Harnessing Your Social Capital with Jacob Evan Smith

Tash Moore: How would you define social capital?

Jacob Evan Smith: When I think of social capital, I think of earned trust and influence between people and communities. One can build up social capital by adding net-positive value to others and the community at large, and then can “exchange” that capital in the future by asking for reciprocal support.

TM: How do you leverage your capital to best serve Detroit?

JES: Give first! Enter into spaces and interactions thinking about what you can give, not what you can get. Frame everything in terms of how you can add value, whether or not you will ever get something concrete in return. This is how you build trust and influence, which hold inherent future value in the form of social capital.

TM: How do you see Detroit’s entrepreneurial scene evolving over the next few years?

JES: Detroit’s entrepreneurial scene will continue to grow and organize at an increasing rate. When I say “scene,” I’m referring to the number of entrepreneurs, startups, and related employees; the amount of capital that’s accessible; and the programmatic support available (like accelerators, mentors, etc).

This scene has come a long way since I moved to Detroit in 2012, but there’s still major work to be done. For example, there’s a big skills gap, particularly in software and tech, between available jobs and people with the right skills for those jobs. This is one of the reasons why I’m so excited to be in my current role with Altimetrik, launching a hangout and collaboration hub for the Detroit software community, located downtown at 1500 Woodward. We also need more major success stories (shout-out to Duo Security!) and mentors with proven track records (I see you, Assembler Labs!) who can inspire entrepreneurs to think big and reduce avoidable mistakes. All in all, I can’t wait to see what’s next!

TM: What drew you to entrepreneurship?

JES: For me, entrepreneurship has always been about leveraging the power of business to drive positive social change. I’m also the type of person that when I stumble across a problem, I enjoy thinking of solutions, particularly when I see challenges that are being avoided. For example, a lot of my friends left Michigan after the 2008 financial crisis because there weren’t a lot of jobs, but my thought instead was that if there aren’t enough jobs, we should create some jobs! So a friend and I found a juicy problem — helping local homeowners save money while reducing energy waste — and launched a business.

TM: What does your perfect workday look like?

JES: A perfect workday is when I’m out and about interacting with people. I love meeting people, collaborating, and seeking out mutually beneficial partnerships.

TM: What is your favorite memory from [Detroit] Startup Weeks past?

JES: I have a very fond memory of being at one of the big social events last year, looking around at a sea of smiling, familiar faces, and thinking “Wow, we’re really building an amazing startup community!”

Jacob Evan Smith is an entrepreneur, community builder, and and community organizer. He is a lifelong Michigander who grew up in West Bloomfield, graduated from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and has lived in Detroit since 2012.

More info about Jacob can be found here.

In celebration of Detroit Startup Week, a 5 day conference for Detroit’s entrepreneurs, we’re speaking with leading creators and founders in our community. Meet local leaders in person at the conference June 17th-21st, 2019. RSVP here: http://detroitstartupweek.com/

#DetSW18 Celebrates the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

Michigan has been a magnet for innovation and entrepreneurship for hundreds of years, from fur and timber to mining, manufacturing, and mobility.
Detroit is Michigan’s economic epicenter. Ann Arbor is its research hub. The entrepreneurial ecosystem stretches from the thumb downriver, and from the mitten to Canada. Innovation, meet traction. Will, meet way.

This year, Techstars Detroit Startup Week celebrates the unity and diversity of our broad and vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem by building regional connective tissue and bringing together hundreds of startups, thousands of entrepreneurs, and millions of dollars in investment capital.

Ann Arbor and Detroit both attract new talent and capital to the state, which the entrepreneurial ecosystem challenges, rewards, and recycles. The synergies we forge at Startup Week help retain these critical resources, building regional wealth and sustainability.
Techstars Detroit Startup Week is investing regionally to break down internal (and international) barriers, hoist a big tent, invite broad collaboration, and advance the broad and diverse community of Michigan innovators.
Zoom out: what does this look like? It looks like a community. It looks like an ecosystem. It looks like a region bootstrapping itself, marshaling resources, and investing in its entrepreneurial future. It looks a lot like Michigan.
David Bloom
University of Michigan School of Information
[photo credit: Tara Turkington, www.taradanielle.com]

My #GiveFirst Story: David Bloom

Entrepreneurial education begins with un-learning and demythologizing. Shark Tank is a game show. Silicon Valley is a sitcom. Zuck is an outlier.

One of the hardest entrepreneurial myths to bust is “networking.” Students think it means elevators, pitching, sales. Or worse: that you can network from behind a screen without Getting Out of the Building.

I teach Selfless Networking. You just met somebody new? Shut up and listen. What are their values, their goals, their challenges? Listen, listen, listen.

Then, if you can connect them get the resources they Need to Succeed, just do it. Help the other person. Go out of your way. Expend social capital. Expend actual capital. No quid pro quo.

