8 Michigan Incubators That Startups Need to Know

May 23, 2017

2:20 pm

In the automotive hub of America, there is a post-recession comeback story in the state of Michigan with a fast growing entrepreneurial ecosystem. These incubators and accelerators spread throughout the state offer programs and support to budding founders and teams looking to build their technology in their backyard. They also offer some appealing qualities for startups looking to relocate to the transportation hub.

Automation Alley

Automation Alley is Michigan’s leading nonprofit technology and manufacturing business association that help bridge industry, institutions and government to fuel Southeast Michigan’s economy. Their focus consists of manufacturing, defense, entrepreneurship, international business and talent development. They are one of Michigan’s 17 designated SmartZones. SmartZones are technology business accelerators that provide distinct geographical locations to assist technology-based firms, entrepreneurs and researchers in their endeavors. They have also been known to make investments into companies through the Automation Alley Fund.


Build Institute

This Build Institute helps people turn their Michigan business ideas into realities by providing tools, resources and support to get them on their way. They offer 8 business programs such as Co.Starters, a nine-week business development program that turn ideas into action and help build a sustainable small business, as well as sessions to help create pilot programs, provide social media training, and offer expert panel sessions and more. To date they have graduated over 1,000 entrepreneurs with participants consisting of 71 percent of the Build graduates are female. In addition, there is a focus on diversity with participants being 45 percent African American, 42 percent Caucasian, 5 percent Hispanic and 5 percent other ethnicity.

Detroit Creative Cooridor Center (DC3)

Since 2011, the DC3 has helped entrepreneurs develop their skills set with a variety of innovative programming resources, tools to help small-to-medium sized creative ventures thrive, build their client base, expand their team, and more. To date, these firms employ 100 people, report $2.7 million in revenue and take up 17,000 square feet of space to grow their businesses. The DC3 has helped 45 early-stage creative ventures succeed in Detroit. They have two main programs: Creative.co, a quarterly business development bootcamp, technical assistance workshop, communications support and business development opportunities for Detroit-based design services firms, and Detroit Made, a technical assistance, mentor and support program for designers wanting to become manufactures and provide that bridge to local manufacturing companies and experts.

Read all our coverage from Detroit Startup Week

Start Garden

Start Garden is an organization that bridges financial intellectual and social capital to entrepreneurs by connecting them to resources critical to their growth stage. They are in the center of West Michigan’s startup ecosystem and a designated SmartZone.
The organization has a multitude of programs to help minority entrepreneurs including the GRABB5, a project launched in collaboration with Grand Rapids Area Black Business and The City of Grand Rapids to accelerate five minority-owned small businesses in the community and take them to the next level. Also, they have relaunched their 5×5 Night, a monthly pitch competition that gives away a $5,000 grant to the winner, and partners with organizations in other communities to host results in a nine-month streak of events where prizes are awarded to women and minority-owned businesses. Start Garden is also working with TechShop to bring a 20,000 sqf maker space to Grand Rapids, MI.

Ann Arbor, Michigan, Liberty Street


SPARK is an organization focused on building the economy in Ann Arbor through innovation. In order to be an incubator client, the company needs to be an innovation startup or whose technology focuses on healthcare, life sciences or biotechnology. The Ann Arbor SPARK Regional Incubator Network (SRIN) is comprised of two business incubators: SPARK Central Business Incubator located in Ann Arbor and SPARK East Business Incubator located in Ypsilanti, Michigan – both provide physical office space, essential business services and business development guidance with affordable lease rates for startup companies.


TechTow is a well-known incubator and accelerator that offers a menu of entrepreneurial services for both tech and neighborhood enterprises. Their program breaks down into three sectors: Labs (tech-based), Block (place-based) and co-working. Their goal is to strengthen and diversifying the local economy. TechTown works in close partnership with Wayne State’s Office of Economic Development, the university’s hub for catalyzing business activity in Midtown and across the Detroit region. Between 2007 and 2016, TechTown has served more than 1800 companies, which created nearly 1300 jobs and leveraged more than $120 million in startup capital. In 2016, 59 percent of the Block members were female and 68 percent were African American.

Techstars Mobility

Techstars Mobility looks to invest in startups building innovation that impact all modes of transportation, including pedestrian. The main themes they focus on include autonomous, connected, shared and electric. They also look at a wide range of industries including automotive, trucking, transportation, smart cities, energy, logistics, supply chain and travel.

Read more about the Michigan startup ecosystem at Tech.Co

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Tishin is a technology journalist and correspondent. She has written for TechCrunch, Demand Studios and Fitness, and has regular network segments on local Phoenix affiliate stations. She holds a Master's degree in Clinical and Sport psychology, and has covered many areas of technology ranging from 3D printing and game development to neurotech and funding for over 15 years.