A Call For Urban Entrepreneurship in Michigan

By Amanda Lewan on May 15th, 2014 / Comments

David Tarver knows what it’s like to be a successful entrepreneur. He also knows what it’s like to grow up in an urban area in Michigan. Now, he’s encouraging other’s to look at entrepreneurship and cities in a different light.

David grew up in Flint, Michigan, leaving after graduating college to work at Bell Laboratories in New Jersey. He later started his own telecommunications instrumentation firm, Telecom Analysis Systems, in his basement in 1983. Twelve years later he sold the company for $30 million. When he returned to Michigan, he was struck by the problems his hometown suffered from.

“Michigan has a lot of brilliant researches, engineer, and scientists too,” said David. “When I go back to Flint I see a lot of community needs and not enough support.”

Entrepreneurs are natural problem solvers, and David believes they can better work to improve Michigan’s cities. He is now focusing his teaching and research at the University of Michigan all around a new approach to urban issues.

“If we’re so smart, why do we have all of these problems in urban communities all over the world? In places like Detroit, Flint, Pontiac, Saginaw?” His questions are really a call to action for us.

Learn more about David Tarver’s Story Below. 


An Urban Focused Approach

“If we’re going to solve some of these urban problems – we have to get good at engaging with the community, understanding their problems, vetting those problems, and prioritizing and solving these problems,” he says.

With support from the Center for Entrepreneurship David is now working on an educational program and upcoming conference this fall all around urban entrepreneurship in Michigan. He’s developed a few key guidelines for what this approach to urban entrepreneurship should look like.

The Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative will employ several strategies to help spur this approach including:

  • Identify, describe, and prioritize specific urban problems
  • Focus entrepreneur communities on solving problems common to cities and metropolitan areas
  • Highlight existing companies that provide effective solutions to urban problems
  • Identify and evaluate new business models that address urban problems
  • Advise and assist urban entrepreneurs to create sustainable, scalable, and in some cases disruptive businesses

Read more about executing this approach in David’s recent whitepaper.

David does recognize there are companies focused on solving urban issues, but he believes there’s not enough. Developing a program and set of guidelines can encourage more assistance for urban issues. With the rapid availability of new technology and methods, there should be more urban problems solved at a faster rate.

During the summer the program will continue to be refined and developed, with a symposium on October 10th in Ann Arbor sharing their research and findings.

Entrepreneurs will be able to get involved soon with an upcoming Urban Entrepreneurship Challenge later this year—a competition and coaching program that encourages entrepreneurial-minded college students to create profitable business models that also help to solve some of our cities’ most pressing problems.

“We’re still developing this program – part of the program is a challenge and an educational proponent where we work with entrepreneurs where we teach the methodology for identifying and addressing these urban problems with business opportunities,” he said. “Another aspect – we’ll have a program component for high school students.”

What problems would you like to see entrepreneurs tackle in urban cities?

The Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative (UEI) is a collaborative effort focused on identifying and supporting community-driven, entrepreneurial solutions to urban problems.  The UEI symposium is being planned for the fall of 2014.  Learn more at http://davidtarver.com/uei/

About the Author

Amanda Lewan

Amanda Lewan

Editor @michipreneur. Co-founder Bamboo Detroit. Follow me @Amanda_Jenn. I love telling the story of entrepreneurs and innovators.