Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Spotlight: Ann Arbor, MI

Ann Arbor

Thanks in part to its status as the home of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor is ranked as the most-educated city in the world. Perhaps because of that high level of education, Ann Arbor is considered a good place for entrepreneurship.

Ann Arbor, MI, founded in 1824, is the state’s sixth-largest city. Named after the wives of the village founders and the bur oak trees, the city is also known as “Tree Town.”  And, thanks in part to its status as the home of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor was ranked by WalletHub as the most-educated city in the world. Perhaps because of that high level of education, Ann Arbor is considered a good place for entrepreneurship: in 2017, Livability.com ranked the city seventh on its list of the best places for entrepreneurs. The state of Michigan as a whole also ranked well in entrepreneurship. The Kauffman Foundation’s 2017 rankings had the state ranked 15th in startup activity and 13th in established small business activity, as well as 25th in entrepreneurial growth.

Based on these rankings, FundingSage has reviewed the resources that make up Ann Arbor’s entrepreneurial ecosystem:

Entrepreneurial Meetups:

Ann Arbor New Tech Meetup hosts monthly events in which entrepreneurs can pitch their startups, participate in Q&As, and network.

The Connectors Club hosts meetings on at least a monthly basis, allowing its members to build professional connections with each other.

Girl Develop It has meetup groups around the country supporting women in coding and software development, including one in Ann Arbor.

Intended for creative people of all types, including but not limited to entrepreneurs, Washtenaw Creatives holds meetings allowing people to network and support one another.


Regular Entrepreneurial Events:

The Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber hosts events related to business and entrepreneurship on a monthly and annual basis.

Ann Arbor SPARK, an organization dedicated to supporting entrepreneurship in the area, hosts several annual events as well as other regular ones.

The University of Michigan’s entrepreneurship hub, Innovate Blue, has a list of all of the entrepreneurship events at the university, including annual conferences and more.


Startup Competitions:

Hosted just down the road in Detroit, the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition is co-sponsored by Ann Arbor SPARK and open to entrepreneurs around the state.

Eastern Michigan University, located in nearby Ypsilanti, hosts a pair of pitch competitions for its students: the Skandalaris Business Plan Competition and an Elevator Pitch Competition.

A campus-wide business competition for students at the University of Michigan with cash prizes totaling over $100,000.

Hosted by the Entrepreneurship Center at Washtenaw Community College, Pitch@WCC is a pitch competition with three categories: Start, Build and Grow.


Co-working Spaces:

Technically located in Ypsilanti, GoWork offers several flexible membership plans as well as a one-week free trial.

Just down the road in Plymouth, MI, Pastel is a co-working space designed for professional women, especially small business owners.

Specifically designed for entrepreneurs and technology-minded people, Tech Brewery offers shared desk space as well as the ability to rent a dedicated desk.

Workantile offers co-working space with 24/7 access, conference rooms available for rent, and access to special social events.


Maker spaces:

All Hands Active hosts public hours on Thursday and Saturday and offers members 24/7 access to its array of tools and equipment.

Maker Works is a 14,000 square foot maker space with a wide variety of tools and equipment for work with wood, metal, textiles, plastic, jewelry and electronics.

Located in Ypsilanti, TinkerTech is a maker space for the community that also organizes STEAM education for area children.



Ann Arbor SPARK has several centers offering incubation services and support to startups throughout the Ann Arbor area.

The Michigan Small Business Development Center, which provides a number of services to help support small business, has regional offices in the Ann Arbor area.

An American location of a successful Chinese incubator network, TusStar Ann Arbor is an incubator program for high-potential startups in Ann Arbor and the Midwest.



The Desai Accelerator is a 16-week program that helps tech-enabled startups grow through funding, mentorship, and other important resources.

One of the services offered by Ann Arbor SPARK, Entrepreneur Boot Camp is a multi-week program in which experienced entrepreneurs help early-stage companies grow.

Students at the University of Michigan can join TechArb, an accelerator program designed to help early-stage student ventures grow.



In addition to organizing outside-the-classroom resources and events, EMU’s Center for Entrepreneurship offers a major, minor and graduate programs in entrepreneurship.

The University of Michigan’s Center for Entrepreneurship has a wide variety of resources and events to support entrepreneurship in the university and the community as a whole.

In addition to supporting student entrepreneurship, The Entrepreneurship Center at Washtenaw Community College is designed to help the community as a whole.


Angel Groups/VCs:

Known as A2A, Ann Arbor Angels invest primarily in early-stage technology companies located in southeast Michigan.

Arboretum Ventures invests in healthcare companies across stages of development located in typically under-served areas, especially the Midwest.

Located in Ann Arbor, Augment Ventures invests in early-stage software, hardware, and physical science companies all across North America.

Huron River Ventures works with promising startups that are using new technologies to change some of the bases of the Midwest economy – agriculture, energy, manufacturing, and mobility.

Plymouth Growth Partners invests in and takes a hands-on role in growing and supporting growth-stage B2B product and services companies in the Great Lakes region.

The Michigan Angel Fund invests in Michigan-based seed- and early-stage companies in the IT, cleantech, advance manufacturing and life science industries.


Entrepreneurial Newsletter Coverage:

Though it focuses primarily in Detroit, Crain’s Detroit Business offers newsletters with business headlines from around the state.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation offers a daily newsletter covering business and economic developments from around the state.

The MLive media network offers a number of newsletters, including business news from around the state and specific to Ann Arbor.


Are you familiar with entrepreneurial ecosystem infrastructure in Ann Arbor not included in the article above?  If so, let us know via a comment below, and we will add it to the article. 

Interested in Ecosystem Spotlights of other cities in the USA?

Jacksonville, FL, Greenville, SC, Birmingham, AL

Quinn Pilkey

Quinn is a journalism major at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He also serves as a freelance author for Hashtag Basketball where he writes about the NBA's Charlotte Hornets and at FundingSage where he researches and writes about entrepreneurial ecosystems.