a company I had met with earlier) to test their product with user experience director Justin Mulwee and data architect Lou Alicegary. Aiming to decrease dependency on textbooks, Ginkgotree is a website that allows instructors to compile videos, readings, and other course materials in one place, which students can access by paying for copyright fees at a smaller cost than physical books. I pointed out areas with small bugs and then spoke with both of them about the benefits and challenges of start-up companies.
Next I met with Alex Persky-Stern and Clare O’Brien at Stik, a data analyst and marketing manager respectively. Alex told me more about Stik, a company that combines the trustworthiness of word-of-mouth referrals of professional services with the broad outreach of social media. Clare described her career trajectory and her daily routine. At both start-ups, the zeal and motivation to improve were impressive. As part of a small team, individuals know their contributions will have an impact and work all the harder because of it.
I conducted two short projects. Eleanor showed me angel.co, a website where start-up companies can connect to investors, and had me find Midwest start-ups (with a focus on Detroit) that DVP may be interested in investing in. Afterwards, analyst Jim Xiao introduced me to the For Sale by Owner market of selling houses and asked me to research how competitors compare with the free website service Homevana. I looked at unique packages each website offered to sellers, across-the-board services, and patterns I could find.
This day’s lunch-and-learn was with a speaker from Global Detroit. In the short time we had, we were only able to skim the surface of the issues plaguing Detroit and their causations. However, he did present some interesting statistics and ideas on the potential for immigrant population growth to help revitalize Detroit’s economy by increasing innovation, jobs, and global connections.
I finished my time with DVP by compiling my research for Jim in an Excel spreadsheet and receiving a Detroit Venture Partners Rubik’s Cube. I would like to thank Eleanor, the entire DVP team, the start-ups I met with, and my friendly parking attendant for being so welcoming and helpful. I had a wonderful experience and learned so much! Not only did I greatly enjoy the dynamic and fast-paced aspects of the start-up culture, but there were also free smoothies and popcorn available every day. This is definitely something I could get used to.