Through Selfless Networking, you learn how to serve them better, Discover new opportunities, and sharpen your entrepreneurial focus. You can’t do any of these things by pitching, so begin by helping.

In other words, #GiveFirst.

#GiveFirst is the animating principle for Techstars Detroit Startup Week, its hundreds of volunteers, and thousands of participants. When I first encountered this hashtag, its reductive beauty took my breath away. Months of entrepreneurial learning and unlearning packed into two words.

The challenge, of course, is walking the talk. Empathy, generosity, and altruism can seem to run counter to the hyper-capitalism of entrepreneurial mythology. In fact, #GiveFirst accelerates innovation and adoption, which is the whole point.

Set aside Return On (networking) Investment for a moment and just #GiveFirst because it feels good. The intrinsic motivation of helping somebody is your Drive; the extrinsic will follow. The world is full of Givers and Takers and Makers and Fakers. Help them all.


David Bloom

University of Michigan School of Information

10 Reasons to Partner with Startup Week 2018

Techstars Startup Week Detroit, powered by Chase for Business, is back this June 2018! We expect it’s going to be the best year yet. For our third year we’re expecting 10,000 attendees from all over the region coming down to Detroit to experience and participate in our thriving startup community.

Want to get involved? We’re still accepting partners. First, let us share with you how sponsoring or partnering with us works. Here are 10 Reasons Why You Should Partner with Startup Week in Detroit.

  1. It’s THE BIGGEST Entrepreneurship event of the year in Michigan.What started three years ago, has grown into the largest conference in Detroit for entrepreneurship. In the past two years alone we reached 95.5 million people through media, saw over 9,600 attendees, hosted speakers including Jamie Dimon of Chase, Bill Ford Jr of Ford, Dan Gilbert of Quicken Loans, and many more. This year we expect 10,000 attendees, national keynote speakers, and visitors from around the country to attend.
  1. Our vision is inclusive and accessible to all.We are a platform that is accessible for all. The entire week of programs, events, and speakers are free so that anyone can participate. We aim to build a platform for others to launch from. We hope to see attendees find their partner or co-founder, launch their company, get visibility, get inspired or find an investor. There’s no profit for us — it’s all re-invested through free programming. Startup Week is one of the only platforms that is truly accessible, free, and all about the community.
  1. Our execution is Community Driven & Volunteer Led.Even though Startup Week in Detroit is growing fast, we are not straying from our focus on the community. All of our programs are community driven and volunteer led. If you’re a leader in a neighborhood, we empower you to get your community involved.
  1.  We don’t just want your money, we want a partnership.It’s not just about sponsor dollars, we’re open to partners who add value to Detroit’s community. Partnering can take many forms, like our friends at Google teaching small businesses in Detroit neighborhoods how to get online for free during Startup Week. We’re excited for our sponsor Quicken Loans to donate shuttle busses this year bringing in underserved communities to Downtown Detroit for the week. Have an idea on how to help? We’re open to it.
  1. You don’t have to be a paying sponsor to make an impact.Sponsorship is important to us of course, because that is what makes this all possible. But just as important are the companies and professionals who share their wisdom and experience with entrepreneurs through learning tracks. If you have expertise to share, submit a program application (below)! Deadline April 30.
  1. Your investment goes directly to Detroit entrepreneurs.We have 100s of volunteers giving their time to see this event’s success, meaning we have low operation costs. All of the sponsorships we raise go to the big event that week.
  1. Our tracks are diverse and interesting to all.  With dozens of learning opportunities for the week, we’re able to engage attendees around a diverse variety of topics including food, tech, makers, art, and so much more. This draws a larger audience and makes sure there is something from everyone. You can also support a track or key events in a track to reach a more targeted audience.
  1. Bring your vision to us, we will align it to the week.It might seem like there’s so much going on, how can you fit in? Bring to us your vision and we can align it. For example, Blue Cross Blue Shield has shared with us their vision for their brand innovating in the medical space. We want to align them with our med tech track to inspire and engage others around their brand. We will spend time to make sure they are appropriately aligned. Sponsors love us because we take the time to align their vision and care about this.
  1. In the end it’s all about the people.We are focused on the relationships we build with our sponsors and partners, and with entrepreneurs and hopefuls. From corporate sponsors and investors to tech startups and neighborhood businesses, we bring people together. That’s what makes us feel we’ve served our purpose.

10.Startup Week supports entrepreneurs AND grows the economy. Through Startup Week in Detroit we help businesses gain the investments they need to fuel success, earn increased revenue through improved business practices, and attract more talent to the Detroit area. When we help an entrepreneur succeed, we all benefit. A high tide raises all ships!

Are you ready yet? Get involved now:

Click here to become a sponsor

Click here for a shareable event snapshot

With gratitude,

Kyle Bazzy and Monica Wheat

Techstars Startup Week Detroit Co-Leads