To the friends of the Lean Rocket Lab,
Since we opened our doors at the beginning of the year, things have been pretty exciting. We are happy to report the Lab is truly becoming a hub for collaboration in the heart of downtown.
If you've stopped by or grabbed a Fortress Coffee in the last few weeks, you might have run into any number of interesting founders, CEO's, community leaders, professionals, professors, officials, non profits, students, or start ups.
As a co-working, meeting and event space, things have been cranking. Each of of our 11 offices and 6 dedicated desks are occupied, some even with multiple tenants. We've been adding new co-working members each week. We've hosted dozens of groups, organizations, and events. There are already so many amazing people working out of the Lab, literally from all over the world, it's hard to fully encapsulate.
As a business incubator and accelerator, we're gaining momentum. On April 1st, with our partners at the Enterprise Group, we received a 'business incubator' grant from the Michigan Strategic Fund through the MEDC. As a result, the lab is now part of a state wide network of other SmartZone business incubators and accelerators. These funds enabled us to bring on a full time Entrepreneur in Residence. Matt Rudd has been a tremendous addition to the Lab and you can read about his background below. Since April 1st, we've really been amazed by the entrepreneurs and ideas coming through our doors:
20 - There are currently 20 entrepreneurs meeting on a weekly basis with our EIR, founders across multiple industries and at various stages in the start-up process.
10 - Companies we've taken through the SBDC administered Technology-Matrix and who have scored high enough to be considered eligible to be reviewed for funding specific to supporting Michigan job creation in high tech industries. The matrix considers factors like innovation, potential scale, and defensibility.
4 - Qualified companies, that have been accepted into and who are being supported by our Manu-Tech focused accelerator programming. These companies receive intensive support, access to ecosystem partners and potential funding.
5 - Companies started and/or launched in the Lab
9 - Jobs created as a result of businesses launched in and through the Lab
The grant also gave us the ability to connect entrepreneurs with the portfolio of early stage capital funds available through the MEDC and we have already begun to do so. (i.e. First Capital Fund, ID Ventures, etc.) Several of our start ups are in process of applying for Business Accelerator Funding and Discretionary Accelerator Funding to support capital intensive stages of the start up process.
It has also enabled us to partner and collaborate with the other incubators and accelerators in the state; catalyzing Jackson's role in the start up ecosystem. We're working very closely with many of the other groups, like the Centeropolis Accelerator at Lawrence Tech University and 100k ideas in Flint. LTU has supported manufacturability and design analysis for some of our Manu-Tech Accelerator companies. Leveraging the resources and strengths of the other SmartZone's in the state has made the Lab even more powerful.
Because the co-working and office rental revenue of the lab creates operational sustainability, and the MEDC Business Incubator grant funds support the hiring of our Entrepreneur in Residence and other part time staff - we have been able to allocate 100% of the matching funds committed during our grant application process to our newly created, "Lean Rocket Lab Commercialization Fund." Big thank you to our partners at Consumers Energy, Gerdau, Eaton Aeroquip, The Cardinal Group, CP Federal Credit Union, Phil & Pat Willis Foundation, Orbitform, JAMA, Bond & Co., Ron Betzig (Jackson College), and Elite Machining.
The commercialization fund directly supports entrepreneurial programming and most importantly provides micro-grants to applying entrepreneurs to cover the cost of critical start up services; prototyping, engineering, customer validation experiments, etc. We have assembled a 'commercialization committee' consisting of manufacturing and business leaders, product innovation experts, SBDC tech team members, and other hardware accelerator members, to review the applications. We approved our first application last month, which provided funding for a second generation prototype. The committee will meet again in the coming weeks and will be reviewing 4 applications for 'high-tech' start ups. In addition to mentors, manufacturing partners, engineers and professional service providers - we're helping founders cross the product development chasm. We're connecting vetted start up entrepreneurs with critical early stage capital, through our commercialization fund, the MEDC ecosystem of funds and investment capital.
We're still so new, everything is an iterative process, but we're continuing to see validation that the Lean Rocket Lab, as a member of the larger MEDC environment, can be an interface to Jackson's deep bench of manufacturing capabilities for Manu-Tech entrepreneurs from across the state. Last month we had another accelerator send us a start up that had already completed early stage prototyping and design analysis. The company needed an injection molding plastics partner. With the support of our partners at JAMA, we set up meetings with the founder, our EIR, engineers at LTU and multiple manufacturers. We were able to find a manufacturing partner that provided tremendous engineering value and who looks like they will take on the order for the production of the first 10,000 pieces. How cool that a start up from the east side of the state could be coming to Jackson for manufacturing.
In order to further catalyze this type of development, the Lab will be hosting a manufacturing/technology focused pitch competition on August 13. With the help of the SBDC Tech Team and the other SmartZone Business Incubators and Accelerators, we will be bringing in the top hardware entrepreneurs from across the state. Startups who are at or nearing commercialization stage, and are ready to pitch to potential manufacturing partners and investors. We'll be awarding the winner of the pitch competition $10,000 but more importantly we're of the belief that Jackson and the Lean Rocket Lab can be known as the place where start ups can come to find manufacturing partners and investors.
