Start Garden opens idea, mentoring space in downtown Grand Rapids

The need for a space dedicated to growing an ecosystem for entrepreneurs, investors and mentors has prompted Start Garden to put down roots in an abandoned storefront in Grand Rapids' downtown Center City district.

Start Garden
, a $15 million seed accelerator for early-idea startups, is an idea developed by Rick DeVos, the mind behind ArtPrize and 5X5 Night, and supported financially by the DeVos family. The fund awards $5,000 a week to two start-up ideas, one chosen by Start Garden and one chosen by the public, in the hope of launching some 100 viable new businesses per year in the Greater Grand Rapids area.

"When we launched in April, we called it Stage One of something ongoing, of a buildout of an ecosystem friendly to entrepreneurs and new ideas," says Paul Moore, marketing director. "With as big an effort as we were undertaking each week, we would need a physical space where we would be a font of social activity, where everyone could have space to work on ideas."

Moore says the 5,000-square-foot space at 50 Louis Ave. NE, next to Lee & Birch, has a café-like feel during the day, but can be rearranged as a classroom or an auditorium space. The doors are open to the public around the time of a Start Garden event, such as, Update Night, when awardees present updates on how the initial $5,000 investment has helped their business move forward. The most promising are selected for further investment up to $500,000.

The rest of the time, the space is dedicated to being a place where entrepreneurs, investors and mentors connect, network and generate new ideas.

"It's right on the ground level, highly trafficked, a place to put on social and staged events to bring the entire city into the conversation about helping these companies along," Moore says. "It's the only way the cultural change we want is going to happen -- a thousand people doing a thousand small things in one direction."

Source: Paul Moore, Start Garden
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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