By Pete Martin, Director of Connection for Michigan Founders Fund
MFF members are founders and investors dedicated to building great startups here in Michigan while leading in their communities. Each year, our members vote to highlight a select group of members that are representative of the startup culture we’re building. Check out this year’s winners!
Most Engaged Member: Achsha Jones, TripSlip
Meet Achsha Jones, MFF’s Most Engaged Member of 2023, as voted by her peers.
Achsha is the founder of TripSlip, a Detroit-based startup on a mission to modernize the field trip process for teachers, schools, parents, kids, and every venue and vendor involved. She’s a member of Techstars Detroit‘s latest cohort, and has been incredibly active in Michigan’s startup scene (and beyond!) this year. Here are some fun facts about Achsha:
- Achsha hosts Founders First Fridays at Newlab, a free monthly meetup for high growth founders in Detroit (and part of a network of similar meetups across the state).
- She emceed Michigan Tech Week in Ann Arbor this year, with over 1,000 attendees.
- She also emceed the first ever Detroit Drone Film Festival this summer!
Achsha has been there for her fellow founders all year, all while continuing to build and scale her own startup. She is a shining example of a startup culture where founders help each other and celebrate each others’ wins.
Top Mentor: Christina Fair, Hum
Christina is the co-founder and COO of Hum, The Growth Engine for Internet Providers. Hum enables internet service providers to increase take rates, reduce acquisition costs, and differentiate their offering in multi-dwelling units.
Christina has been such an incredible resource for her fellow founders, and it shows with this award. The ways she shows up for others, whether that’s taking a phone call or meeting, engaging with them in MFF’s Slack community, or connecting founders with each other, are wonderful to see. She is so open and welcoming with everyone she meets, and is willing to share her own experiences and expertise without expecting anything in return. If you have a question or are in need of guidance, Christina is there for you.
Impact Leaders: Johnnie and Alexa Turnage
Johnnie and Alexa are the founders of EvenScore, an impact-focused donation platform that provides a safe and trusted space for small-dollar donors to support the causes and candidates most important to them and the communities they call home.
And if you haven’t heard about it already, they’re also the founders of Black Tech Saturdays, a weekly meetup fostering a culture of innovation and imagination to support the growth of Black tech that has grown so much it has expanded beyond Detroit to cities around the country! The Turnages are proof that leading in your community can be done in parallel with building your company, and that you can go much further when you bring people with you.
Up & Coming Founder: Crystal Brown, CircNova
Crystal formed CircNova earlier this year, and is on a mission to power RNA as the future of medicine. In this short time, Crystal and CircNova have been on a tear! From the team she’s gathered, to winning eLab Ventures‘ AI Launchpad Pitch Competition at Michigan Tech Week to her constant effort and the rising attention she’s garnered from both coasts (with plenty of travel to Boston and San Francisco), is just incredible. Even more, she’s doing all this while helping her fellow founders, choosing to go down this path together vs going it alone.
As more people look to build great high-growth startups here in Michigan, we’re excited to point to Crystal’s journey and share the story of CircNova.
Roots & Wings: Marc Alexander, Lite Raise
Marc’s personal story of founding Lite Raise is one you should hear. He was anonymously gifted funds to help pay for his college tuition with the promise that he pay it forward. From there, Lite Raise was born, which empowers students and organizations of all sizes to reach their fundraising goals.
Marc is another example of startup founders leading in their communities while building great businesses. In addition to winning the National Black MBA Association‘s annual pitch competition last year and scaling Lite Raise, Marc volunteers as President of the Kiwanis Club of Utica-Shelby township, helping create opportunities for children to be curious, safe, and healthy in their communities.