We're learning every day and trying to make things better all the time. We definitely don't have it all figured out. But exciting things are happening and the future looks bright. We continue to be amazed by the collective resources, talent and power of this community - to launch a next generation of innovators, entrepreneurs and companies. The continued support and collaboration from all of you is humbling to say the least, we're glad you're on this team.
Lean Rocket Lab Team.
The lab funds Dragonfly Kiosks
Entrepreneur, Gordon Taylor, Receives Funding for 2nd Gen. Prototype from Lean Rocket Lab Commercialization Fund
Gordon Taylor of "Dragonfly Kiosks" was approved by our Commercialization and Investment Committee for a micro-grant to support the development of his second generation prototype. Dragonfly is developing an innovative approach to mobile device repair. Keep an eye out for Dragonfly Kiosks in Verizon authorized retailers in the coming months! The prototype will be used to test customer feedback in actual retail stores. Dragonfly qualified through the BAF as a 'high-tech' applicant and with the help of Lab EIR Matt Rudd, recently completed its business accelerator fund application. The Business Accelerator Fund is administered by the SBDC Tech Team. Gordon will hopefully be pitching at the Lean Rocket Lab's upcoming Manu-Tech pitch competition on August 13th; seeking investors and manufacturing partners.
Innovation in Life Sciences
Sensory Oasis founders Tracy McCullough (right) and Kimberly Jayne (left) are working on a life sciences product that supports children and adults with sensory related challenges. Sensory Oasis has been accepted into the Lean Rocket Lab Manu-Tech accelerator program and they are currently working through manufacturability analysis and engineering process with our partners at Lawrence Tech University.
Meet the newest member of our Manu-Tech Accelerator:
Peter Ro is a computer science major from Michigan State University who has already made it to the final stage of the The Hatch incubator at MSU. Peter is developing an Artificial Intelligence based software application that will deliver an innovative leap forward in the process of analyzing quality in die cast, cast and injection molded components.
Matthew Rudd Joins the Team as EIR
Matthew Rudd was hired as Entrepreneur is Residence at Lean Rocket Lab. Rudd will support entrepreneurs by helping them with business model canvasing, customer validation, discovery and connecting them with the statewide network of early stage capital funds and incubator resources. Rudd will also be helping entrepreneurs work with other service providers both inside and outside the Lab, including; patent and trademark research, manufacturability, design and prototyping services.
Founder Stories, 1 on 1 Coaching; and a Room Full of Entrepreneurs
June 11 - We hosted our first 'Napkin to NASDAQ' series workshop. 'How to Launch a Business?'
The event was at capacity with an incredible and diverse group of start up founders, entrepreneurs and future business owners in attendance. Participants got to hear from incredible founders like Salah Huwais, Founder & CEO of Versah, Ken Johnson, Inventor of Phase 10, Josh Nichols, Founder & CEO of Crossbraining, Kim Gamez, Founder & CEO of Mi Padrino and Scott Taylor, co-founder of Soloshot and member of the SBDC Tech Team.
We brought in professional experts to speak on customer validation, intellectual property, business model canvasing, raising capital and accounting considerations. There was also 1 on 1 time available where attendees got to talk through value proposition with the founders and coaches.
Thank you to our sponsor, the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, for making this event possible.
Cobie Blue Studio Moves into the Lab
Cobie Blue is a team of award-winning packaging designers with decades of industry experience working with global brands and solving tough packaging challenges. They are designers and innovators in the consumer product space who specialize in helping young brands launch new products. Brainstorming, branding, structural design, 3D modeling, realistic rendering, and prototyping are just a few of the services they offer.
"We are passionate, knowledgeable, and always learning. We specialize in e-commerce/Amazon, CPG, and electronics packaging. Our experience in manufacturing and industrial design gives us a unique vantage point for finding unique solutions." - Rick Rangler, Founder and Creative Director
Meet our partner - Michigan Tribe
The Michigan Tribe is an amazing meet-up of female entrepreneurs in the Jackson & Lansing areas. The Lab is partnering with this group to support various initiatives including networking events, female owned business pitch competitions and grants.
Learn more about their upcoming events:
Lab Receives MEDC Business Incubator Grant
April 1st: The Lab, through our partners at The Enterprise Group received the MEDC Business Incubator grant, enabling us to hire a full time Entrepreneur in Residence and also gain access to the state's full portfolio of business incubator resources and funding. This is a huge deal for Jackson. This was truly made possible because of our partners at The Enterprise Group and matching support from the community.
The community made it happen.
Consumers Energy CEO Patti Poppe with Lean Rocket Lab Board members at a press conference last month announcing their $100,000 of support to match the MEDC Business Incubator Grant. The Lab received an additional $50,000 of support from community leaders like Gerdau Steel, CP Federal Credit Union, Bond & Co., The Cardinal Group, Ron Betzig (Jackson College), The Phil & Pat Willis Foundation, JAMA, Orbitform, & Elite Machining.
The Lean Rocket Lab exists because people like you have not only supported it with your funds, but with your time, talents, and network. We are humbled by the support you have shown and are proud how our community has come together to support entrepreneurs and startups.
Book the Lab for Your Next Meeting
Gerdau Steel team members from Michigan, Brazil and all over the globe unite in Jackson at Lean Rocket Lab for strategic planning meetings. In the last 6 months we've hosted dozens of organizations, non profits, workshops, and events. If you're team is interested in having a meeting or event at the Lab, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org