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Grand Rapids “Start Garden”…Rick DeVos Unveils The Details

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This is just so cool!  You’ve seen all the signs around town, right?  It’s kind of difficult to miss them.  The colorful signs are all over in orange, pink, lime green and blue.  They’re posted on doors, windows, inside coffee shoppes, cafes, and restaurants.  Start Garden is coming!  Well, Start Garden is HERE!

This morning at a news conference Rick DeVos unveiled what Start Garden is really all about.

If you are an entrepreneur, this is for you!  Rick DeVos unveiled plans this morning for a new $15 million seed accelerator fund that will be based in Grand Rapids.  He is hoping that this will launch  more than 100 new business ideas into fruition each year.  I LOVE this idea!

Remember, he has been doing the 5 x5 Night seminars for a while, and maybe, just maybe, that was the precursor to this bigger and better idea.  Start Garden will be open to things that are interesting, products, and services, as well as to entrepreneurs with visions that start as products and evolve into something more.

If you are an entrepreneur, you can now can apply for funding by submitting your idea on the Start Garden website, startgarden.com. If your submission is chosen you will get a $5,000 investment, with some strings attached. Each initial investment is accompanied by a mandatory 90-day status update,  and during that time seeded ideas have a shot at getting a larger, $20,000 buy-in.

Ideas will be chosen every week.  I have to tell you, this just brings tears to my eyes, honestly.  This is such a beautiful thing to do.  Seriously we just don’t know how lucky we are to live in this city and in West Michigan.  Grand Rapids and West Michigan are steeped in entrepreneurship.  It’s part of our DNA and to see the DeVos family stepping in, and up, to keep this city’s tradition going like this, it just leaves me speechless.  Do you realize that this is exactly what we need to sustain us?   This is a big part of our answer to the recession, locally.  I know that sounds dramatic but I truly believe that this is the way it starts!  It will breed new companies, which, in turn, will breed new jobs.  Again, my analogyof immigrants coming to America: they had an idea and a few bucks in their pocket, and that’s the way this country was built in our beginnings, little by little, one by one.

How many people have a great idea but just don’t have the financial backing to make it happen?  Start Garden will be able to change all that.  It will cross all economic boundaries, all age boundaries, and all ethnic boundaries.  To do this for West Michigan and Grand Rapids is a priceless gift.  To have people like the DeVos family oversee it, people who have been there, started businesses and can successfully operate them, is amazing.  They have an eye for what works.  It’s a gift that keeps giving, that’s all I can say.

Rick DeVos said that one idea will be selected internally, and a second will be chosen based on a public vote similar to the way voters choose 5×5 Night ideas now. Start Garden also will be making larger investments of up to $500,000 in ideas that show promising traction.

The new Start Garden seed accelerator is an example of Grand Rapids’ growing reputation as a center for entrepreneurship and innovation.

Because Start Garden is a for-profit venture, the DeVos family is funding the venture, he said, not the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation, which funds the nonprofit ArtPrize.

“It’s about seeding as many folks with a basic level of resources and seeing what they can do with it,” DeVos said. “Our hope is to ID folks who have ideas and can make things happen.”  Here’s to Start Garden changing the face of this city’s economic landscape  first, and then affecting the rest of the world later.

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