Mackinac Policy Conference Highlights Michigan’s Focus on Innovation

Published On: June 27, 2024Categories: Events, Investors

By Pete Martin, Head of Connection for Michigan Founders Fund

This year’s Mackinac Policy Conference was a hotspot for startup founders and policymakers discussing Michigan’s innovative future. The state united to lift the importance of innovation for economic growth. We’ve distilled some of the highlights from the event below!

We must build a culture of Innovation and make Michigan a place where innovators and entrepreneurs feel seen and heard. We can’t do this alone. It takes pioneers, and thankfully we have some doing work every day in places like Corktown, supported by organizations like Black Tech Saturdays and Michigan Founders Fund.” – Governor Gretchen Whitmer

Governor’s Office Commitment

Governor Whitmer celebrated Michigan’s tradition of innovation by introducing several initiatives to boost the startup ecosystem. In addition to mentioning historical innovators like Sherman Poppen, the inventor of the Snurfer, James Vernor, and Anna Bissell, the first woman CEO in America, the Governor emphasized the importance of a culture of innovation with a slew of actions.

Key details

  • Announcing Ben Marchionna as Michigan’s first-ever Chief Innovation Ecosystem Officer
  • Infrastructure for Innovation Directive: State agencies are directed to catalog and share technology, equipment, and facilities with innovators.
  • PitchMI Competition: A “Shark Tank” style event with a $100,000 prize for Michigan startups to focus on key issues for the state.

Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist, a former tech enthusiast, held a policy discussion with Victor Hwang of Right to Start discussing the importance of government support for entrepreneurs as they’re just getting started. Victor called out how his organization is working with governments across the country to recommend policies to support entrepreneurship, and how there is such large bipartisan support driving these initiatives. Watch the full discussion here

“In all the legislatures we’ve had votes on, it’s been almost overwhelmingly bipartisan across the board.” – Victor Hwang, Right to Start 

MFF Member Spotlights

Welcoming our new Executive Director

MFF Board members Adrian Fortino, Dug Song, and Katy Locker hosted a welcome session with community, business, and government leaders on a beautiful spring day. It was a fantastic opportunity to bring together folks from all backgrounds, building relationships and focusing on innovation in Michigan. By connecting diverse perspectives, we can foster a stronger, more collaborative ecosystem that drives growth and success for everyone involved.

Rishi also sat down with Crain’s Business to discuss the role of MFF and the overall entrepreneurial ecosystem. The conversation focused on the great businesses being built here in Michigan, how the state is aligning behind its entrepreneurs, and the ways that we collectively can provide more support for founders looking to build high-growth businesses here. Check out the full interview below. 

Broad support for founders

MFF’s executive director Rishi Moudgil joined PBS’ Zoe Clark along with ID Ventures’ Patti Glaza and Song Foundation’s Khalilah Burt Gaston to lift the opportunities that we have to improve our state’s support of entrepreneurs. This includes new grassroots initiatives, early-stage seed funds, and more support for underrepresented founders.  Rishi also framed MFF’s mission to improve Michigan where founders of all stripes and background have the access and resources needed to build great companies.

“We have the talent in the state. We have incredible businesses. We have to talk more about the incredible success stories that we have in the state, and create bridges for underserved entrepreneurs.” –Rishi Moudgil, Michigan Founders Fund Executive Director

Critical conversations

MFF Co-founder and Board Co-Chair Dug Song and Michigan Senator Mallory McMorrow hosted a fireside chat discussing Michigan’s innovative spirit and the need for founders to “get loud” about their successes. This aligns with Dug’s recent op-ed on what we should do to foster high-growth companies in Michigan. You can watch the full fireside chat here.

“There is so much energy here that I didn’t find in New York. I didn’t find in California. I found it here.” – Michigan Senator Mallory McMorrow

In a separate conversation with Harold Ford Jr., former U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan seemed to speak directly to the value of MFF members Politics on the Go and Dome IQ when discussing the need for constituents (and politicians!) to be better informed.

“If you are a speaker or a president, I think what you have to worry about right in front of you is the information your members are getting accurate information.” – Paul Ryan, former U.S. Speaker of the House

Representation matters

Representation matters and it came up repeatedly at this year’s Mackinac Policy Conference. We saw sessions bringing racial justice and equity to the forefront on topics like philanthropy, Michigan’s population growth, and addressing the state’s housing crisis. You can watch more of the MPC 2024 sessions here

Representation matters in entrepreneurship, too, and a core part of Michigan Founders Fund’s mission is to make Michigan the most successful, inclusive, and community-minded startup ecosystem in the country, reflective of the state’s demographics. MFF has members of all backgrounds, from both peninsulas and nearly every corner of the state.

The 2024 Mackinac Policy Conference underscored Michigan’s rich history of innovation and energized its commitment to supporting all founders. If you’re building a high-growth business in Michigan, consider joining MFF to connect with a network dedicated to your success!

Engage with like-minded entrepreneurs today

Attend an Event

Want to learn more about MFF and experience what it’s like to attend an event? Find an event below

Our Programs

Join MFF

By making the pledge to give where you live, you are ensuring the health and growth of Michigan communities and in turn, your business

More Information