2023 Pancakes & Politics II: A Call to Action for Detroit’s Startup Community

Business leaders gathered at the Detroit Athletic Club on Friday for the latest Pancakes & Politics event, where they discussed how to make Southeast Michigan a more attractive destination for start-ups and high-growth companies.


Hiram Jackson, CEO of Real Times Media (RTM) and publisher of the Michigan Chronicle kicked off the event by thanking the sponsors, panelists, and attendees. He said that entrepreneurs create jobs, and excitement and repopulate our area.


Michael Vickers, PNC’s Regional Director for Detroit and Southeastern Michigan, followed Jackson and spoke about the importance of hope and dreams. He told the audience about how PNC staff had reached out to young people and other Detroiters to listen to their aspirations.


“I bring all that up because, as we talk about this question around Michigan participating in innovation, we really don’t have a choice in Michigan but to answer that question and affirm it or two things will happen: we’ll lose those young people and their dreams to other states, and those who are left behind or can’t leave will get left behind one way or another.”


Dennis Archer, Jr., the Chairman, and CEO of Sixteen42Ventures, followed Vickers and introduced Margaret Trimer, Vice President of Strategic Partnership of Delta Dental of Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana.


“Today’s conversation,” Trimer said, “is about making sure that economic conditions in this region are robust enough to support entrepreneurs and their start-up businesses. And I’d submit that, if the commentary in this room today suggests that we’re not ready, then the people in this room will walk out, determined to fix that. And that is the power of Pancakes & Politics—it’s thinking big and getting it done.”


Archer then introduced the panelists: Marlo Rencher, PhD, CDE, and President of Detroit Means Business; Quentin Messer, CEO of Michigan Economic Development Corporation and President & Chair of Michigan Strategic Fund; Dug Song, Co-Founder and President of The Song Foundation and former co-founder and CEO of Duo Security; and Patti Glaza, Executive Vice President of Invest Detroit and Managing Director of ID Venture.


The panelists discussed a variety of topics, including the differences between start-ups and small businesses, the obstacles that systemic oppression places in the way of people of color and white women who get into those ventures, and how Michigan can evolve its business thinking from “a blue-collar, manufacturing state of mind.”


The panelists discussed a variety of topics, including the need to diversify the tech industry, the importance of access to capital, the obstacles that systemic oppression places in the way of people of color and women and the role of government in supporting start-ups.


“We need to make sure that everyone has a seat at the table,” said Rencher. “We need to create an environment where everyone feels welcome and supported, regardless of their race, gender, or background.”


Messer agreed, saying that “the state of Michigan is committed to creating an inclusive environment for entrepreneurs.” He pointed to the state’s recent investments in tech education and workforce development as evidence of this commitment.


Song said that one of the biggest challenges facing the tech industry is the lack of access to capital. He called on the government to do more to support early-stage companies.

“We need to make it easier for entrepreneurs to get the funding they need to grow their businesses,” he said.


Glaza said that Invest Detroit is committed to investing in high-growth companies. She said that the organization has invested in over 100 companies since its inception in 2012.

“We are looking for companies that have the potential to create jobs and grow the economy,” she said.


The panelists’ discussion generated much interest and discussion among the attendees.


“This was a great event,” said Regina Ann Campbell President and CEO, Build Institute, “It was great to hear from such a diverse group of panelists and to learn about the challenges and opportunities facing the tech industry in Detroit.”


“I’m excited to see what the future holds for Detroit,” said Dawn Batts, 

Director of Growth Capital, Tech Town Detroit. “I think we have the potential to be a major player in the tech industry.”


The discussion showed there is a lot of interest in making Detroit a more attractive destination for start-ups and high-growth companies. The panelists’ discussion provided many valuable insights, and the event generated a lot of excitement about the future of Detroit.

Andrea Plaid and Andre Ash contributed to this article. 

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