Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

April 19, 2013

Start Garden project invests $2.3M in 1st year

DETROIT (AP) — West Michigan entrepreneur Rick DeVos’ Start Garden venture capital effort has invested more than $2.3 million in over 100 projects during its first year.

Start Garden began last spring, investing $5,000 in two potential ideas, projects and startup businesses each week. The fund is backed by $15 million from DeVos’ family, and ideas that take root get additional funding — up to $500,000 on a single idea.

DeVos on Thursday offered an update in Grand Rapids about Start Garden, which plans to invest most of rest of the fund’s remaining money during the next two years. Ideas in the first year have included smartphone apps, new products, even beer.

“It’s really important to have a great entrepreneur,” DeVos said in a telephone interview this week. “Someone with hustle. Someone with hunger.”

Start Garden aims to make it easier for an idea to become a startup business and to help make Michigan a better place to develop such ideas.

During the weekly selections, Start Garden officials picked one idea and the public selected another online. Recipients have 60 to 90 days to work with their idea after getting the initial $5,000, and then return to give an in-person presentation.

In the first year, 22 ideas got between $20,000 and $80,000. Three were funded at a total of about $150,000 each, and one got $500,000.

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