Deal activity for early-stage investments had a banner year in Michigan, says Hush CEO Mykolas Rambus, leading the nation in number of new investments into growth companies. Late-stage companies benefited as well, whether through growth capital or even private equity.
"All of those things are accessible here in Michigan in ways they maybe weren't as much 15 years ago or 10 years ago," Rambus says. "There's a vibrant financing community that exists, which is fantastic. And as a growth company, we now see the benefit of that in the relationships we're able to develop. That didn't exist really even as much as 10 years ago. So, that's been key for us."
Speaking during the Roundtable at this past week's Detroit Smart Business Dealmakers Conference, panelist shared their personal stories as they explored what’s driving activity in region, and why they believe Detroit is a great place to do business.
Rambus says in talking about Detroit culture and values, there's the notion of grit and humbleness that's hard to find elsewhere.
"I have built companies in Boston, done it in New York and looking at Silicon Valley, but I think you get a different kind of professional who wants to join and be part of a company here, especially a growth company that's software driven," Rambus says. "That's been foundational for us, having and being able to see those values in the others that we bring on to our team."
Brian Demkowicz, chairman, managing partner and co-founder of Huron Capital, agrees that Detroit has a lot of grit and that folks in the city work hard. Fortunately, it's gotten easier through the years to attract talent.
"From a people perspective, it was really hard in the early days to recruit people to Detroit," Demkowicz says. "It wasn't some place where people wanted to come back to. And we all remember, people would graduate and then go somewhere else — they'd go to Chicago or New York or LA. And I don't think that's necessarily the case now at all."
He says Huron Capital has been fortunate to be able to recruit some very talented individuals who wanted to be in Detroit and raise a family, a city he describes as close-knit.
"You see that all over the place when you interact with people, that it gets pretty small pretty quickly," he says.
Linzie Venegas, president of Ideal Group says Detroit has been a place that's enabled them to bring on talent because many people at the business have lived in the city for generations.
"A lot of us have multi-generational families that have been here and have really amazing stories on how our family actually got to Detroit," Venegas says. "A common denominator is typically it was some type of opportunity that was here in manufacturing, whether it was for Ford, General Motors and Chrysler, and just the respect that the generations have for these big brands that reside and the city. That's an extremely unique factor and it just creates a lot of multi-generational retention within companies because we have people that start to build that family business-type culture."
That even helps when the company recruits people from larger Midwestern states; once they arrive, they appreciate the low cost of living, the amazing suburbs and city, and things to do, which sometimes leads people to put down roots.
"People really start to enjoy it and they start having their generations here," she says.