Coulter Investment Forum and Michigan Growth Capital Symposium Team Up to Create a Super-Sized Venture-Investment Event

MTAM often sponsors events that will benefit members of the connected tech community in Michigan, and as part of that support will offer an opportunity to publish an article about the event in our blog.  Below is an article about the upcoming ‘Michigan VC Symposium‘ for which MTAM is a community sponsor. This event takes place on May 16-17 at the Marriott Resort Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti.


mgcs-logoThe Midwest’s leading and longest-running venture-investment fair for entrepreneurial companies and early stage investors ─ the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium ─ is about to get even bigger and better.

For the first time, the University of Michigan will team up with the Coulter Investment Forum to host the 2017 Michigan Growth Capital Symposium on May 16 and 17. The combination of two premier events at the same time will feature a total of 60 presenting companies and is expected to attract 600 participants representing nearly 100 investment firms.

In addition, commercialization and technology-transfer specialists from top-ranked research universities will be on hand to give investors a preview of exciting research-based ventures being incubated and spun out of their respective institutions. The Mobile Tech Association of Michigan is one of the sponsors for this year’s symposium.

The Michigan Growth Capital Symposium’s new partnership with the Coulter Investment Forum will not only extend the breadth and depth of its entrepreneurial and investment scope but also raise its visibility nationwide. Each year, the two-day, high-energy confluence of investors and entrepreneurs showcases 30 to 35 investor-vetted, high-potential startups representing the “best of the Midwest” and beyond.  These Midwestern companies, including many U-M spinouts, are commercializing new research discoveries and advances in the life sciences and technology, as well as advanced manufacturing and the automotive industry. Typically, their founders and CEOs are seeking early through mid-stage investments.

The symposium, now in its 36th year, offers opportunities for entrepreneurs to network, engage and do deals with leading angel and venture-capital investors from Michigan and out-of-state. Over the past three and a half decades, the synergy generated by these match-ups has helped to spur the further growth and development of transformational new ventures, which are driving innovation not only in the state and the Great Lakes region but in other parts of the country as well.

As this year’s co-host of the MGCS, the annual Coulter Investment Forum, sponsored by the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, will feature 25 to 32 emerging companies with life-science innovations that have been vetted through the Translational Research Partnership Program at one of 16 university partners, using the Coulter Commercialization Process.

The Coulter Process utilizes industry best practices to accelerate the movement of academic biomedical innovations from the bench to the bedside by reducing risk and attracting follow-on funding. Over a 10-year period, it has funded 300 translational research projects, of which one-third advanced from university laboratories into industry and raised nearly $2 billion of follow-on investment.

“This is an opportunity to showcase companies to [members of] the Midwest investment community who may not have attended our previous two forums, at Stanford and Boston,” explained Director-Research Awards Mara Neal. She said the decision to hold the third Coulter Investment Forum in the nation’s heartland was driven by the opportunity to reach a broader audience of potential investors and by the “established excellence” of the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium.

“The symposium has a long history, and the people who attend it are interested in this area,” Neal added. “Our companies are all biomedical startups [that are commercializing innovations] ranging from health IT to diagnostics and devices.”

Coulter Program oversight committees at the 16 participating universities, including U-M, will select one or two high-potential startups to attend this year’s forum where each will make a formal fundraising presentation to investors. To be eligible, a company must have received an investment from a Coulter Program at a partner university and have completed the Coulter Commercialization Process. In addition, it must have a professional CEO, a license from the university to commercialize technology that helps to improve patient care and medical practice and the ability to attract funding from angels, venture investors and/or industry partners.

The inspiration behind the Translational Partnership Program’s philosophy of “science serving humanity” was Wallace H. Coulter, a little-known biomedical engineer who applied his inquisitive mind and engineering talent to solving unmet clinical needs. Coulter invented the Coulter Principle and founded the Coulter Corporation, a private global diagnostics company. After Coulter’s death in 1998, the proceeds from his estate were used to fund the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, which has continued to provide risk capital for innovative initiatives through its grants and to sponsor university-based translational research grant programs.

