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DeVos’ venture capital fund shifts focus to businesses on the verge of making it big

Start Garden Rick Devos
Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
Entreprenuer Rick DeVos explains how Start Garden works at a press conference Thursday.

Rick DeVos’ venture capital fund will stop giving away $5,000 each week to people with a good business idea. The fund, known as Start Garden, has given $5,000 to nearly 200 entrepreneurs in the last three years.

“A few years ago the biggest thing that it seemed like the region needed was a lot of experimentation and to get over fear of risk,” said Paul Moore, communications director for Start Garden.

But Moore says budding entrepreneurs have more opportunities now.

So instead, Start Garden will give more money, up to $1.5 million, to start-ups on the verge of going public or being sold. He says there are about two dozen businesses they’re working with now that could get those investments. Most of them are based in Michigan, he said.

He says Start Garden’s evolution is indicative of what’s happening in the region. Moore believes people in West Michigan are more willing to take risks in business investments now. Several of the businesses Start Garden has invested in have secured millions of dollars from other places, as an example.

“That’s the sort of invisible stuff that’s going on but we’re seeing just a lot more funding options opening up for entrepreneurs in the region,” Moore said.

The $5,000 weekly contests will be handed over to another group instead. More details about how the contest will change should come out in the next few weeks. But Moore says those willing to invest money will have a greater say over who wins the investments.

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