All eyes were on Detroit as the world of international startup entrepreneurship converged on the Motor City for the Global Entrepreneur in Residence (GEIR) Program National Peer Network Convening, hosted by Global Detroit on March 30 and 31. Groups from across the country discussed the Global EIR movement and its increasing importance in the development of regional economic strategies, and attendees had the chance to meet startup founders, like Chening Duker, who came through the University of Michigan GEIR pilot program to launch Goodpluck, a delivery company for fresh, locally-grown produce. The mission of the Global EIR National Peer Network is to grow a network of organizations that are running, launching, and supporting the GEIR program, and to collectively advocate for policies to support better inclusion of immigrant startup founders into the American economy.
The Global EIR National Peer Network connects these organizations, and facilitates the sharing of resources and the creation of best practices. The ultimate goal is to showcase the success of the GEIR programs in regional economies and advocate for a startup visa in the U.S.
The two-day event provided an excellent opportunity for more than 30 individuals and organizations involved in the Global EIR program from Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Houghton (Michigan), Kansas City, New York, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. to gather and share knowledge, experiences, and insights.. The Detroit convening provided a space to discuss the challenges and opportunities of powering America’s startup community through immigrant inclusion, especially in local communities across the nation.
The Detroit Convening kicked off with a public panel discussion and networking event hosted by TechTown Detroit, a nonprofit business incubator and accelerator that supports entrepreneurs and small businesses. TechTown CEO Ned Staebler introduced Global Detroit’s new Managing Director, Dr. Alaina Jackson, who inspired the crowd with her brief remarks, noting that “inclusion will never fail us.” The event kicked off with a panel discussion about the Mobility economy, featuring experts Michael Psarouthakis from the University of Michigan, Christianne Malone from TechTown Detroit, and Olga Stella from the College for Creative Studies. A second panel discussion, on the growing importance of Global EIR programs, featured Steve Tobocman, Executive Director of Global Detroit, Supriya Tamang, Program Manager of Global Cleveland, Craig Montouri, Executive Directorof Global EIR, and Chening Duker, founder of Goodpluck.
Michigan’s Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist, who made an impromptu appearance at the TechTown event, punctuated the importance of immigrant startups and global talent to Michigan’s economic future. Gilchrist, in his former role as the City of Detroit’s Director of Innovation and Emerging Technology, actually attended the initial planning and visioning meetings that led to Global Detroit’s launch of the Global EIR program. As the Lieutenant Governor, his advocacy was instrumental in pushing the Michigan Global Talent Attraction and Retention Program through the State Legislature, an appropriation that includes nearly $1 million for the expansion of Global EIR programs across Michigan.
At the conclusion of day one, the attendees gathered for dinner and a presentation and discussion led by Danielle Goldman of the Open Avenues Foundation, with additional remarks from attorney Jeff Goldman, who did the legal work on the first Global EIR programs in Massachusetts. Open Avenues provides startup founders and key staff a similar opportunity as the Global EIR program by connecting them with part-time university entrepreneurship development work, helping them launch their startups in the U.S.
The following day, 25 members of the Global EIR National Peer Network continued to engage in conversations on how to grow the peer network, what resources should be available to maximize the success of programs, the legal framework of the program, diversity and inclusion efforts in the context of the program, and advocacy for a startup visa. Most of the meetings were hosted at the College for Creative Studies, one of the partner universities for Global Detroit’s Global EIR program. The group also received a private tour of Michigan Central, Ford Motor Company’s $1 billion investment to create a mobility innovation district in Corktown, Detroit’s oldest neighborhood. A Middle Eastern feast in Dearborn, Michigan was one of the day’s highlights, as was an opportunity to see the creative student work at the College of Creative Studies’ Industry Day.
The convening was an excellent opportunity to showcase the talent and development that is happening in Detroit and throughout Michigan.. The Global EIR program is an essential part of the effort to drive innovation and economic growth by bringing immigrant entrepreneurs into local communities. The program has been successful in helping startups secure funding, attract customers, and create jobs.
By convening this national peer network, Global Detroit is fostering innovation and collaboration in support of immigrant entrepreneurs and the startup community.. The event provided an excellent platform to share best practices and lessons learned, and we can expect that the insights and connections made during the event will help drive continued success for the Global EIR program and the wider startup community.
By Ernestine Lyons, Global Detroit’s Global EIR Program Manager