The idea for the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium was conceived in the late-1970s by U-M Finance Professor David Brophy, director of the Center for Venture Capital and Private Equity Finance, who recognized the need to bring together startup founders and angel and venture-capital investors in a common forum. His aim was to fuel the growth of an entrepreneurial community in Michigan, diversify the state’s staid economy beyond cyclical automotive manufacturing and foster the expansion of a thriving local angel and venture-capital investment industry.

Brophy also wanted to do more to promote the commercialization of exciting research discoveries and technological innovations emerging from the test labs at the state’s major research universities and medical centers. And he hoped to encourage enterprising entrepreneurs, including many former students, to seek out or provide the critical financing needed to accelerate the introduction of innovative products and services in the marketplace.

As the MGCS evolved, Brophy began to invite seasoned investors and successful entrepreneurs to speak about their experiences and to serve on panels that examine a wide range of industry issues, from new investment opportunities in technology and life sciences to the challenges facing entrepreneurs in health care and fintech.

The heartbeat of the symposium, however, still emanates from the startup founders and CEOs who make presentations each year to investors. For a privately held company to be considered, it should be seeking funding ─ seed, early-stage, late-stage or pre-IPO ─ in the range of $1 million to $20 million within six months of the symposium, and have projected revenue of $20 million within five years. A Midwest connection is preferred. Each application is reviewed independently by qualified venture capitalists serving on the symposium’s selection committee.

Once selected, a company participates in a presentation review, where MGCS coaches help startup founders and CEOs refine their formal pitch to investors and hone their presentation skills. During the symposium, each company is given a 12-minute presentation slot to showcase its business to an audience of angels, venture capitalists and institutional investors. In addition, startups are provided with table-top exhibit space, an executive summary in the MGCS conference binder and, new in 2017, a complimentary analysis of their investability and market-sector potential.

Since the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium began, hundreds of startups have taken advantage of the opportunity to meet and greet investors and negotiate a deal for financing.

“The symposium offers a great opportunity to access capital and to expand awareness of our business among VCs,” said David Esposito, president and CEO of Armune Bioscience in Kalamazoo. “We also are able to exchange ideas with other entrepreneurs.”

“We are at the MGCS, because we are huge believers in Michigan and are trying to build awareness of our company,” commented Michelle Lange, chief customer officer of AutoBooks in Troy. “We’d rather have Michigan money and see things happen in our state.”


Claudia Capos, the owner of Capos & Associates LLC, is a professional communicator with an extensive background in journalism, publications and media relations. A University of Michigan graduate, she co-founded About Ann Arbor Magazine before joining The Detroit News, where she held a variety of writing and editing positions. The News submitted three of her investigative-reporting series for Pulitzer-Prize consideration. 

Since leaving the News, Claudia has provided communications services to numerous clients, ranging from the Big Three automotive manufacturers to small and mid-size privately held companies. She also has written and edited publications for leading philanthropies and educational institutions, including the U-M’s Ross School of Business. Her articles have appeared in national magazines and major metropolitan newspapers. 

In addition, Claudia has gained first-hand knowledge of global business marketing and operations through her international-trade corporation, Foreign Accent Inc., and its locally based successor, Brighton Accents.


About MTAM

MTAM is a non-profit trade association for Michigan’s mobile / wireless (connected) technologies industry and businesses in all industries utilizing those technologies. We are the first state-based mobile/wireless industry trade association in the U.S., and our mission is: • to facilitate conversation/collaboration between varied sectors of the mobile/wireless eco-system; serve as the bridge to enable diverse organizations to understand each other’s perspectives and needs in order to drive new innovation and opportunities involving these technologies; • to increase the use of, and demand for, Michigan-based mobile/wireless technology products and services in-state, nationally and globally; • to increase the productivity and profitability of every industry vertical in Michigan via the use of these technologies; • to create sustainable jobs and increased entrepreneurial opportunities in the state based on the use of these technologies, thereby achieving substantial growth of Michigan’s economy; • and to help the communities we serve via the use of these technologies. We are also the statewide producer of Mobile Monday Michigan – a mobile / wireless industry networking and education organization which is a branch of the international Mobile Monday organization based in Finland. Here in Michigan we currently have 4 chapters (Detroit, Ann Arbor, Lansing and Grand Rapids) with over 3000+ members statewide.
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