A Tribute to Trista Van Tine, The Architect of Growth and Connection in Michigan’s Entrepreneurial Landscape

Published On: March 29, 2024Categories: Community Impact, Company Culture

By MFF Staff

As we approach the end of Women’s History Month, we’d like to take a moment to celebrate and thank Trista Van Tine, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Michigan Founders Fund (MFF), for all she’s done for our organization and community. 

Trista’s story is one of vision, dedication, and impact. Co-founding Michigan Founders Fund (MFF) in 2020, she set out to create a statewide network focused on founder fellowship where high-growth founders and venture capitalists can support and uplift each other. Not only did Trista set out to tackle these goals, but she also achieved them with the support of our board, advisory council, staff, and ecosystem partners.

In launching MFF, Trista was intentional about building our core culture: Founders for Founders and Founders for Community. She lives that creed every day as a constant source of helpful knowledge, inspiration, and connection among founders. She also ensured we had a ton of fun along the way with team-building events and ensured founders could express their true feelings through a load of custom Slack emojis (Trista’s favorite Toad “Ahhh!” pictured below for reference!). The foundation Trista built at MFF is a compass we’ll use to guide the organization through its next chapters, and we’re beyond grateful for it. 

Every founder knows this feeling…

MFF Network Offers Praise and Thanks

“During my tenure as the past chair at Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, we had the privilege of bringing Trista on board to spearhead A2EF (Ann Arbor Entrepreneurs Fund), a pivotal initiative aimed at fostering connections between high-growth-minded entrepreneurs and our local community.

Trista’s visionary outlook, bolstered by Co-Founder Dug Song’s unwavering support, transcended geographical boundaries, propelling us towards a grander ambition of positioning Michigan as a beacon of entrepreneurship excellence nationwide. Thus, the inception of the Michigan Founders Fund marked a transformative phase, fueled by Trista’s unwavering focus, tenacity, and entrepreneurial acumen, igniting a wildfire of innovation from what once was merely a flicker of inspiration.”

Bhushan Kulkarni, CEO of InfoReady Corporation (and MFF Board co-chair)

“Trista to me is a visionary. And she’s that very rare kind of visionary who actually rolls her sleeves up and makes the change she wants to see in the world.”  

Ted Velie, Co-Founder of Midwest House (and co-chair of Michigan Tech Week)

“The sincere effort and dedication Trista has shown to me and others is truly inspiring. She selflessly shares experience, motivation, network, resources and anything else she can to empower founders like myself to pursue their endeavors with equipped tools and support channels. I’ve seen myself grow as a leader because of her openness and willingness to help others.”

Crystal Brown, Founder of CircNova

Trista is a unicorn in her own rite. Since moving back to the state, her work in bringing people together, helping founders and strengthening the founder community has had a profound impact on the Michigan entrepreneurial community.

Jim Tenzillo, Founding Partner VentureNext

Michigan Founders Fund would not be what it is without Trista Van Tine. She was able to see in her first two weeks that an Ann Arbor Entrepreneur Fund would not address the gaps and opportunities in our state. She knew we had amazing burgeoning founder communities throughout the state and saw the path to build a platform for founders across the entire state.

We would not have the 150+ member community, Michigan Tech Week, or the amazing programs about to launch this year. I feel immensely lucky to have been able to work with her and even luckier to call her my friend.

Adrian Fortino, Managing Director Mercury Fund (and MFF Board Member)

Trista’s Contributions Run Deep

While we continue to honor her legacy, we wanted to take a moment to share our gratitude for her contributions to MFF – we’d also like to share some of the core elements from Trista’s highlight reel: 

  • Launching Michigan Tech Week is the biggest celebration of the state’s tech and entrepreneur ecosystems. In just a couple of years, it has brought together founders and partners across the state, speakers, and investors nationwide and granted hundreds of thousands of non-dilutive capital at pitch competitions for our entrepreneurs.
  • Bringing the first Social Impact Pitch Competition to our community, illuminating the path for startups dedicated to making a tangible difference, showcasing the potential of socially driven ventures while providing them with dedicated support.
  • Creating a first-of-its-kind Internship Program amplified her focus on providing underrepresented talent across Michigan the opportunity to explore the tech industry through career development, network growth, and a chance at breaking into an industry that has been historically difficult to enter. 
  • Establishing the MFF Founders Retreat, an annual gathering that has become a cherished ritual and sanctuary for founders to find fellowship and community among Michigan’s innovators like themselves. 
  • Perhaps most importantly, helping MFF achieve the 100-member milestone in a short period of time. Her steadfast commitment to founders and improving their experience has driven our work forward.

This short yet impactful list barely scratches the surface of Trista’s accomplishments, as she is a trusted friend, connector, mentor, and ally to so many of us. She is also a high-growth founder and has taken inspiration from our founders’ network to launch her startup (we won’t steal her thunder here, but we’re excited!).

Now that Trista has set out on her own new venture, excitement and anticipation envelop us as we move into our next stage. Her parting gift is securing significant funding through a Small Business Support Hubs grant so that we can build even further opportunities for underrepresented founders. As a reminder of her unwavering commitment to MFF and the community, she supports our members and team as we onboard new leadership to build on her success. 

In celebrating Trista Van Tine, we acknowledge her past contributions and revel in the vibrant ecosystem she’s helped cultivate. Her efforts have connected innovators, nurtured founder fellowship, and opened doors to countless opportunities for building and growing businesses across Michigan.

Trista, your journey with the Michigan Founders Fund and beyond is inspiring. Your passion, dedication, and innovative leadership have made an unforgettable impact on Michigan’s start-up ecosystem. So, as your new venture begins, just remember your vision will continue to guide us. Here’s to new adventures. Thank you again for everything you’ve done to empower and enable the startup ecosystem in Michigan to grow!


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