Start Garden Shifts, Q & A With Rick Devoss

By Amanda Lewan on September 12th, 2013 / Comments

It started with an idea: a strong startup ecosystem in Grand Rapids.

Phase one was a Y Combinator like accelerator called Momentum that lasted three years in the city. But something was a little off, and Founder Rick Devoss noticed the ideas weren’t really flowing right.

“A lot of the ideas we saw could have used time as projects before fully becoming a business,” said Devoss. “That’s why we evolved this idea to weekly smaller investments of $5,000.”

Start Garden was phase two, the weekly competition where entrepreneurs can submit an idea, pull their community for votes, and ultimately 2 ideas each week receive the seed funding. Later on down the road, they can pitch for larger investments. Now Start Garden has announced they are a head of plan with the fund and will limit the seed funding to one idea every week.

We got to chat with Founder Rick Devoss on Start Garden and Grand Rapid’s startup scene.

Now that Start Garden has been around for over one year, what are the result?

“I think we’re having an impact on the culture in terms of the numbers of entrepreneurs we’re reaching and deal flow,” said Devoss. “We want to cultivate a specific culture around the earliest startups. One that is more risk tolerant and focus on speed. You look at the really successful entrepreneurial regions and they have really dynamic and fast access to seed funding.”

What’s the business culture like in Grand Rapids?

“In West Michigan, we have a great culture of cooperation. We’re small enough that most people are separated by one degree, but they can still easily expand. Collaboration can be easy. That’s really great. That’s something that everyone can improve on.”

What’s the importance of entrepreneurs in Michigan?

“I think the success of Michigan is clearly from the entrepreneurial individual. Most notably, the auto industry. We have those muscles. I think the success of this entire generation of entrepreneurs led to a huge amount of value and an employment mindset versus a hustling mindset. I think we can get back to those values. We can rediscover the idea muscle.”

Who’s been funded so far?

The team recently announced that its investment plan is ahead of schedule. Start Garden has now invested in 49 startups ranging between $25,000 and $500,000, with more than 136 $5,000 ideas funded in just 16 months. They will now focus on one $5,000 idea per week. Start Garden also provides co-working space, entrepreneurial events, service assistance, and other factors that are important for growing Michigan’s entrepreneurial economy.

Make sure you check out Start Garden online for their next workshops, events, and funding rounds. Tweet at us when you participate in their voting and we’ll help spread the word!

Who else is helping shape and contribute to Grand Rapid’s startup scene? Comment below and let us know.

Related Stories: The Michigan Incubator and Co-Working Space List, Michigan Startup Resources

Photo via Start Garden.

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.